Thursday, April 22, 2010

Going with the Volcanic Flow

This past week saw one of the more unusual fallouts from a natural disaster. Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted and sent ash spewing into the air that drifted east and literally shut down all air traffic across the European continent. Beyond the economic impact and the human interest stories of stranded passengers, which included one of our co-workers having an unplanned extended vacation in Ireland, here at Connect2 we were paying special attention for another reason.

One of our clients is utilizing the natural geo-thermal resources of Iceland to build a green wholesale data center in the country. While the rest of the world learned of the difficulty in pronouncing Eyjafjallajokull just last week, we had been tracking the volcanic activity for a several weeks after the first rumblings in the crater started at the end of March. We knew it would be important to help the client message to their customers about the impact of the volcano as well as prepare for any broader stories in the press that may begin to emerge.

Our first step was to sit down with the client and create a messaging strategy that would help put the current situation into context. This was critical as it would help the client put the volcanic activity into perspective for their current and potential customers. It was also important because it showed that the client was not surprised by the volcanic activity, but rather had taken that into consideration when building out their plans for locating a data center in Iceland.

The next step was to identify the trigger that would launch our media relations efforts. Initially all the stories about the volcano were about the impact to the airline industry and its passengers. Shortly after, the technology trade press began looking at the story through its lens and started to tie the volcano and Iceland’s data center industry together. At that point, we began reaching out to key press to offer our client as a resource and began setting up interviews that resulted in solid, positive press coverage.

As we move into the next phase of this story, Connect2 will need to continue to be proactive with the press and manage the storyline for our client. As we all know, stories like these take many twists and turns along the way. The key to managing these types of stories is to be prepared and be proactive. Use the current event or industry announcement or regulatory ruling as a means to think about the impact to your company, create messaging that puts the event into the appropriate context for your customers and know when to begin talking to the press. Missing one of these steps could take an opportunity and turn it into a disaster of your own.

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