The Missing Item From The Disaster Checklist: PR

Remember Hurricane Irene? OK, maybe our collective news memory isn’t that short. But, sometimes it feels like it can be.

Big weather and other natural disasters are big news and draw big audiences. The New York Times reports today that The Weather Channel’s weekend Irene coverage drew the largest audience in the network’s 29-year history. But weeks, even days, from now, how much attention will be paid to cleanup and recovery? Chances are, not much.

This summer, tornadoes ravaged communities like Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Joplin, Missouri. In the immediate hours and days that followed, those were the biggest stories in the country. But, after a little while, the media moved on and now it takes a Web news search to find out what’s going on in both of those places.

Go back further and it’s even tougher. What’s happening in Japan, now, post-earthquake. What about Haiti, where a devastating quake happened less than two years ago? Even Katrina, which happened six years ago and was the story of the year in American journalism, lacks much follow-up today.

This is all a by-product of the current state of traditional media. There are fewer journalists to tell stories and a news agenda that only follows a pinchful of “right now” stories at a time. But for communities struck by disaster that want recovery and rebuilding efforts to stay in the news, there is an answer – PR.

PR helps keep potential news stories top-of-mind with journalists. Professional PR can package stories and help bring the stories journalists would actually do to the forefront. PR can use multiple platforms, beyond traditional media, to sustain visibility.

As communities, regions and states conduct regular disaster planning, they should add another item to the checklist in order to stay relevant after the storm. Add a checkbox for PR.