Hurricane Harvey: The PR Rundown for a Large Disaster

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On August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey set foot on Texas land, setting the record for the strongest hurricane landfall in the 21st century. It left many people homeless, countless properties damaged and more than 70 people have been killed from the tragic event. As a Public Relations professional, the question arises: did public relations professionals do a good job in helping those in need?

Before the Disaster.

Living off the coast, people are more aware of hurricanes and know how to prepare for them. However, Hurricane Harvey was not like a normal hurricane: typically, a hurricane will hit land, then move away from the initial point of contact.  That wasn’t the case with Harvey. The media did a fairly good job in preparing for the hurricane but they weren’t as diligent in preparing people for the absurd amount of flooding that took place since the hurricane did not leave the Texas coast.

The Disaster:

Multiple days of rain caused flooding in multiple cities, preventing residents from evacuating. The media contributed to this issue by running numerous news stories and updates on the situation across the United States. This created a push in the U.S. to help one another. Even when the hurricane was still hitting the state, people around the world were working together help those in need.

The PR of the Hurricane.

Through the horrific event, there was a movement towards the uniting of the country. Today, many people claim the media divides the country and doesn’t present news in a fair manner. However, through this disaster, companies, government and communities all across the United States joined together to help. The JJ Watt Houston Fundraising is a great example of people coming together to help the city. The million-dollar goal was surpassed by more than $37 million. The PR goal reached not only Houston but was even featured on “The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon.” JJ Watt’s fundraiser reached countless people and gathered more than planned. The public relations strategy to do so was executed correctly along with many other charities.

An interesting PR move that helped the city was the effort to gather monetary donations as opposed to supplies. Through previous disasters, emergency experts have realized that people will donate anything and everything to help with a disaster but sometimes things are donated that aren’t needed and that causes it to sit and waste space.


The PR effort executed before the hurricane was not that effective. People were aware of it but they weren’t completely prepared for the situation to become as terrible as it did with the tremendous flooding. The support and strategies to reach others throughout the country were effective, with multiple foundations reaching out and asking for what they needed rather than amassing an abundant amount of useless supplies. The use of networks, social media and word of mouth through multiple platforms helped with actions similar to this. Fortunately, companies were able to learn what helped reach their audience and what didn’t, which allows them to implement changes towards the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. As Hurricane Irma’s damage is revealed, many people are still in need.

Madison is a senior at Oklahoma State University majoring in strategic communications with an interest in environmental science. Madison is the President of the OSU PRSSA chapter, and the PR Committee Chair for the Student Alumni Board, which is the executive team for Student Alumni Association. Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter at @madison_schein.

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