In September 2017, as Hurricane Irma blasted toward Florida with winds of 185 MPH, Governor Rick Scott ordered 6.5 million residents to evacuate. Miami International Airport's (MIA) PR & Digital Marketing team charged with crisis communications, prepared for what would become a doubly-difficult challenge. During the hurricane, the team was responsible for issuing around-the-clock, real-time communication that was accurate, clear and provided immediate correction of misinformation.
The PR team activated alpha/bravo shifts and reported to the airport's Emergency Command Center along with Fire, Police, Operations and others. Due to the storm and its aftermath, the team lived on-site, 24/7 for five consecutive days. They crafted emergency messaging, activated social media listening tools and responded in real-time to over 400 posts each day.
But at 3:30 PM on Sunday, September 10, a second storm hit MIA when Dan Scavino the White House Director of Social Media posted a tweet and video to his 227K followers showing a flooded airfield and writing, "Here is Miami International Airport. STAY SAFE!!". He tagged the President and Vice President.
The rub? The video was not MIA—it was an airfield in Mexico City from two weeks earlier. The PR team immediately corrected Scavino and worked furiously to control the velocity of misinformation that resulted from his post. An hour later, Scavino deleted his tweet and replied to @IflyMIA, @realDonaldTrump and @VP, "Thank you. It was among 100s of videos/pics I am receiving re Irma from public. In (sic) trying to notify all…Be safe!". MIA's response: "Thanks, Dan."
This real-time response event reinforced to the PR team the criticality of speed, accuracy, restraint and fact checking in all social communications but especially during a crisis. These principles dovetail with the airport's mission to provide accurate up-to-date information while delivering excellent customer service—no matter the circumstance.
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