From the October issue of “Smart Solutions”, PRofessional Solutions’ e-newsletter:
We live in a casual age, but as communicators we know that image is powerful and first impressions are lasting. Whether you think you’re more creative in jeans and sandals or that appearances shouldn’t count, it’s important to remember that you can’t predict what — or who — your day will include.
In August 1992 I was director of public relations for the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) when Hurricane Andrew, a Category 4 hurricane, struck the Gulf Coast. High winds caused catastrophic damage in Florida, especially in Miami-Dade County. Approximately 117,000 houses were severely damaged or destroyed, people died and FEMA and the White House received heavy criticism for their response.
At about 9:30 a.m. one morning I received a call from the White House asking me to be at the White House at 11:00 a.m. to brief President George H. W. Bush, along with representatives from other charities and non-profits, about how our members were assisting in Florida. I called our chapter and was updated on how emergency physicians were coordinating the medical response. I prepared my notes and happily walked to the White House, allowing time to go through security.
But others were not so composed: several of the other organization representatives came running to make it on time, sweating and frantic. When they got the call they had to return home – the Virginia suburbs for a couple of them – to change clothes. They had no time to update information or identify their key messages.
After reading this story Greg Hernandez, FDIC Office of Communications, shared his experience:
“I thought your advice on attire was spot on. It happened to me at the U.S. Mint. I’m always in Washington attire. It paid off. The Mint Director was not feeling well, and I wound up on the NBC Nightly News discussing the Presidential dollar coin. I heard from friends all across the country.”