City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs 

The Situation

Hurricane Harvey was one of the greatest natural disasters in Houston’s history, inflicting billions of dollars in damage across the region and Southeast Texas. Houston-area residents experienced untold destruction to their homes, livelihoods and general wellbeing.

Like other self-employed workers and small businesses, the arts and cultural community is a particularly vulnerable group during times of crisis, they and were heavily impacted by the storm and its aftermath. In response, the Harvey Arts Recovery Fund (HARF) was conceived to support the disaster recovery needs of the greater Houston creative community.

The Challenge

Given the scope of the disaster and its impact on the arts and cultural community, there were three primary communications imperatives in launching HARF:

- Create awareness of HARF among target audiences across the region as quickly as possible.

- In the midst of post-Harvey chaos and information overload, ensure the details were clearly and succinctly communicated to be easily understood and actionable.

- Encourage eligible arts community members to apply for relief and arts patrons to contribute to the fund.

Marketing Communications Strategy + Implementation

M. Hensley Consulting was engaged to launch HARF via regional media coverage and create a messaging framework (including reactive messaging) to be applied across all communications channels.

The soul of Houston was deeply impacted, and our team took great care to communicate not only the size of the need, but also the importance of the individuals, businesses and organizations that make up Houston’s creative community. After all, artists contribute significantly to the quality of life for residents, and they are uniquely able to help with the region’s recovery and healing process.

We worked quickly to define target audiences and develop a focused plan to reach them. This included providing counsel on community outreach; creating a messaging platform, press release and target media list; and conducting the media outreach. And because HARF was a collaborative effort of Houston’s arts services sector, we worked diligently to ensure all voices were heard and incorporated into the campaign.

Results

The launch was overwhelmingly successful, securing media coverage across all relevant outlets in the region, garnering several hundred thousand dollars in contributions, and granting them back out for the recovery and rebuilding of Houston’s arts and cultural community.

And while the initiative was initially created for post-Harvey recovery, the successful launch allowed HARF to effectively transition to what is now a general disaster preparedness and recovery program for artists and related nonprofits (facilitated by Houston Arts Alliance). This program supports the community today as it endures and recovers from the COVID-19-related economic crisis.

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