Houston Housing Authority- Post Harvey Crisis


The Challenge

Hurricane Harvey caused an influx of displaced citizens across the Gulf Coast Region. Housing properties, operated and managed by HHA, were not exempt from the devastation of the storm. HHA is a federally-funded government agency with a mission to provide quality, safe, sanitary and affordable housing to low-income, elderly and disabled individuals and families. Misinformed media coverage surrounding HHA’s approach for relocating residents, rent reimbursements and damage repair spurred a series of negative commentary and coverage, locally and nationally.

With roughly 2,000 households impacted in total and 600 units affected across seven damaged properties, HHA had to identify and implement immediate and long-term solutions for its diverse housing communities, especially considering the storm intensified the existing shortage of affordable housing in Houston and depleted many local housing options available to its residents.

The Approach

Etched developed and deployed a crisis prevention plan. It was recommended that HHA take a proactive, vocal, integrated multichannel approach, inclusive of media relations and digital. The goal was to focus the narrative on the progressive partnerships and ongoing post-Harvey recovery efforts made by HHA. This recommendation included and aimed to achieve the following:

  • Deliver relevant, real-time and updated information to key HHA audiences
    • This included
      • Providing immediate responses via social networks and HHA’s website
      • Securing TV, radio, print and digital coverage
  • Diffuse any potentially negative coverage by proactively serving as the primary information contact to the media and public
  • Build credibility through transparent, consistent communication across owned networks, including HHA’s website and social media channels
  • Leverage relationship from Oklahoma City Housing Authority (OCHA) to secure positive local and national media coverage
  • Get ahead of news stories to share HHA’s key messages so the organization was fairly and accurately represented in the media

The Etched Affect

Within 24 hours of receiving notice of the negative coverage, Etched researched, brainstormed, planned and executed the crisis prevention plan. Etched determined proactive and positive media coverage would be a key driver for HHA to control the narrative and diffuse negative coverage.

Etched utilized the partnership with OCHA to generate positive news coverage. HHA was presented as an agency that used creativity innovation to assist its residents after a historic storm. The coverage reached a national audience of nearly 500,000,000.

The positive coverage was featured in the Associated Press, The New York Times. U.S. News and World Report, ABC News, The Washington Times, Houston Chronicle and Texas Standard.

The internal and external communication executions enabled HHA to provide clear and direct messaging to their audiences. This included an intentional effort to connect with stakeholders, staff, clients and the Houston community to improve public perceptions.