Companies rely on Web for Ike recovery updates

HOUSTON: Texas institutions affected by Hurricane Ike earlier this month are conducting outreach via the Web and other media to update the electricity-starved public on their recovery processes.

HOUSTON: Texas institutions affected by Hurricane Ike earlier this month are conducting outreach via the Web and other media to update the electricity-starved public on their recovery processes.

Compass Bank, which has 419 banks in Texas, is pitching newspapers, TV, and radio outlets about its open branches and emergency services, said Thomas Graham, EVP for communication and image.

“Every media outlet has a Web site, and so we are constantly... pushing a new release out to the TV and radio stations and online publications that are posting... updates,” he said, adding that his company is focusing on outreach to consumer publications. “Many people are in their cars and moving around, and you want to make sure you're talking on radio and doing everything you can to... support the flow of information.”

Mark Stouse, global communications leader for BMC Software in Houston, credited local government officials, including Houston Mayor Bill White, for conducting frequent press conferences on clean drinking water and other issues.

At oil company Valero, Bill Day, director of media relations, pointed out that outreach to media, which still did have power, was crucial.

“With the media, most... do have power, and we are able to talk over the phone or via e-mail,” he said.

Valero is using e-mail updates, 1-800 phone numbers, and PSAs to communicate with employees, many of whom are affected by the Ike-forced temporary shutdown of three refineries.

In addition, ExxonMobil is alerting consumers to the location of reopened gas stations via its Web site, according to Betsy Eaton, public affairs spokesperson for Exxon. The company, which has 16,000 employees in Houston, was also conducting internal communications via an intranet and e-mail notifications.

But some Southeastern Texas residents returning after evacuating are finding their homes have no electricity. Stouse contended that companies relied too much on the Web.

“[Companies] kept saying, ‘Go to our Web site for more information,' but no one could... [because] those receptacles and news channels required... power,” he said.

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