Harris County Housing Authority and Pierpont Communications: Need Ike Relief?
Hurricane Ike struck the Texas Gulf Coast with a vengeance last year. It is estimated that 48% of homes in Harris County experienced some level of damage from Ike. Residents from as many as 20,000 homes were displaced.
FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration offered financial assistance. Yet, most people didn't know how to access these services. Many had lost their paperwork in the storm. Others assumed their insurance companies would cover the damage so they didn't seek assistance.
During regular hurricane response update meetings, it quickly became apparent that FEMA applications for case numbers were very low compared to damage assessments. Regional leaders expressed frustration with the federal agencies and did not feel enough was being done to encourage residents to apply for aid and take advantage of available support systems.
Recognizing the urgency of this situation, the Harris County Housing Authority (HCHA) offered to lead a countywide effort to provide critical information to residents on accessing the relief process. As the foundation of this education program, HCHA and Pierpont Communications created a video explaining the application process for relief in an understandable way.
The team quickly began to strategize the production and implementation of the video, as well as the outreach campaign that would be needed to educate the right audiences about the information the video offered. The audiences for the video project were all families affected by Hurricane Ike, no matter the scope of the damage to their household or business.
Due to pending application deadlines, the video had to be produced quickly - from creation to final product in less than two weeks. Pierpont reached out to officials with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), United Way of Greater Houston and FEMA to develop a script - in less than 24 hours - to communicate accurate information. Congressman Nick Lampson helped to identify a family in his district that had experienced severe storm damage and could help communicate the message to others.
One of the biggest challenges in this effort was the fact that everyone involved, from county officials to voice-over talent, were still dealing with the effects of the hurricane on their own lives and businesses.
The film shoot took 14 hours and involved cooperation with all partners. FEMA was still struggling with approvals and temporarily delayed filming. With filming finally completed, the production team worked to edit the footage down to a 12-minute video. While editing was underway, actors were hired to provide voiceovers for the film. The production team wrote, edited and finalized all copy displayed on screen during the video's runtime, which features eligibility criteria and easy-to-follow application instructions. All of this was completed while still waiting for final approval from FEMA.
The video was complete and posted online at United Way and the HCHA within the two week deadline. A Spanish version of the video was also needed to reach out to non-English speakers displaced by the storm. All scripts and copy needed translation. In just a few days, the second video was available for Spanish audiences.
An aggressive media outreach campaign was launched to generate awareness of the video and its availability to the public. Working strategically with several English and Spanish news outlets across the region, the team secured numerous mainstream media hits that reached the video's target audience. The final "Need Ike Relief?" video was featured on public radio, local television broadcasts and in key print publications. Social media outlets were also used by posting both English and Spanish videos on YouTube, in addition to prominent links on the main pages of the HCHA and United Way Web sites.
The Harris County Housing Authority's video has become a key tool in helping residents understand their eligibility for financial aid and the application process following a hurricane. The 2009 Hurricane Season just started - isn't time you took a look?