What's happening?

A week in the life of a PR consultant in flooded Shropshire
09 Mar 2020
by Jan Minihane

shrewsbury, ironbridge, bridgnorth, shropshire. flooding, february, 2020


What has the J&PR team been up to during recent times when businesses across Shropshire have been hit by floods? We’ve been rather busy unsurprisingly …

Communication is key

You will have realised throughout the last few weeks communication has been vital. Whether you are the leader of Telford & Wrekin Council, a specialist from the Environment Agency, the headteacher of a local school or the owner of a cafe or restaurant – how and when you communicated with your customers has been crucial since Storm Ciara, Dennis and Jorge and devastating floodwater wreaked havoc across the county.

As residents and business owners in Ironbridge nervously waited to see if the flood barriers would be breached, the community remained confident they would be kept informed by Telford & Wrekin Council’s regular updates or the constant stream of media coverage from sites such as Shropshire Live or community forums.

The wonderful owners of Dale End Cafe kicked off their own ‘floodwatch’ social media as soon as waters put their business at risk. They were sadly flooded out on two occasions but with the support of their community continued to smile – for the camera anyway – and let their customers know what was happening and also how they could help. They are now well on their way to crowdfunding the money they need to get back open again, using the power of social media to spread the word. 

We know many people, who were not affected by the floods, felt powerless. They wanted to help but did not know what they could do. It was communication through social media which allowed them to find out what was needed and when.

Offers of free boarding for pets, accomodation for those forced to leave their homes, free services from people in trades, hot meals and refreshments and so much more have left the people of Ironbridge overwhelmed.

The residents and business owners in Shrewsbury also posted regular updates, photographs and live videos to show the situation they were facing.

Fellow businesses across the town went to help, delivered sandbags and offered their support to clear ground floor shops and offices.

So what about team J&PR? 

We had a number of clients under flood water and also some in flood-hit areas but were unaffected – regardless of which situation they were in, they needed regular, up to date social media posts to ensure their customers knew either way.

The Best Western Valley Hotel in Ironbridge was not under water (we’d be in trouble if the water got that high!) but it was well publicised – nationally – that Ironbridge was flooded out. The staff needed to shout from the rooftops – we are open and it’s business as usual. The hotel became home for evacuees and staff worked around the clock. 

This weekend alone they had a wake and a leap year wedding which all went to plan – whilst the hotel has also been a media hub with Sky News, Midlands Today and ITV all filming there.

So we’ve been drafting special features, reaction quotes as the situation developed and ensured some emergency media training took place with the staff before they were faced with the TV cameras – it’s not every day they appear on the national news. We’ve been working with the team at The Valley since 2012 so we certainly know their business well.

Our client the Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust saw 8 out of 10 museums close, but working with them to offer free entry to pupils from closed flood hit primary schools and their parents was fantastic. With the press release turned around in just a couple of hours and the online coverage reaching tens of thousands of people, it was wonderful to see children enjoy their free day out at Enginuity and Blists Hill. The message that two museums were open was certainly out there.

Over in Shrewsbury, we work with Shrewsbury BID (Business Improvement District) as their media support so were extremely busy advising on messaging and urgently turning around press statements in a rapidly-changing situation. 

Our client, pharmacy group MSN & Lunts, sent us regular updates as floodwater hit Lunts Roushill. Their J&PR social media manager ensured their customers knew deliveries were still taking place and prescriptions could be collected from their neighbouring pharmacy which was able to remain open. The power of social media ensured customers could be reached immediately.

Whilst our work in Shrewsbury continued as our client, Greenhous West Mid Showground, sadly saw water approach until the showground and all buildings (including the new glamping pods) were flooded out and in some cases washed away. 

Events such as the Shropshire County Show and Frestival are just around the corner and we knew we needed to start planning immediately so a Crowdfunding appeal was launched in the press and on social media.

As journalists we often worked around the clock – never leaving a breaking or developing news story despite our shift ending. Our work ethic at J&PR remains unchanged – our staff have worked tirelessly over the last week (plenty of evening and weekend working!) to ensure every aspect of our clients’ communication was managed. 

We are so proud to not only represent such amazing businesses across Shropshire but to also live and work alongside these amazing people too.