By Dennis Culloton, CEO, president
It’s just getting started but it has already been a brutal hurricane season. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey walloping South Texas, many unexpected heroes emerged but one Harris County meteorologist stepped into the spotlight with a great lesson for all business, civic and political leaders who find themselves in the center of a storm–real or imagined.
While Harvey devastated the city of Houston for a grueling seven days, Jeff Lindner worked tirelessly around-the-clock to bring no frill updates to locals. Even as residents lost connections to broadcast news, Lindner used social media to report on flood levels and storm conditions, projected spillovers, dam release dates, and to correct false rumors in a quick and straightforward manner. In no time, he gained a large following as he answered locals’ questions via twitter. Many followers began to wonder when he found time to sleep. The devotion of some fans grew to new heights when one man started a Gofundme to send Lindner on a vacation as a reward for his hard work and dedication. Linder for the first time in weeks was speechless when he found out the page had gained so much attention and over $20,000 in donations and felt as though he was “just doing his job.” It is obvious that Lindner is a man who is dedicated to his work and goes above and beyond for his city, but what is it that makes people keep coming back to him as opposed to the many other meteorologists? Simple. His Credibility is rooted in the fact that he is someone they can trust. One Houstonian commented that she was “thankful for in Jeff Lindner is giving us straight answers whether we like them or not.”
As we all know, the foundation for all good relationships is built around trust and is more important than ever in business and politics. But how does someone become a trustworthy person? In my 25 years in the media, crisis communications and strategy I have found a few surefire ways to build equity and credibility through trust in a business environment.
- Sincerity and Commitment. He wasn’t polished, but the residents of Harris County, and social media followers around the country knew he had their best interests at heart. He told National Public Radio: “ I knew people were going to be scared, and I knew people needed direction at that time. And in hindsight, I see that I offered that when it was happening. I wasn’t sure if what I was saying was resonating with everybody, but apparently it was.”
- Expertise. Jeff Lindner spent a lifetime preparing to respond to the penultimate challenge of his career. No one doubted he knew his tropical disturbances from his depressions.
- Ingenuity. As residents lost power and connection to television and radio reports, Lindner turned to social media to connect with Houston area residents and answered their questions directly and around-the clock.
- Modesty and focus on the true customer. As he became a national multi-media star he continued to be a down-to-earth, sometimes rumpled public servant who always redirected attention to the residents of Texas who needed help and information. His response to the GoFundMe campaign was evidence of that. As a government employee, Lindner reminded everyone, he is not allowed to accept gifts over $100. He asked instead that the donations be given to those who lost everything during the Hurricane.
When a storm hits, literally or figuratively, you want to have an authentic and actionable response for those who count on us. It took a lifetime of preparation, but Jeff Lindner’s rising to the occasion of Hurricane Harvey is a lesson to us all.