GodwinGroup client Hancock Bank was recently featured in a CNN news story that looked at the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and how the bank responded during the largest natural disaster in America’s history. Based in Gulfport, Mississippi, and serving the Gulf South region, Hancock Bank has weathered many hurricanes in its 111 year history. When hurricanes approach the Gulf Coast, Hancock Bank’s mantra is Last to close. First to open. As evidenced in the CNN news clip, the bank’s leadership and dedication to serving their customers was never more evident than in their Katrina recovery.
In August of 2005, Mississippi took a direct hit from Hurricane Katrina which wiped out telecommunications and power for miles inland. Hancock Bank’s Gulfport headquarters was damaged; they had no electricity, no phones or internet, and a dislocated staff. During the days and weeks following the storm, GodwinGroup’s Jackson, Mississippi, office became the communications arm of the bank. We identified the information that needed to be shared as quickly as possible, and we worked with media outlets throughout the Gulf South to share the bank’s messages with their customers, employees, and other locals displaced or otherwise impacted by the storm. Those who remained evacuated away from the Gulf Coast were reached with television news crawls and radio reports that Hancock Bank was waiving ATM and other fees while the bank and its customers faced the crisis of the storm’s aftermath. Those who returned to a coast still without basic utilities restored found Hancock Bank.
For post-Katrina communications, GodwinGroup resurrected a theme used once before by the bank after Hurricane Camille in 1969: Together We Rebuild. Tables and RVs functioning as teller lines and lending offices were identified by signs and banners produced by GodwinGroup. T-shirts, buttons, and stickers were also produced and driven down to the coast to help identify where help and a friendly face could be found. On a broader scale, our agency PR team arranged a live interview with Hancock Bank’s CEO on MSNBC’s Squawk Box just days after the storm. The CEO’s message, broadcast using Godwin’s undamaged Biloxi office, was the first positive communication to the national news media since the hurricane hit, and Wall Street responded well to the bank’s news of expected recovery on the Gulf Coast.
As a result of GodwinGroup’s communication efforts on behalf of Hancock Bank, our client-agency relationship has grown stronger and deeper, as have our long-cherished ties to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and people of Mississippi. For our work during and just after the storm, Hancock Bank and GodwinGroup achieved several recognitions. In 2006, GodwinGroup received from the American Banker’s Association two national awards. One was the Inspiration Award and the second was the Customer Acquisition Award. The Customer Acquisition Award was based on the bank’s phenomenal growth right after the storm including 30,000 new accounts, an increase of over $1.5 million in deposits, and a stock price increase of 44%.