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Reacting when Disaster Strikes

Posted on  6 September 11  by 

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marketing communicationsMaybe its just the recency effect, or a hype-building news media, but it sure feels like the scope, scale, and frequency of natural disasters is getting worse. Here in America, we’ve had devastating tornadoes in Missouri, a wildfire in Texas, a narrow-miss major hurricane on the east coast, and an extremely-rare earthquake in Virginia.

Brands have a role and responsibility to their communities in times of trouble. Leading companies engage in Corporate Social Responsibility to promote the human face of their corporate brands. But response to natural disasters should be quick, and have a high impact in relatively short time duration. Companies need to weigh the decision points for building a Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy that embeds a culture of philanthropy and creates a ready infrastructure to respond during times of need.

After you’ve setup a relief effort strategy, follow these steps to position it for maximum impact:

Be useful, not charitable: Remember, your audience for is already overwhelmed with impact of the disaster. Device tactful ways of aligning your brand promise to initiatives which provide a helping hand to affected people. Procter and Gamble’s Tide Loads of Hope campaign and Duracell Power Relief Trailers helped Joplin residents overcome their tornado misery by offering laundry services and power in their times of distress.

Don’t forget your employees: Employees form the backbone of your relief efforts. Employee welfare activities and assistance to distressed employees will not only provide much-needed assistance, but also lend strength to your broader relief efforts. Hardee’s chain of restaurants tracked the wellbeing of each of their employees, before starting relief efforts with their support.

Be generous, it pays: When Walmart invested $38 million in Hurricane Katrina efforts, it allowed employees to take charge, and “do the right thing”. Employee derived local knowledge of supply chains, coupled with employees’ freedom to act, made Walmart the an important part of Katrina relief efforts, and won it loyal customers.

Go social, everyone’s talking about it: Social media plays a more important role in than traditional media  for disaster updates and assistance. During Hurricane Irene, many brands invested in twitter update handles to be a part of the consumer interaction. This provided them with contextual brand touch point to consumers searching for particular items. But be careful not to clog up official channels for disaster information – for instance, don’t use disaster-related hashtags unless you’re sharing good, useful information.

MLC members: If you haven’t already got a CSR strategy in place, we recommend a list of cause marketing agencies which could help you do so.

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