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Advertising During Disaster
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Today is the first morning since "Frankenstorm" Sandy made her presence known on U.S. soil. Unfortunately, Sandy so far has been all the storm the professionals have warned about. 

Fortunately, many of our friends, family, and colleagues heeded the warning.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who have lost loved ones due to the havoc Sandy has brought so far. We hope everyone in Sandy's way bears through without much incident. And for those 7 million without power, we hope that you receive some assistance as quickly as possible.

When a natural disaster strikes, immediate attention is thrown onto our public servants — government officials and emergency responders. They are looked to for providing answers, relaying messages, and even providing comfort and reassurance. The attention they receive is expected, and also warranted. As elected and appointed and volunteered personnel, these officials and responders put themselves in a position to have answers when events like this happen. 

Our point is to not let the business community off the hook so easily.

Last night we spoke to a retired business owner. He owned a grocery store in Charlotte, NC when Hurricane Hugo came in 1989 and tore up the place. He told us about how his shop kept the doors locked, but the windows were blown out. He couldn't find his garbage cans or cash register, and had to use the cigarette racks as a replacement. In the midst of everything, he was open. His words were "the people needed things and so I was open." The result? He sold every perishable good in the store except ice cream. He went home, and he and his neighbors didn't have any power. No way to clean themselves up. A motel manager came around and let people come in to the motel to get a hot bath.

"That was the time when people cared about and helped each other," he said.

Our point is not that business owners should risk their welfare to help those that stayed. Of course we should all listen if the best action is to evacuate. But the story we heard showed us how businesses can hold strong roles in a community through a crisis. And now with the technology we have today, businesses can use advertising to send messages of comfort and service to those in their communities whom need it.

A great example is 24PetWatch. When the meteorologists finally locked down the course Sandy was taking, 24PetWatch sent all its online members an email about ways to keep themselves and their pets safe during an emergency. Though we are sure all of its members are not facing the terrors of Sandy, the tips in the email are precautions we should always have in the back of our minds. And if we have questions or need supplies for ourselves and our puppy, you better believe that 24PetWatch would be the first place we'd look.

Times like these are times when "goodvertising" comes to the front of the mind. We should urge our brands to do what they can to make sure their audiences are safe and prepared as best as they can be to weather events like these.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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