What can your business do during disaster?

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and some major fails by companies like Gap and American Apparel who tried to capitalize off of the natural disaster with promotions and pushing people to do some online shopping, I felt like a post was in order. So if you you’re kinda confused on what direction to take with your brand and marketing when the world/nation/state/community/what-have-you is facing disastrous/devastating events, here are some things to consider.

Humanize your brand and show some consideration! This is one of those “duh” things. I’m sure that you as a person are concerned with the terrible happenings, so show that concern through your brand. In this day in age, people are responding to brands that are humanized, so what better way than connect on a basic human level, than to show concern about human issues. Even if you have a start up and can’t afford to make huge donations, encourage others to do so through a national, non-profit like American Red Cross. Don’t feel comfortable with encouraging donations? Push out any other helpful information that you may come across. For example, in the case of a hurricane, tweet/post/etc any shelters that you’re aware of. If you can’t afford monetary donations, but you can afford to donate some of whatever your product or service is, then that works just as well. For example, if you own a bakery, consider sending treats to victims in shelters.

Make your products or services that benefit victims of the devastating event more accessible. For example, in the case of Gap and American Apparel, they could have simply adjusted their website categorization/rules so that items like rain boots and rain coats with free express shipping (shipping, given the circumstances may be unrealistic or nonsensical, but this is just an example) appeared at the top of the pages. There’s a difference between being helpful and being pushy, insensitive and ‘salesy.’

Connect with the community. If you are a small business owner in a place that gets affected by a disastrous event, use social media as a way to connect with your community and to let them know you feel the impact of the event as well. Encourage camaraderie and support at the local level. If you have a larger business with just one presence per social media platform, consider taking the time to connect to the community that houses your headquarters. Another thing that larger companies can do is to reach out to their employees at different locations and have them all submit images and words of encouragement specific to various areas, then the national social media platforms can show personal attention to each of those communities. 

Be engaging. Ask people to tell you their stories. Show genuine interest. During disasters, everyone is impacted in one way or another. Give people the opportunity to share their stories by using social media as a way to listen. When using social media in these instances, have your social media managers leave their names in the posts so the public knows exactly who they’re talking to. Maybe even consider making a video and sharing what the folks at your company are experiencing due to the disaster and then follow with encouraging words and a note that your company is there to listen and help.

I get it, you have a business, annnd when it’s possible to capitalize, you’d like to. Just don’t make that the driving force behind your actions for your brand during a catastrophic event. A simple picture of someone working on behalf of your brand can go a long way to draw positive attention and maybe even get some good press. Instagram, Twitter and Facebook offer excellent platforms to post compelling images, and could eventually lead to a viral success.The bottom line is give your brand a heart. Snap a few pics of you doing something good in the midst of disaster, share it, and encourage others to do the same. And don’t forget that the lives and wellbeing of human beings are at stake. So make your brand sincere, and make it human,

I’ve discussed the importance of establishing a cause for your brand. But you must also know how to adapt and make your brand at the very least sensitive to devastating events. Did you find this helpful? How does your brand handle catastrophic events?

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What’s your cause?

Whatever you’re trying to do in life, professionally or personally, I think that one thing that you should always consider is how you’re going to make a difference and what you’re going to do to make the lives of other people better. It can be related to your profession or maybe it can be related to something that’s affected you personally. Whatever the case, you need to have a cause.

This is especially true for companies and brands (and don’t forget celebrities are brands, too). In fact, legend Harry Belafonte just publicly criticized power couple, Jay Z and Beyonce’ for a lack of social responsibility. Whether or not I agree with him is neither here, nor there. The point is that people pay attention to what companies are doing to give back. Sometimes companies start out with their own initiatives, and sometimes, something in society will happen that will spark a movement and a company can choose whether or not to take part.

A great example of a such societal happenings happened very recently, when 16-year old Matthew Walzer, who suffers from cerebral palsy, wrote an open letter to Mark Parker, CEO of Nike. The letter asked for Nike to consider making a shoe that would be easier to wear for those who are unable to lace their own shoe laces, which is a problem for many people with cerebral palsy.

After reading the letter, Matt Halfhill of blog Nice Kicks thought of a social media campaign that would make some noise and draw attention to the letter to ensure that not only would Mark Parker be made aware of the letter, but that he would be reminded of it over and over again. For every like, share and retweet of the blog’s post or video, Nice Kicks will send a a bright, Nike-orange post card to Parker and it will be signed with the name of the person who shared it.

Nice Kicks is likely to receive a great big round of applause for doing something to get this issue some shine. The fact that the cause is relevant to their brand is great as well and puts them in a position benefit from this campaign.

Check out the #NikeLetter below and share! Kudos to Halfhill and Nice Kicks for taking this opportunity to stand up for a cause.

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