As Hurricane Dorian bore down on Florida and the Eastern Seaboard of the United States last Labor Day weekend, Brands’ disaster response plans were on full display — or conspicuously absent.
One brand, Thrillist, seemed to continue with business as usual, running a tone-deaf ad for events happening in Miami that weekend. Commenters responded in kind, suggesting that their only plan for the weekend was getting ready for the impending storm.
By this time the storm had been in the news cycle for several days, plenty of time for Thrillist to adjust its strategy. It could have at the very least suspended ads in lieu of a more targeted and timely approach; perhaps an article featuring local restaurants planning to stay open.
While brands don’t necessarily have to turn into the Red Cross every time a storm looms, Jennifer Weston-Murphy of CECP suggests that the most important thing brands can do is have a plan that they are ready to quickly put into action should a natural disaster occur or threaten to occur, as well as building partnerships with local authorities and businesses before disaster strikes.
A famous example is AB-InBev repurposing breweries to produce canned water during the 2017 hurricane cycle, which saw monster storms such as Irma and Maria impact large population centers. Tesla Motors even got in on the action when CEO Elon Musk volunteered the company to rebuild Puerto Rico’s electric grid after the island was devastated by Maria.
More recently, Airbnb responded to Dorian by activating its Open Homes Program, which offered free housing to those displaced by Dorian and those emergency releif workers heading to the area.
“Through the program, those in need of temporary accommodations can connect with Open Homes hosts in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alabama free of charge,” said Kellie Bentz, Airbnb’s Head of Global Disaster Response and Relief in a press release.
Savvy brands know that a natural disaster can not only be an opportunity to help affected communities, but create brand goodwill that lasts long after a storm’s winds and rain have left the area. Brands that are not prepared to respond can at the very least get out of the way.