Small Business Marketing After a Disaster: Lift-Up the Community and Avoid Pitfalls
Louisiana is still dealing with the aftermath of the historic storm that dumped several feet of water on our communities.
You could say, the real work begins now as people start to rebuild their homes, businesses and lives. For many, these past weeks have been filled with demolition, uncertainty, and stress. For others, who may have been spared the direct devastation, the question of going back to “businesses as usual” when so many of your friends and neighbors are suffering seems impossible. But, a strong business community means a strong community period. Getting back to business can help the area recover– but it shouldn’t be “as usual.”
The storm that hit much of Louisiana is being compared to another large storm to hit our country, Hurricane Sandy. Sandy roared up the east coast devastating business hubs in the Northeast. We can learn from some of the public relations mishaps that occurred just days after the storm. Several companies were seen as flippant and exploitative, their wording in marketing ads was called callous as 60 million people were struggling in their area.
For example, American Apparel offered a “Sandy Sale” and used this wording in their ads, “In case you’re bored during the storm, 20 percent off everything for the next 36 hours.” The story was covered by ABC News at the time and a spokesperson for American Apparel said in part, “Sending out this email was a separate little thing that was never intended to cause a ruckus, but just an attempt to keep our business going and keep our employees working.”
Words matter at a time like this. Recovery can be helped along by a robust business community, but small business owners need to be smart about how they handle marketing in the weeks after a disaster. If you decided to offer a discount on good and services, make sure it’s not self-serving. Serve the community. Consider promotions like, “We’re in this together, school supplies 50% off, help donate to those in need” or “Let’s help our community, cleaning supplies are buy 1 get 2 free with a donation to flood victims.”
Focus your language and attention on the community at large, not “me, me, me” think, “us, us, us.” In strict business terms, your target audience is suffering. People that lost their homes, cars and livelihoods couldn’t care less about companies wanting to generate business in the aftermath of the storm. But they do need goods and services, so while they may “not care” they do actually need you.
After a disaster like the one we are currently struggling through, the focus of your brand should be on goodwill and public trust. Small business owners can keep their doors open while serving the greater good.
Parish Parcel, a monthly subscription service offering curated boxes of Louisiana goods, owned and operated in Lafayette, is hoping to raise money for flood victims. Right now, Parish Parcel is donating 100% of the money made from the sale of a new, specially designed t-shirt to the United Way of Acadiana. In addition, the September box shipped out by Parish Parcel will include Baton Rouge made products; Parish Parcel will donate a portion of proceeds to the Capitol Area United way.
The public can purchase the t-shirts and sign up for the subscription service at www.parishparcel.com.
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