How brands are helping victims of Hurricane Sandy

From cash donations to charging stations, here are the many ways companies are lending a hand in the wake of the superstorm.

Several companies have taken flak this week for their ill-advised marketing schemes during Hurricane Sandy; however, many more organizations are pitching in to help victims of the historic storm that ravaged much of the East Coast.

Donating money and goods.

More than 40 major brands, plus countless other smaller organizations, are giving money and goods to relief agencies through the storm ravaged areas.

Among the larger companies, Coca-Cola, Lowe’s, Mercedes-Benz, News Corp., HSBC, and Bank of America are each pledging $1 million to relief efforts; the New York Yankees are donating a half-million dollars to the Red Cross; Kellogg’s is giving $250,000 to the Red Cross and another $250,000 to Feeding America; Verizon Foundation is pledging $100,000 to the Red Cross and matching employee donations up to $1,000.

By late Wednesday afternoon, the Red Cross said it had raised more than $11 million for Sandy relief. To spur further giving, the organization is now accepting donations via iTunes. To find (or verify) other charities, check the website Charity Navigator for information on various nonprofits.

Beyond cash donations, companies are providing the storm-ravaged areas with goods that will help in the cleanup efforts. General Motors, for example, is donating 50 Silverado pickup trucks and cargo vans to areas along the East Coast; Abbott Labs is giving nutritional packages and hydration solutions to area food banks and health clinics; SpareFoot, a storage company, is offering a free month of storage space to families in need of extra space.

Companies offer charging stations.

For many in the storm-stricken areas of the Northeast, power became a premium commodity, as more than 400,000 people remain without electricity.

To help those without power, Duracell moved its mobile charging station to Battery Park, according to Advertising Age. Rapid responders are roaming New York and New Jersey to give people a place to power up their electronic devices.

Other companies where the lights stayed on provided more ad hoc help, opening their doors to people looking for a charge. Goldman Sachs, for example, provided people in Manhattan with a charging center, issuing this tweet on the topic yesterday:

Meanwhile, a company called goCharge opened 50 charging kiosks in New York bars to give people a place to power up.

Cell providers join forces to boost coverage.

Throughout the effected areas on the East Coast, cell phone service has remained spotty, even nonexistent in some parts. To help remedy the situation, AT&T and T-Mobile joined forces to expand coverage in the Northeast.

According to The Next Web:

“Through this partnership, both AT&T and T-Mobile customers will be able to place calls normally, but the difference will be that it will go through whatever network is the most operational in their area. You will not notice any difference and there won’t be any changes to your calling plan as a result. It’s important to note that this agreement allows both carriers to enable roaming on either network and won’t be a permanent one.

“Customers of either carrier will find that their text messaging won’t be affected as well—both AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM and UMTS standards—technology that makes sharing much easier.”

As a gesture to help people without stable Internet connections, Comcast has announced that it will make all its wi-fi hotspots free to use until Nov. 7 in areas affected by Sandy—not in New York, because the company has no hotspots there, but in 10 other states.

Media companies open their paywalls.

As so many people working in corporate communication departments understand, information—good, reliable information—is at a premium when disaster strikes. Twitter has given companies and media outlets a powerful way to disseminate that information, but unfortunately the platform by its nature also enables frauds and pranksters to spread false news.

To help provide storm victims (and their loved ones outside the effected areas) with timely and reliable information, newspapers such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Newsday shut off their online paywalls temporarily so people can access their websites freely.

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