Business opportunity & responsibility in the face of disaster


When disaster strikes, in your backyard or across the world, it’s an opportunity. It is NOT an opportunity to use the ensuing attention to promote your brand, sell a product, or in any way take advantage of the plight of others for business gain.

The opportunity you have as a business is to immediately rally your customers, prospects, industry, employees, shareholders and more to do what they can to help. Often that means inspiring their direct and/or financial help. It can occasionally mean just letting them talk, and work through what they’ve seen, felt or experienced.

It’s the right thing to do. Yes, it has the possibility of bringing those groups together aligned with you in a way that can have lasting business impact. But that’s not the point.

Here are a few suggestions for how you can use your business resources and leverage to have an immediate and lasting effect for others.

  • Rally Your Customers: After a disaster, there are often countless organizations asking for your donations to help. It can be difficult to determine which are credible, which you can trust, and which will deliver the most immediate help to those in need. If your customers already trust you, use that trust to help direct their efforts in a way that can have the most impact. Do the research for them to find the most impactful relief organizations, and give your customers a direct, easy and collective way to help.
  • Help Your Customers: Depending on the nature and location of the disaster, you may have customers directly impacted. What can your business do to help those individuals directly? What do they need that other customers could help with, your employees could help with, or your business directly can support?
  • Rally Your Employees: By all means, get your employees involved as well. Help them aggregate financial support for relief efforts, and if possible (and appropriate) give them ways to also contribute directly with their time, labor and talents.
  • Allow Time & Forums for Sharing: Disasters – even half a world away – can be intensely personal. They can shatter our confidence, sense of safety and accelerate our perceived vulnerability. Give your customers the time & space to talk, share, vent, cry, and support each other. Generally business-focused discussion forums might take a left turn for a few days. Let it happen, and if your employee contribute to the conversation, do it only as a fellow vulnerable human being, not as a company representative.
  • Help with Preparation & Prevention: In the aftermath of disasters, questions about future preparation and prevention always come up. How could we have prevented this? How do we prepare if it happens again? How do I prepare myself, my family, my business? Help your customers and employees answer these questions. Do so in a way that helps them directly, but also gives them an opportunity to help others (those around them and those directly affected currently) do the same thing.