PR community rallies round as a nation mourns its dead

NEW YORK and WASHINGTON: PR agencies across the country rallied to

offer help and support, on both a personal and professional level, as

New York and Washington, DC counted the cost of devastating terrorist

attacks last Tuesday.



For agencies and corporate communication departments in New York, the

first priority was to ensure the well-being of their own staffs. "The

personal safety and emotional comfort of staff is inevitably foremost in

everyone's minds," said one agency chief.



Companies provided regular updates for staff to keep them informed of

changes in the situation, and also called in grief counselors for those

staff who could not account for friends or family members. Advice was

also given on how to explain the events to young children.



Many staffers went home together holding hands. As one agency chief put

it, "No one who was in shock or in fear for a relative's life was

alone." Other PR staffers opened their homes to those who could not get

to their own apartments.



The staffers themselves offered what help they could to those involved

in the rescue effort. Hundreds rushed straight to the hospitals to give

blood. Others volunteered to join in the rescue work, to answer phones

for the Red Cross, or to help out in city shelters. Lots of agencies

have also reported staffers making donations of clothes to emergency

workers or raising money to buy water, cleaning materials, and other

supplies needed by rescue workers.



"Never have I been so proud to be in charge of these people," commented

one agency chief. "Their response on a human level has been unerring -

especially given that many are still waiting on news of friends or

colleagues."



Hundreds of PR firms are now offering other kinds of help, with both the

Council of PR Firms and the PRSA coordinating offers of assistance. (See

NoticeBoard, p. 2).



Many agencies have also rushed into action executing crisis

communication plans for their clients. Several agencies have related

that they are working with the airlines, telecommunications companies,

and emergency services, while others are working with the corporations

caught in the blasts - mainly helping them tackle awkward internal

communication issues such as advising staff about the status of missing

coworkers.



"Every agency will be working 24 hours for their clients right now,"

commented one agency CEO. "And it's right and proper that they do that

not because they want credit for it, but because they want to do what

they can in this hour of need."



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