PRWeek.com online journal: Communications in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

The devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina has put broad swaths of the PR community on high alert, as corporations, non-profits, and PR firms are helping their organizations and the government respond to the crisis. PRWeek.com will post ongoing coverage

The devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina has put broad swaths of the PR community on high alert, as corporations, non-profits, and PR firms are helping their organizations and the government respond to the crisis. PRWeek.com will post ongoing coverage

If your organization is involved in any efforts, please let us know by contacting Keith O?Brien at keith.obrien@prweek.com.

Siemens' internal blog links up displaced employees with those who can help

Siemens Corporation has turned its internal blog into a communications pathway for requests from displaced employees and offerings of help from other employees.

"It's being used to [link] those in need with those who want to help," said Ken Aurichio, communications manager for Siemens.

The corporation has a number of offices in Louisiana and Mississippi. Aurichio said that company does not yet know how many employees Hurricane Katrina's havoc has displaced.

One Houston employee has asked for help caring for the at least 20 displaced relatives he is sheltering.

Acknowledging that some of the displaced employees in shelters don't have internet access, the company is receiving calls on its internal "Caring Hands" telephone hotline, and operators are entering the pleas onto the blog.

Via blog.holtz.com

New Orleans PR pro appeals to corporations for goods

One PR professional, and displaced New Orleans resident, has instituted a one-man appeal for water and other needed goods.

Steve O'Keefe, executive director of Patron Saint Productions and VP of the International Association of Online Communicators (IAOC), on Tuesday contacted Pfizer, asking the pharmaceutical giant to donate Neosporin. He also appealed to battery manufacturers Energizer and Duracell for donations of goods to the region.

Last Thursday, O?Keefe began his corporate appeals by e-mailing and calling the PR heads of the International Water Bottlers Association, Pepsi-Cola, and Coca-Cola, in hopes of spurring them into using corporate jets to deliver water to survivors of the hurricane.

"The time is here for heroics for those brands and companies to do what they can to get water to those people," O'Keefe said on Friday. He directly contacted, asking them to use their private helicopters to drop water and posted their responses on the IAOC's blog iaocblog.com.

"Communications at the lowest level are working fine, people are able to get block-by-block reports over the telephone or online through messages boards," O'Keefe said at the time. "But communications at the highest level have broken down; there's an inability to get water dropped onto the highways. It's a shocking disgrace."

DirectTV provides television to shelters for displaced victims

Private organizations have stepped in to aid the communications efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. DirectTV has been working with FEMA and the Red Cross to provide satellite television links to the displaced shelters in the Gulf region.

Bob Marsocci, VP of communications for DirectTV, said the company also provided a dedicated channel full of updated text information about the hurricane. In addition, those presumed missing and their family members were encouraged to provide messages of reaching safety or calls for missing loved ones to scroll at the bottom of the screen.

?Communication is vital, but it?s a challenge because people don?t have access to phone lines,? Marsocci says.

Marsocci says that the company also had begun reaching out to state and federal officials, offering them the opportunity to use the channel to convey relevant messages to the recovery effort.

Marsocci spoke to PRWeek soon after the company had successful installed television access at the Houston Astrodome, where many of the refugees were staying.

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