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
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
"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."