Heavy rainfall gives PULSE PR windfall

HOUSTON: Spokespeople for PULSE, an electronic funds transfer

association, worked overtime to create goodwill, despite millions of

customers in 22 states being unable to use their ATM cards for three

days because of Tropical Storm Allison.

As much as three feet of rain fell on parts of Houston, knocking out

both primary and secondary power to PULSE's main processing station.

The company turned to its PR firm, Austin's GCI-Read Poland, for

external media relations, while internal staff focused on keeping Web

site information fresh and sending blast faxes to banks and other direct


PULSE's marketing EVP Cindy Ballard said she even woke the company

Webmaster at 2am one morning to update the site.

Julian Read, chairman of GCI-Read Poland and a longtime spokesman for

PULSE, said he initially strove to convince harried AP reporters of the

problem's magnitude so customers wouldn't be surprised when their cash

cards didn't work. He said reporters generally were sympathetic.

The disaster provided a rare opportunity for PULSE to reach mainstream

media with the message that until the deluge, its reliability record had

been 99.99%.

"This serves as a reminder to us how much we depend on our ATM cards,"

Read said.

The system serves some 60 million cardholders and 2,700 financial

institutions that operate nearly half a million ATM and

point-of-purchase terminals from Florida to Colorado and Texas to


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