Oklahoma firms support relief efforts after tornado

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK: Oklahoma PR agencies are helping with relief efforts and advising clients on how to react to the destruction in the state caused by Monday's tornado.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK: Oklahoma PR agencies are helping with relief efforts and advising clients on how to react to the destruction in the state caused by Monday's tornado.

Saxum CEO Renzi Stone said most businesses are up and running in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, but the mood is somber. Almost all conversations, among both blue- and white-collar workers, are focused on relief efforts, such as financial commitments needed to help and the mobilization of volunteers.

The devastating storm, which killed more than 20 people, quickly affected Saxum client 7-Eleven because a man, woman, and child were found dead in the rubble of one local store after the tornado hit.

Stone said the firm immediately began helping 7-Eleven, which has more than 100 stores in Oklahoma City, by recommending stand-by statements to make, connecting with local authorities and the Red Cross, and suggesting the company offer free coffee and drinks to uniformed personnel. The agency also came up with the idea of using the marquees outside stores to urge people to text 90999 to the Red Cross to make donations.

“It will be a major communications tool for 7-Eleven's tens of thousands of customers who visit their stores every day,” explained Stone.

In addition to the marquee banners, 7-Eleven will post messages about how to donate to the Red Cross on Facebook and Twitter, he said.

Stone added that the agency is working with other clients to advise them on how to respond to the disaster in “unique, different, and appropriate” ways.

Saxum staffers are also dedicating creative energy to making shirts that nonprofits can sell, but the main focus of the agency is to find ways to financially aid the Red Cross, explained Stone.

Candor PR president Karen Wicker, who is a board member of the American Red Cross' Oklahoma Chapter, said she has volunteered her time at the organization's headquarters.

Wicker said she has helped the group with crisis and media calls about tornados for the last three days, as well as donation announcements, such as the $1 million pledge by Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant on Tuesday.

The Integris Southwest Medical Center, a Candor client, has seen or treated more than 90 patients since the tornado hit, added Wicker. The firm is helping the hospital tell some of the positive stories about patients it has treated.

“We help our clients with telling their story,” she explained. “Even in the midst of a really bad situation, there is always a wonderful story to tell, and I'm just amazed about the people who are giving their time and energy to help the community.”

Another Candor client, the Oklahoma Pharmaceutical Association, is finding ways to fill prescriptions for people who lost them in the storm.

Wicker said all of the tornado-related work is being done pro bono and that “finances don't even come up” in situations like this.

The two-mile-wide tornado left more than 240 people injured, 60 of which are children, according to media reports.                                                                             

One staffer in Schnake Turnbo Frank PR's Oklahoma City office lost the home she lived in with her husband and two-year-old son to the tornado, said Russ Florence, president and COO of the agency.

He said the tragic incident “hit close to home for everyone” at the firm, and helping the employee and her family is its first priority at the moment.

Susan Hardy Brooks, an assistant VP at the firm, is a member of the Oklahoma School PR Association. Florence said she has helped the organization with outreach in the town of Moore, where several elementary schools were destroyed.

Several Schnake Turnbo Frank clients, including the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association and the Oklahoma Pork Association, had previously planned blood drives for this week, Florence added. The firm is advising clients to use social media channels to get more people to donate blood to help tornado victims.

Rex PR, located about two hours away from Oklahoma City in Tulsa, is counseling clients to post messages of support on Twitter and Facebook to let people know they are aware of the situation and they care.

Morgan added that the agency also asked clients to receive donations from consumers or conduct special in-store offers and then donate proceeds to the relief efforts. Rex's client list includes Mexican restaurant Mi Cocina and the Tulsa Day Center for the Homeless, which Morgan said may be affected by the storm.  

“When something happens in Oklahoma, it feels like it affects the entire state because there's a really close bond between the cities,” she added.

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