Northeastern agencies make do in hurricane aftermath

NEW YORK: PR agencies in the Northeast are embracing mobile communications and the connectivity of the internet to keep business going following the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy.

NEW YORK: PR agencies in the Northeast are embracing mobile communications and the connectivity of the internet to keep business going following the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy.

The storm, which hit New York the hardest on Monday night, claimed more than 30 lives on the East Coast, left nearly 8 million people without power, and caused about 15,000 flights around the world to be canceled.

Most PR agency offices in New York, Boston, Washington DC, and New Jersey were closed Tuesday due to power outages and public transportation closures, and many tried to make it business as usual from remote locations.

MSLGroup closed its New York and Washington offices on Tuesday. However, it kept its Schwartz MSL office open in Boston, asking employees to use their discretion as to whether or not it was safe for them to come in, said Michael Echter, director of corporate communications at the agency.

He added that as long as staff members have access to the internet, most can continue working.

“Our account teams are all reaching out to their clients,” said Echter. “It's really on an individual basis depending on where the client is based and who has available access [to internet and phones].”

A number of New York-based agencies also shut down their offices on Monday.

Ketchum, which closed its New York office on Tuesday, is planning to “partially” open the office on Wednesday for employees who can safely make it in, said Mike Doyle, who was promoted from associate director to director of the New York office on September 1.

Doyle, also a partner at the agency, said senior leaders have been in contact with the entire staff over the last 24 hours to check on safety and whether they need help with specific accounts.

In addition to employee safety, Doyle said the agency is leveraging its US network for help on “concentrated work,” such as media monitoring and community management.

“We're using any manner of technology to make sure we're staying connected to each other,” he added.

Some staffers without power have used Facebook or text messages to talk to clients and other team members, explained Doyle.

Dave Senay, president and CEO of Fleishman-Hillard, said his agency has asked staffers in Northeastern offices to work remotely.

“We have the technology today that makes it possible to work from anywhere,” he said. Senay added that since most client work is handled across more than one office, account teams in other locations have helped with work that can't be done in New York, Boston, or other Northeastern cities.

Fleishman team members will continue to “work together and cover for each other,” explained Senay.

Bender/Helper Impact, which has offices in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, kept the New York office open on Tuesday, but asked only those who could safely make it to come in, said Dean Bender, founding partner.

He said despite not being in a “collective office” on Tuesday, the agency tried to carry on with regularly scheduled weekly meetings and conference calls.

The firm also made sure internal files were accessible through cloud computing and other networks for those working remotely, added Bender.

Burson-Marsteller closed its New York and Washington offices on Tuesday and encouraged staff members to work remotely, said an agency spokesperson. The firm declined to answer any other questions about how it's handling the impact of the storm. MWW, which closed its New York, New Jersey, and Washington offices on Tuesday, also declined to comment for the story. Representatives from Porter Novelli, Edelman, and GolinHarris were contacted but could not be immediately reached for comment.

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