Agencies shut down New York, DC offices before Hurricane Sandy strikes

NEW YORK: Most PR agencies closed their northeastern offices Monday, advising employees with power to work remotely as Hurricane Sandy churned toward the East Coast.

NEW YORK: Most PR agencies closed their northeastern offices Monday, advising employees with power to work remotely as Hurricane Sandy churned toward the East Coast.

Mass transit systems in major cities such as New York, Boston, and Washington DC shut down in advance of the storm, preventing many staffers from getting to work. The center of the hurricane was expected to make landfall along the Mid-Atlantic or Northeast coast Monday night. However, by afternoon many parts of the region were already experiencing power outages and flooding.

“The safety of our employees is our greatest concern,” said Michael Echter, director of corporate communications at MSLGroup, which closed its New York and Washington DC offices Monday. Schwartz MSL Boston closed at 1 pm.

Echter added that most MSL employees were working from home as power permitted.

Laptops and mobile devices allowed many agency employees to conduct business as usual. Ketchum executives were still active on email Monday, said SVP and director of corporate communications Jackie Burton. The firm's New York office closed at 12:30 pm Monday and will remain shuttered through Tuesday, she said. The DC office was also closed.

Most agency executives stayed in touch with clients as the storm approached.

“We're a client-service business, so of course we're reaching out to clients to let them know we're closed or to reschedule calls and meetings as necessary,” said Susan Porter-Corsini, MD of Washington DC at GolinHarris.

GolinHarris shut down its offices in New York, Washington DC, Baltimore, and Richmond, VA, as did the rest of the Interpublic Group agencies. Employees who were unable to work from home were not required to do so, Porter-Corsini said.

“The IPG building has four floors in DC, and all of the brands are closed today. We made the decision yesterday because we want to make sure that everyone stays safe,” she said.

Some agency locations are in or near evacuation zones. For example, the New York offices of Porter Novelli and Edelman are on the border of Zone A in Manhattan, the area with the highest risk of flooding.

“Everyone's still in contact with clients, but we closed our New York and DC offices just to keep everyone safe,” said an Edelman spokesperson.

APCO Worldwide opened its New York office Monday for a previously scheduled client meeting, but most employees worked from home. Those who came in were planning to leave early, said Nelson Fernandez, MD of New York at the firm. Fleishman-Hillard's New York branch also remained open, but managers advised staff to work from home because of the weather and mass transit shutdowns, said SVP and partner Steve Naru.

Burson-Marsteller, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Ogilvy Public Relations, and Waggener Edstrom Worldwide were among other agencies that shuttered their East Coast offices Monday. Agency spokespeople said they expected those offices to be closed on Tuesday as well.

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