Making the News Work for You

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NOTE FROM DENNY HATCH: Watching the horrors of Hurricane Sandy sent me scurrying to my files to look up the story that first appeared in the November 1993 issue of Target Marketing. I used it later in the September 2006 online Business Common Sense.

The story of Roger Craver’s emergency mailing into the teeth of Hurricane Andrew is riveting stuff and worth looking at again—with lessons for all marketers—considering the $50 billion catastrophe named Sandy that hit New Jersey, Connecticut, Manhattan and Staten Island.

Help in Natural Disasters
On Oct. 17, 1989, an earthquake rocked San Francisco. Seven days later a correspondent of mine in San Francisco received a one-page letter from T.B. Fisher, manager of travel card services for Chevron USA, sent First Class Presort and dated Oct. 18. It read:

We’ve heard about the problems that have hit your area because of the earthquake, and we sincerely hope you have not been personally affected. However, if circumstances have disrupted your routine, we want you to know we are ready to help. If we can assist by extending more time to pay your account, just let us know. You may call us toll-free at 800-CHEVRON or drop a note in the enclosed postage-paid envelope. This is one small way to say thank you for your business and confidence in our company.

It sounds like a sacrifice on Chevron’s part. But presumably if payments were delayed, interest accrued, more than paying for the cost of the mailing. Meanwhile, the goodwill generated by Chevron was priceless.

Using a News Story to Raise Money
One of the smartest fundraisers in the world is Roger Craver, co-founder of Craver, Mathews, Smith & Co.

On Aug. 24, 1992, Hurricane Andrew slammed into southern Florida and Louisiana with gusts above 160 mph. The storm caused 23 deaths and $26.5 billion in damage in the United States. It was the worst storm in history up to that time.

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at

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  • Sheila S

    I have one small, inactive account with PNC Bank. Throughout the power outtage following Hurricane Sandy, I received emails from PNC assuring me that all fees would be waived while the crisis continued. The day of the storm, PNC extended this offer through October 31. When it became clear that the results of the storm were far worse than anticipated, they extended the offer twice. By contrast, the other banks I have active accounts at did not send anything. Such a simple thing to do, with such incredible benefits.

  • David Himes

    There are two important, additional points to make about this story.

    1. Most non-profits don’t think the way Roger does. Having come out of a political background, like Roger does. We learned to watch current events and take advantage of such opportunities. Many non-profits don’t have that same perspective.

    2. Wanting to act quickly and being able to act quickly are different. This story shows the value of knowing your production resources and how to get something done quickly.

    I was able to use a similar, timely approach for Habitat for Humanity in Northern Virginia, when we lost a house to an arson fire. The house was not fully funded at the time of the fire, but we were able to fund the remainder of construction with the funds raised from an emergency appeal after the fire.

  • Kipling T

    Several years ago, one of our customers was in a severely flooded city. I called him and when he heard who I was, he said rather curtly, "don’t you know we have been flooded and have other things to think about other than a sales call from you.?" I told him I knew about the flood and that was why I was calling. I told him that he could take the time he needed to pay his outstanding bill and on his next order he should take a 50% discount as my small contribution to helping him get back on his feet. I think he was rather taken aback and thanked me in a much different tone. He has continued to be a very good customer. All our sales people have the authority to handle their accounts in disaster areas in the same way. It is a low cost way for us to make a direct contribution to their recovery.