On Target - Media's Role Now - Service
By Alicia Orr Suman
Years from now, each of us will remember where we were on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. It was a day filled with horror and devastation, grief and sorrow. The first thing many of us did was turn to the media for answers—and to help us make sense of these hideous acts of terrorism against innocent civilians on American soil.
At about 9:15 that morning, I tried to log onto CNN.com for information, only to find I couldn't gain access. Same was true for The New York Times Web site. A few hours later, however, both sites were easily accessible, their home pages downloading at near-normal rates thanks to quick thinking on the part of the media companies, which had both (like many others) made the drastic decision to remove all ads, graphics and other non-essential information, making their home pages easier to load, according to a report in The New York Times (9/17/01). This type of selfless action on the part of these communications giants represented the best use of media in response to the national tragedy.
AOL's Response to the Tragedy. As we recognize America Online's Vice Chair Jan Brandt as Direct Marketer of the Year, I want to note three ways that the Internet giant said it has responded to the crisis: Information, Community and Giving. Along with giving its members the latest news, spokesman David Tice said the company set up chat rooms so that the AOL community could come together to talk and share their sorrow. By providing a number of ways online for its 30 million members to make charitable contributions, through Monday, Sept. 17, it had collected more than $13 million for organizations such as the American Red Cross and United Way—an amazing show of support for fellow Americans.
And now for some background on how we came to select this year's honoree. When Regina Brady, a member of our Editorial Advisory Board, nominated Jan Brandt, she said, "Brandt built an empire based on solid direct marketing savvy." Brady at one time worked for AOL's former rival CompuServe, which was acquired by America Online three years ago. Brady shared some of her recollections of when she first met Brandt:
I first met Jan prior to her ever joining AOL. At the time I was at CompuServe, Jan had been bitten by the "online bug," so it was no surprise when months later she joined AOL.
Adds Brady: "And Jan Brandt certainly put AOL on the map." By mailing out millions of diskettes, AOL has grown its empire to 30 million members. And, as Brady notes, "It all started with the innovative use of direct mail."
In the weeks and months to come, I hope our publication helps you weather this difficult time by providing ideas to give your business a boost and by offering some inspiration through stories like that of our Direct Marketer of the Year.