Since watching the awesome and rather frightening satellite imagery from the National Weather Service as Katrina slowly but inexorably made her way into Louisiana and Mississippi, I’ve been rather overwhelmed at the human cost of this tragedy. It’s another instance of what I refer to as the Hammer of God, when we’re reminded that however much technology we have, however much we smugly conclude that we’ve mastered the tectonic and meteorological nuances of our planet, we’re still just feathers in the cosmic winds…
As I have in the past, I strongly encourage everyone to eschew going to a movie, skip a frappuccino or two, and even have a sandwich at home instead of a fancy dinner out, sending your money, even just $20 or $30, to a reputable and legitimate charitable organization to help out those people devastated by Katrina and its aftermath.
But here’s what I find most depressing about the aftermath of natural disasters: for every person who tries to help, there’s another trying to exploit our desire to help those in need, to steal just a tiny bit of limelight for themselves.
Let me tell you about some of the email I’ve received…
First up, an email from someone I met at an online marketing workshop a few months ago. She writes to me saying “I’m going to be issuing a press release about this tomorrow, but I’m going to donate a percentage of my sales to Katrina relief funds. Can you blog about it so I can gain more visibility, please?”
Uh, no I can’t. In fact, I have to admit that I am apalled by companies that send out press releases touting their “wonderful humanitarian efforts”. This is just trying to ride the coattails of disaster for personal gain, in my opinion. You want to impress me? Just donate a percentage of your sales without telling anyone. Okay, that’s hard for a business to do, so I’ll compromise: add something to your site letting your customers know about your humanitarian gesture. But for goodness sake, don’t send out a bloody press release about it.
That’s what I’ll call “coattails marketing” for lack of a better phrase. There are other, albeit less offensive, email that I’ve also received from people, that basically go like this: “We’re going to have National Katrina Relief Blog Day tomorrow and I’m hoping you’ll link to my site where I talk about it”.
Not a terrible gesture, but, again, if you want to impress me with your humanitarian efforts, why not just send me a pre-written blog entry or a list of a half-dozen vetted charities that I can blog about myself? Are you doing this to gain traffic to your blog or Web site, or are you doing this to help out those most in need?
Finally, I applaud efforts to have ‘relief day’ and similar, but I’d much rather write about the devastation of Katrina and the many avenues for relief on a different day to everyone else: for one reason, sales professionals already know that you need 2-3 “touches” before you’re ready to take an action, however noble or important, but more importantly if we spread out the encouragement for people to get involved, even in the smallest way, then we’ll all collectively be more effective at raising money and helping out.
Personally, I channel my contributions to the American Red Cross if it’s a domestic tragedy, and to UNICEF if it’s overseas.
Here’s an easy-to-click link to make your own donation to the American Red Cross:
Take a minute and donate a few dollars. If we all donated just $20, that would go a surprisingly long way to helping out the thousands of people in truly dire straits right now.
And if you’re pulling out your copy of The Prince to figure out how you can leverage this disaster or make a buck off it, please, go back under your rock.