DMA: Data and Marketing Association
Consumer Help

Emergency and Disaster Planning – Key Considerations

As our local communities face terrible natural disasters – Hurricane Harvey & Hurricane Irma most recently - and the resulting devastation, DMA members have inquired about steps that should be taken by marketers and fundraisers who are in communications with consumers and donors.

Here are suggestions for your review per members of DMA’s Ethics Committee as you look to plan ahead. Please note that these are meant to be helpful considerations in addition to sound legal counsel and technical and business continuity planning specific to your own company and organization.

Prior to an Emergency/Disaster:

  • Review all pending outbound communications to determine if they are already in process and whether helpful information may be added to the content for impacted recipients (such as local disaster relief shelters, pet shelters, obtaining water supplies, etc.)
  • Review your third party service provider locations, any remote suppliers or remote staff in the path of the storms to determine impact on their ability to work with you and adjust your campaign timing accordingly
  • Review the marketing and communications intended recipient lists/data sources to determine any suppressions that should occur to avoid mailing in or contacting those not able to reply due to the impending disaster.

During the Disaster/Storm:

  • Check the United States Postal Service customer service website, PostalPro, which will provide the local zip codes that will be impacted and cannot receive mail.
  • Check with your telemarketing resources to determine which phone area codes may be impacted to modify your recipient lists.
  • Check with your email service providers with regards to any email recipient lists that need modification.
  • Disasters are declared by specific local Counties, you can go to the FEMA website and use the search features to understand those counties.
  • Consider adding a disaster relief link to your digital properties that links to reputable charities seeking support for the impact in the areas impacted. The DMANF has a list of charities on its site that provide relief to the impacted communities such as Feeding America, Save the Children and others.
  • For those with ongoing billing communications, consider modifying or providing relief (such as student loans) for a temporary time to ensure those impacted are not receiving billing while in a disaster zone.
  • If you have a facility or a service that is useful—consider offering that at no cost to the community. It is more important to help those in need for a period of time. This builds loyalty and supports those you may be contacting again in the near future—and it is the right thing to do.
  • If you are providing data or lists, review a sample and seed the files to those in the impacted areas to ensure no one is sending something suspect—such as a fundraising scam to the impacted during a time of crisis when everyone is alarmed and wants to help.

After the Disaster/Storm:

  • Continue to track impacted areas/lists and data since the impacted communities will need time to recover and regroup before you can send out your communications.
  • Data providers and list owners should continue to track the types of messages and appeals to ensure that any scams can be prevented since the time after a disaster will trigger bad actors and likely criminal behavior—you may also report any suspicious or poor marketing practices to the DMA at ethics@thedma.org.
  • Continue to reduce your outbound billing and other notices since the impacted will not be likely to reply since they have relief and recovery priorities. Turn the ongoing vigilance of customer service to look for calls for help such as “I can’t pay my bill this month” or “all my documents are lost and don’t know where to pay…”
  • Determine if and how your company or organization can offer help by linking to a reputable organization and/or providing financial support to help with the recovery.
  • Alert your staff and service providers to ways they can help — blood donations, cash donations, inventory and equipment that may be useful for a local recovery effort. Think local and how you can help.

We welcome your additional suggestions. Please contact DMA Accountability at ethics@thedma.org to add your ideas and experiences.

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