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Who Benefits from U.S. Disaster Relief?

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Spring has brought a disastrous wave of floods and tornadoes to areas in the Midwest and Southern United States. In the wake of catastrophe, support from government, non-profit agencies, and companies is critical for victims left without even basic needs like food, housing and communication.

While it’s no secret that companies are motivated by the “feel-good” effect of their actions, it can be nice to see companies, especially in industries that are less than celebrated for their customer-care policies, rally in support. Verizon Wireless, for example, deployed what it called a “Disaster Relief RV” to provide activated phones, internet access and device-charging stations on-site to help Memphis residents recovering from the recent disaster. Additionally, it released a statement that it “increased coverage capacity in Memphis and surrounding areas for the duration of the rising flood waters to handle anticipated increases in wireless call volumes.”

Regional U-Haul offices in Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina began offering 30 days of free storage and a “take a box, leave a box” program to all residents who have been affected by recent storms and tornadoes. Boeing delivered diesel fuel and 40,000 tons of ice in refrigerated trucks to the Huntsville, Alabama area, where it has a large facility. Ford Motor Credit Company is offering customers affected by the recent storms and flooding in parts of the U.S. the option to delay some car and truck payments. Anheuser-Busch donated cans of water to help with relief efforts associated with storms, tornadoes, and floods.

These are just a few examples of the thousands of companies who step up to donate time, money, or products. And while no show of support or donation is bad when disaster strikes, some companies might want to take a cue from the public relations experts (note, that Anheuser-Busch did not donate any of its “core” product), when hatching their next charitable undertaking.

BAMA Vodka released a statement on May 10, 2011 announcing that in May and June, it would donate a minimum of $1.00 for each bottle of BAMA Vodka sold in Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama to local tornado relief efforts. A local Huntsville, Alabama business Blue MedSpa is also donating “five percent of any full price spa service to Red Cross Tornado Relief.” In support of the offer, the Huntville Times urged residents to keep the spa in mind “if you need to relax after a hard day of clearing debris, or if you just need to unwind from the last couple weeks.”

No good deed goes unnoticed, but it begs a question. When does benefitting from a disaster in the form of public relations become too obvious?
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.