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5 things for PR pros to know about Hurricane Sandy

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Hurricane Sandy blasted across the East Coast on Monday night, leaving devastation, flooding, and 33 people dead in its path. More than seven million people in the nation’s eastern section are without power.

The storm socked the world’s media capital—not to mention its PR epicenter—so most news outlets (particularly those east of the Mississippi) are focusing the bulk of their coverage on the storm, which means you should mostly avoid pitching the media this week (some exceptions to that rule here).

Meanwhile, here are five things PR pros (wherever you are) should know about the storm’s aftermath:

Twitter mentions of Sandy topped 4 million one day. Citing data from monitoring firm Radian6,USA Today reports that more than four million mentions about the hurricane appeared on Twitter in the last day. “Hurricane Sandy” was the top phrase on Facebook in the U.S., followed by several other storm-related words. Instagram was equally alight with images from the hurricane. Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom told USA Today that there are 10 pictures per second appearing on the photo-sharing site with the hashtag “Sandy.” The Wall Street Journal highlighted several of the pictures, one of which was retweeted more than 5,000 times. Storify has been another busy place online for people and media outlets to tell stories via social media about the storm. Conversations about the storm will likely continue to dominate social media today and throughout the week.

Sandy took down some of the most heavily trafficked news websites. BuzzFeedGawkerThe Huffington PostDaily Kos, and Bloomberg News fell silent over night, as the storm knocked out power to the sites’ data centers. (The Atlantic’s newly launched business site Quartz has more on why the data centers went down, as does Poynter.) Most of the sites were available on the West Coast, and every site except for Gawker (as of 10:30 a.m. ET) had restored power to some extent. During the down time, the sites turned to social media—namely Twitter and Tumblr—to deliver updates on the storm as well as their own outages.

Employees of PR and ad firms are staying home today. PR agencies large and small along the Eastern Seaboard—from Washington, D.C., through New York and New Jersey, up to Boston—are telling their employees to stay safe and work remotely. Ad firms are doing the same, according toAdvertising Age.

New York’s Mass Transit issues powerful statement. This is no time for mealy-mouthed statements packed with jargon. The National Weather Service understands that, as does New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). With its subway tunnels flooded with salt water thanks to Sandy, MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota issued a statement saying:

“The New York City subway system is 108 years old, but it has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night. Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on our entire transportation system, in every borough and county of the region. It has brought down trees, ripped out power and inundated tunnels, rail yards and bus depots. … Our employees have shown remarkable dedication over the past few days, and I thank them on behalf of every New Yorker. In 108 years, our employees have never faced a challenge like the one that confronts us now. All of us at the MTA are committed to restoring the system as quickly as we can to help bring New York back to normal.”

Kudos to whomever wrote that statement, which minces no words.

American Apparel slammed for email promo referencing hurricane.
 The edgy retailer launched a 36-hour online sale for shoppers effected by Sandy, promoting it through an email blast that began: “In case you’re bored during the storm …” The promo drew almost universal derision on Twitter—Mashable collected many of the negative tweets—but the company has yet to weigh in. It seems likely that American Apparel meant to be overly provocative. You needn’t be. Careful what you tweet or blog in the wake of the storm.

(Image via & via)

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