Speed-to-market when a disaster hits

The quickly emerging connection between business, production, demand and the rise of consumerism set the stage for a shift in how information has placed marketing efforts in the fast lane. Yet most big organizations continue to run robust campaigns, focusing on flawless execution rather than caring for the point of view of consumers in a timely fashion. Smart marketers need to take an agile approach to building their marketing programs for faster and more profitable returns.

Speed-to-market takes on even greater importance in the context of how organizations respond to disasters around the world. And an important component of disaster management is having effective pre-planning strategies in place when unexpected situations arise. For some perspective on pre-planning best practices, CMA’s Direct Marketing Council talked to World Vision and the agency for Airbnb (North Strategic), two organizations that have shown an impressive ability to get to market quickly in emergency situations.

Airbnb Disaster Relief Response
From major fires, floods, earthquakes, to severe storms, natural disasters often have a devastating impact on victims’ homes. As an online website that offers visitors the opportunity to rent lodging, Airbnb recognized an opportunity to contribute to the social welfare of residents in communities that have been impacted by disasters. In 2013, they officially launched a disaster response initiative to enable Airbnb hosts to provide homes for people affected by the unexpected, around the world. According to the organization, they’re able to launch a plan of action “less than 30 minutes for a designed geographic area.”

Their approach, in the event of a disaster, includes:

  • Automatically emailing hosts in the affected area to ask if they can assist
  • Existing hosts and local residents with extra space are able to host people in need for free
  • All fees are removed for Airbnb bookings in the affected areas
  • All hosts can access Airbnb's 24/7 customer support, Host Guarantee, Trust & Safety tools and other services regularly available to Airbnb hosts
  • Airbnb uses its networks to provide disaster response information to guests and hosts

The initiative has been undertaken in response to many different types of disasters, such as in Nepal (the recent earthquake) Toronto and Atlanta (following severe ice storms), the Philippines (Typhoon Haiyan), San Diego (major fires), Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia (Balkan floods), London, Colorado and Sardinia (flooding), and the Greek island of Kefalonia (earthquake).

In the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, Airbnb offered lodging to those affected. Source: airbnb.ca           

Airbnb also partners with local government agencies as well as disaster relief organizations to assist with emergency preparedness. This includes:

  • “Pre-identifying and activating Airbnb hosts who will commit to opening their doors to displaced persons and disaster service workers when an emergency occurs
  • Providing disaster and emergency preparedness educational materials to Airbnb hosts to help them become the most prepared residents on the block
  • Using Airbnb mobile and web technology to notify hosts and guests about significant hazardous incidents
  • Facilitating community emergency response trainings to cultivate Airbnb hosts as trained leaders within their neighborhoods.”

Pre-Planning at World Vision
For World Vision, disaster relief is in its DNA – in 2014, they responded to 80 major disasters and humanitarian emergencies, provided $2.6 million worth of relief goods, and provided assistance to over 10 million disaster survivors, refuses, and internally displaced people.

World Vision’s global communications and operational procedures, combined with local presence in almost 100 countries around the world helps enables it to know about an emergency immediately after it occurs. WV staff on the ground are in constant communications with all their offices, including Canada, from the onset of the emergency to long after recovery and rebuilding efforts are underway.

    Source: worldvision.org

Based on the severity of the emergency, World Vision Canada then determines the most appropriate response in the Canadian market. Through their work in this space, they’ve learned that Canadians are more likely to respond to natural disasters as compared with emergencies due to conflict – and also that there’s great power in impactful photos and stories. World Vision is also grateful when, at times, the Government of Canada, declares that they will match donations from Canadian individuals, because this also helps to increase public awareness and overall response.

At the time of an emergency, the organization is committed to respond quickly. World Vision Canada has internal communication mechanisms between marketing, communications and programs teams to ensure consistent and accurate information.  It takes the latest information received from the field to share with local and national media, as well as to create the opportunity for Canadians to give. As more information becomes available, including World Vision’s initial assessment and response, this information is updated and shared. The goal is to be in market within hours after the initial emergency occurs, and to continue to provide updates and new information for the days and weeks to follow.

Pre-planning is critical - as is solid execution of communications plans. Organizations that respond to emergencies have to consider the facts, previous history of results and sound marketing intuition to predict the success of a campaign. Over the years, they’ve learned that no two emergencies or responses are the same; you need to take measured steps in response, being sure not to overinvest, while at the same time being ahead of the curve. 

Vish Ramkissoon
Janet Schoel
Yvonne Nunnaro
Jordan Sandler

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Tags: Airbnb, Direct Marketing, Fundraising, Not-for-Profit, World Vision