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ROBERTSON: Savannah businesses use 'old-school' creativity to solve storm's challenges

Local businesses used “old school” methods, social media and creative problem solving in the first few days after Hurricane Matthew.

“Expect the unexpected” took on new meaning after Hurricane Matthew. Local businesses that planned ahead still found that they had to be creative and flexible in the first few days following Matthew.

Local media had a difficult task and did a fantastic job sharing up-to-date information. Early on, when some residents and businesses couldn’t get a cell phone signal, watch a newscast or find access to a newspaper, AM Radio came through. Bill Edwards and others at 1290 WTKS, part of iHeart Radio, let listeners from outside our coverage area check on loved ones and get updates regarding who had power, what businesses were open, and more.

Winds damaged the Quality Rock 105.3/WRHQ radio tower and Jerry Rogers; the station’s owner found a way to repair the tower. With power outages, there was a challenge updating ads because producing and emailing digital files was not an option.

Advertisers such as Canady’s Precision Air had to let the public know they were open. Rogers, a “classically trained” media guru, worked with the company’s ad agency, Robertson & Markowitz Advertising & PR, to cut a radio spot by phone patching owner Fred Canady into the radio station. Canady’s company then had a timely, post-hurricane commercial which the agency rep put on a thumb drive and hand-delivered to other stations that would air the ad.

Social media was also a powerful tool used by media outlets such as radio and television stations, this newspaper, and businesses. Just hours after Matthew passed through the Savannah area, local insurance agency Bernard Williams & Company utilized Facebook to help guide its customers through the insurance claims process even while its employees were evacuated. Shortly after residents began returning to Savannah, the company had already filed numerous claims.

Other businesses such as Sandfly’s Driftaway Cafe also used social media to provide updates to employees and customers. To an area still mostly without power, it was welcome news to hear of a local business serving warm meals.

With many retailers and other businesses needing protection from theft following the storm due to outdoor inventory, damaged buildings and downed power lines, Saber Security & ­Investigations had as many officers on standby as possible. In addition, because all police personnel were called in to work during duration, those officers would not able to cover off-duty assignments. Saber was able to fill a portion of that gap.

Although the city of Savannah and Chatham County have great public works services and there are many reliable tree removal companies, Matthew’s impact required additional assistance. Reputable tree removal and line clearing companies such as McKinnon, Inc. Environmental Service Providers came in to help residents and businesses deal with the massive amount of damage.

Some downtown hotels didn’t lose power and were able to accept residents who couldn’t travel as well as out of town power company personnel and relief workers. In many cases, since hotel staff couldn’t leave their families, their loved ones were able to stay. And while the curfew may have inconvenienced some, it brought comfort to workers and displaced families who could feel that their homes would be safe.

 

This column was compiled by Karen Robertson, Director of Public Relations and Client Development at Robertson & Markowitz Advertising & Public Relations Inc., a full-service advertising, marketing and public relations firm, with Robmark Web providing website design, development and SEO. She can be reached at karen@robmark.com or 912-921-1040.

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