Redefining Social Responsibility

"Slow-moving, record-shattering" is among the most recent descriptions of Hurricane Harvey's devastation in southern Texas. In case you are just tuning in now, the Houston area and neighbouring coastal towns have entered their sixth day of battling what has become a historic natural disaster.

Setting a record for total rainfall from a single tropical storm in the US, Harvey made landfall on Friday as a Category 4 storm. Comparisons to Katrina were already made within the first few hours (with attentive acknowledgement of the two storms' differences). 

The rain is still falling as the death toll continues to climb. Reports of residents that remain stranded are widespread, and those that have been rescued have to begin the harrowing journey of finding their loved ones.

There's no agency spin on what is unfolding down south. We know that writing about events like these comes with great responsibility. In fact, we deliberated whether to write about Hurricane Harvey at all. It's unusual territory for us; a departure from our regularly scheduled programming.

With that said, we use the Battle for Time each week to discuss what's top of mind. This is definitely top of mind. And just maybe, we can find one small silver lining of this past week: brands stepping up to help with action, and not just words. 

Please read here to find out how you can help Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

A quick aside first. Let's give an extremely deserving honourable mention to first responders and civilian heroes. As the storm wages on, so does the resilience of its survivors. Each day, people are making headlines for risking their lives to save others. The stories are incredibly inspiring and we highly recommend a read (seriously, grab some tissues and prepare to have your faith in humanity restored). 

Back to the brands. Plenty of companies and organizations have joined the online outpouring of support through their social channels, but we're giving a special nod to those that did more than share their sympathies.

This is what captured our minutes this week. 

Here's why:

Acknowledging the obvious here, we know that swooping in to save the day looks great on a brand. That's some serious reputation capital. 

But sending reps into the middle of a tropical cyclone is a commendable cut above the usual expectations of corporate responsibility, if you ask us. So is assessing the best way your brand can contribute, and responding swiftly when urgency is everything. 

The companies that pledged large donations to relief efforts this week include Apple, Google, Facebook, PepsiCo and Coca Cola. See a more extensive list here.

Other companies called their customers to action and sent teams and supplies into affected counties. Here's a mention of a few:

1. Airbnb activated its "Urgent Accommodations" program, allowing those in need of temporary stay to connect with hosts who are opening their homes free of charge.

2. Amazon-Whole Foods announced it will be matching all donations made on Amazon's website up to $1 million. Funds raised will be donated to Hurricane Harvey relief set up by the American Red Cross. 

3. AT&T is waiving fees for customers impacted by the hurricane, issuing credits to cover additional data, voice and text charges. They've also taken to social media to assure customers their Disaster Recovery Team is working around the clock to maintain network coverage, and provide wifi and charging stations. Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint have all also offered the same credits and assurances to its customers.

4. Chobani is loading up trucks with the company's famous yogurt, sending it to communities across Texas, according to founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya.

5. Southwest Airlines gave 500 customers stranded in Houston's Hobby Airport a free flight out on Sunday.

6. Duracell has sent teams of reps to hand out free batteries.

7. Walmart shipped 795 emergency truckloads of supplies.

8. Anheuser-Busch halted beer production to supply shelters with 155,000 cans of water, following suit with their response to the California wildfires, Hurricane Matthew and other past disasters. 

Brands that assisted relief organizations and joined the ranks of heroes wading through the water this week will be remembered for their role. When a company demonstrates that it can put purpose before product, at least during moments like these, its brand grows beyond its SKU number. 

At the end of the day, people engage with content by lending their minutes. Content is successful when its battery is fully charged with attention.

What will win this week?


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The Battle for Time - Week of August 20.