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What to do when you're running a promotion during a huricanne

By Guest Blogger Donna DeClemente, Donna's Promo Talk

HurricaneMost of us woke up this morning to receiving updates on Hurricane Isaac which has been on a similar path to Hurricane Katrina that slammed the Gulf Coast seven years ago today. Isaac made land-fall last night as a Category 1 storm and is now forcasted to continue dumping heavy rains today and Thursday as it stalls over the area with 80 mile-per-hour winds and causing widespread flooding in New Orleans and other coastal cities.

Issac is by no means as devastating as Katrina, but it still has already caused many power-outages and flooding with reports of people stranded in the homes. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people in New Orleans and the Louisiana coast today. These people have endured much and appear to be so resilient.

Zea-LogoI have recently had the pleasure of with working with new clients from a restaurant company headquartered in New Orleans, Zea Rotisserie & Grill. They offer a casual dining experience with a southern-inspired menu and have 11 locations, most in Louisiana and a couple in Alabama. They contacted us earlier this year to inquire about us assisting them in running a local sweepstakes promotion on their Facebook page. Their goal was increasing their fan base and building their database.

Zea-Cruise-Giveway-GraphicThe Zea Rotisserie & Grill Taste Buds Cruise Sweepstakes launched on July 23 and will be ending this Friday, August 31. I will draw one grand prize winner next week from all those that entered who will be offered a spot for themselves and a guest aboard a Caribbean Food Cruise.

The prize consists of a 7-night cruise on board the Holland America Line's luxury ship Nieuw Amsterdam that will depart from Ft. Lauderdale, FL, on March 10, 2013. It also includes two cooking demonstrations on board the ship with Zea chef Greg Reggio, a wine tasting event hosted by the ship's cellar master, a bon voyage cocktail party with open bar and hors d'oeuvres, and a Pinnacle Grill gourmet steakhouse dining experience. So this is a really nice prize package that someone just couldn't purchase on their own. It's a great example of a prize that helps to build a brand while also being relevant to the audience.

The client contacted me earlier this week and just wanted to touch base because they feared that they may be without power this week as a result of the storm and wanted to make sure I would be available to draw the winner. Luckily since the sweepstakes is hosted via an app on Facebook they don't have to be concerned about it going offline. However, if they don't have power they most likely won't be able to promote it to get those last minute entries (unless they're using a smart phone). But it may just be in bad taste if they did since some local fans probably won't have power as well it.

I visited the Zea Rotisserie & Grill Facebook page this morning and their last couple of posts were from Monday which said that they were planning to close their New Orleans locations on Tuesday and tentatively reopen Wednesday evening if weather permits. They received several likes from their posts, but to my surprise there were some negative comments. A few fans commented that they should close in order to give their employees time off to prepare for the storm and be with family after it hits. Zea promptly commented back and thanked them for their concerns and noted that they have a detailed hurricane plan and would not by any means put their employees in harms way. They noted that they are closing Tuesday so that they can all prepare and hope to reopen Wednesday evening conditions permitting.

I thought they handled the comments well. What do think? I don't know if I was in ZEA's place if I could have foreseen that the posts would get that kind of negative response. I guess you really never know what type of comments you will receive. One negative comment sometimes encourages others. So it is very important to handle these these types of comments just as Zea did which was promptly, politely and positively.

The good news is that we'll soon have two lucky people from the gulf coast region packing their bags to sail away in March.

May all of those in the area hit by Issac stay safe. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.


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