The response to Katrina? Business world did its job

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In the extremely sensitive game of placing blame while also passing out pats on the back after a natural disaster, respondents to Advertising Age's online poll overwhelmingly agreed that businesses responded to Hurricane Katrina's aftermath far better than the government. Their responses, however, were anything but cut-and-dry.

Some retold the acts of companies such as Motorola, which supplied first responders with the equipment they would need to communicate. One respondent quoted an article in the Pensito Review about UPS's delivery of mobile hospitals, kitchens and water-treatment systems. Some, however, were skeptical of marketers' motives.

"I did not see any one company of size step up to the plate and take a leadership role to do anything altruistic for altruism's sake," said Martin & Co. Advertising's PR director, Leslie Maxwell, in Whites Creek, Tenn. "Most looked at this catastrophic event much like they do any dovetail in the economy-as a means to capitalize on it for the good of the bottom line."

Others felt the comparison of government response to business response was unfair, largely due to the difference in what each could offer. "I don't think businesses necessarily did a better job than the government; they did a different job and they did it very well," wrote Mary Allocco a Morristown, N.J. AT&T manager. "They supplied relief in the form of monetary donations and products and services. Businesses are not supposed to organize speedy evacuations of poverty-stricken, low-lying areas of Louisiana-that's the government's job, from local on up." Kelly Newton of Fort Smith, Ariz., tried to keep it in perspective. "The government did all it could considering the enormity of this disaster. Maybe not fast enough, but we've never seen a storm of this magnitude. You have to revamp plans when these disasters hit and match your actions to the problem. ... People learn hard lessons by making mistakes. We saw a quicker response during the second storm. You don't have to wonder why now."

What you say:

74% of voters believe businesses did a better job responding to Hurricane Katrina than the government agencies did. While roughly one-quarter of respondents sided with the government, many who offered up their thoughts struggled with the difference between the responsibilities of local and federal government.

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