The Good, the Bad and the Quiet of Waiting Out a Storm

Horrible Destruction Yes, but Hurricane Sandy Offered Time for Bonding and for Thought

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Like so many who lived through Hurricane Sandy, I lost trees, power, cable, phone and Internet. For three days, I huddled at home with my family, glued to the news reports (which were nonstop) and sharing information with family, friends, neighbors and colleagues at work. Despite the loss of many of the communication devices we have come to rely on, people found a way to connect. That was one of my learnings from this storm: the innate need to share, communicate, guide, inform, assist and alert. Mobile devices became essential communication tools. If you were pushing ad messages on mobile devices on the east coast, you had a captive audience the last few days.

A few other learnings:

Hurricanes can be good for business. The beauty of modern weather forecasting equipment is that it can accurately let you know what's coming about a week before it happens. We knew Sandy was on her way, which gave us plenty of time to hit the stores and stock up on essentials at the supermarket and hardware store. Store shelves were bare in some markets. I imagine a good many savvy financial traders went long on Duracell, Eveready and Thomas' English Muffins. Those of us fighting off cabin fever purchased many movies from entertainment providers like Comcast and TimeWarner.

Bad weather is also very good for the media's news ratings and for the TV advertisers. I believe I have memorized every political TV commercial in our region. Thinking about visiting my Honda dealer for a test drive, too, even though I'm not in the market for a new car. That's after hours and hours of staying at home watching TV (until it shut off) and being online (until it shut off) and reading newspapers (somehow we got our delivery).

Hurricanes are bad for business -- stating the obvious here. Brownstein Group closed the office for two days, as did most businesses, schools and government offices. And when people are freaked out about a pending storm, they don't shop leisurely at the mall, catch a movie at the theater or dine out.

But our office is open even when it's closed. I may be biased, but I have a great team at work. The steady stream of e-mails, collaboration of ideas and conference calls that would normally take place in the office continued from our respective homes, despite the water fist that pounded outside. I know this occurred for many of you as well, and I suspect that kind of extra effort happens a little more often in our industry than in many others. There's something in the DNA of an agency person: when we love what we do, we just keep on doing it, rain or shine.

Hurricanes are good for thinking. When all the electronic devices are down, one must resort to essential activities to keep busy. I used the time to jot down a few ideas for my clients that I am pretty excited about. I did it with a pen and paper -- just like the old days. I kind of like this pen-and-paper thing. And I treasured the quiet time, which I rarely get.

Today I am back at the office, and I know things will return gradually to normal. But I will always remember what I learned during the worst of Sandy -- that it wasn't a complete washout.

Marc Brownstein is President and CEO of The Brownstein Group, Philadelphia.
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