After Attacks, E-Mail Shines

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In the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, e-mail has surfaced in countless examples as possibly the most reliable and efficient method of business communication during a crisis.


E-mail servers nationwide have been switched into high gear, not only carrying grief and sympathy from around the world, but helping drive charity donations and companies' efforts to return to something resembling normal business.


The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce used e-mail to call for businesses to volunteer resources, and then to send a long list of offers and contact information from members and non-members who responded to the call.


"I have at least seven unused desk cubicles in my office to offer to any business that needs space..." one respondent offered.


Also, with telephone service sporadic and a need to give multiple parties the same information, New York City business executives have turned to their e-mail databases to update employees and clients.


A recent e-mail from Ro King, general manager of the New York City office of customer relationship management firm Quaero, said, "It's been a tough week for all of us. Due to the devastating circumstances of last week's attacks, our office located two blocks from the Trade Center buildings suffered minor damage and is not accessible. Until further notice, our team will be working remotely and can be reached through our headquartered office in Charlotte, North Carolina."


E-mail also has served as a major component in the business community's efforts to drive charity relief and to express condolences.


In one of the largest examples, eight e-mail marketing companies, some of which are direct competitors, joined forces to solicit donations to charities providing relief services to victims. NetCreations Inc., 24/7 Media Inc., ValueClick, YesMail, SmartReminders, MyPoints, Sendmoreinfo and Magellan sent e-mails to 40 million addresses calling for donations to nine leading charities to aid the disaster relief.


"My sense is that most Americans are desperate to help any way they can," said Rich Maradik, CEO of SmartDM Inc., the direct marketer that owns the SmartReminders e-mail network. "E-mail is such a powerful medium that allows for direct contact and immediate response, allowing us as an industry to leverage millions of dollars quickly to charities involved in relief efforts."


The messages provided for responses directly on the charities' individual Web sites and also listed toll-free numbers for each organization.


"By joining forces and making our databases available to the American Red Cross and other disaster-relief organizations, we e-mail marketers can use our lists to spread the word quickly and effectively to millions of Internet users around the world and offer them an immediate way to donate money to charities directly involved in these efforts," said Rosalind Resnick, co-founder and CEO of NetCreations.


In another grassroots example, the Direct Marketing Association on Sept. 12 e-mailed its membership calling for donations of products and services, resulting in more than 200 companies worldwide pledging donations within 48 hours.


And in another e-mail drive, Philadelphia direct marketing firm D. A. Lewis Associates Inc. sent a message to its list of 13,000 industry contacts calling for donations and offering a list of goods needed for recovery efforts. Though response to this D. A. Lewis e-mail drive was lower than similar efforts for other disasters, it was because so many other businesses have offered to be conduits for relief efforts, executive vice president David Thornbury said.


"Think about it; you can walk down the block and find a drop-off point," he said. "With so many options it's been very convenient for people to make donations."


In related news, e-mail hosting company SparkLIST on Sept. 19 debuted the Freedom list server, which it is making available free to anyone who wants to form discussion lists to help one another grieve, find lost relatives or drive relief efforts.


Christopher Knight, SparkLIST's CEO, said the company also loaded a truck with relief supplies that's headed from its Green Bay, WI, headquarters to New York. The truck is loaded with heavy-duty flashlights, air mattress beds, dust masks, respirators, men's and women's underwear, safety goggles and insulated socks.


"We wiped out some of the supplies of some local suppliers and wished we could have sent more," Knight said.


DoubleClick Inc. spokesman Josh Nova said the e-mail and ad-serving firm is helping companies disrupted by the World Trade Center attack with free delivery of their e-mail. Though the company experienced spotty telephone service immediately after the attack, its DartMail e-mail servers were unaffected, he said.


"Obviously right after the incident we had some problems," he said. "But e-mail is one of the systems that remained up and running."


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