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New Orleans Agency Vows to Return Home

Positive stories are hard to come by amid the wreckage of the ravaged Gulf Coast, but Peter A. Mayer, a full-service ad agency in the heart of New Orleans, has one.

The 120-employee company whose clients include Delta Queen Steamboat Co. Inc., CenturyTel and the Louisiana Office of Tourism escaped Hurricane Katrina's wrath because it had a detailed hurricane plan.

“Peter A. Mayer is up and running,” said Mark Romig, president of the public relations division at Peter A. Mayer. “The agency is strong, everyone is accounted for and we are fully operational. Payroll hit Sept. 1, and it will hit Sept. 15.”

The agency, at 324 Camp St., near the heart of the French Quarter and the Superdome, also is in touch with clients.

“The hurricane hit on Monday, and on Tuesday we were communicating with our employees and clients,” Romig said.

For the past year, Mayer's employees met regularly to discuss what the agency should do if a hurricane hit.

“We live in a hurricane zone, so if there was going to be anything that happened from a natural standpoint, it most likely would be a hurricane coming through the gulf,” Romig said. “We really started focusing on it in the last year, particularly when we had a couple of near misses with other hurricanes.”

The effort was spearheaded by company president Mark Mayer, son of Peter A. Mayer, and the department heads. The agency assessed department by department what it needed to do if a hurricane hit.

As Katrina churned offshore, the group decided the company should evacuate the area, and it opened a satellite office in Monroe, LA, which is in northern Louisiana. The company chose Monroe because its client CenturyTel, a local, long-distance, Internet and data services provider, is there.

“We were up there once a week anyway,” Romig said.

Though Romig said employees decided themselves where they would go, the dozen-plus team members on the CenturyTel account — along with their family members — and Mark Mayer and his family went to Monroe the weekend before the storm.

“Part of the crisis plan is to anticipate,” Romig said. “And we anticipated this as turning into what it ultimately became because of the reports we were getting.”

At first the agency operated from a Marriott Residence Inn in Monroe. Now staffers are working in an office.

Other employees from New Orleans went the company's satellite Baton Rouge office, which serves the Louisiana Office of Tourism. Baton Rouge is north of New Orleans and also was not in the center of the storm. The company signed additional lease space in this office, which now serves as the company's headquarters.

Romig said almost 20 people went to Baton Rouge and are working there, staying with friends or family. Romig evacuated there, along with his brothers and sisters and parents. Other employees went to Houston, St. Louis and elsewhere in northern Louisiana, but the company is working to find housing in the Monroe and Baton Rouge area, “because, ideally, we would like to have people as close to these offices as possible.”

But that is expected to be temporary.

“We intend to be back in our office in New Orleans as soon as it is practical and expect everyone to get back to New Orleans when we open up,” Romig said.

Mayer's New Orleans building suffered no major damage, nor was it flooded, because it is in the highest part of the city. New Orleans, however, remains off limits.

There is no timeframe for when the New Orleans office will reopen, but Romig said the best-case scenario would be that “we are back in our office, operating by the end of the year.”

Romig said Mark Mayer has kept this focus because working is “some of the best medicine right now. When you start thinking about the human loss that has occurred, you can quickly get distracted. We truly have remained busy, and client needs are being met and the team is strong. I can't stress enough the importance of planning. Even if you never have to pull that file out of your desk, you will be better off for it.”

Melissa Campanelli covers postal news, CRM and database marketing for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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