Neighbors Helping Neighbors: Vermont Is Open for Business

In case you haven’t heard, Vermont was recently (and unexpectedly) hit hard by hurricane Irene. The damage was widespread and devastating for many. That said, the rebuilding progress has been phenomenal, and even the hardest-hit areas are already getting back to normal and hanging out their “open” signs (and there are plenty of areas that didn’t have any damage at all).

Unfortunately, media coverage is mostly focused on the destruction, not on the rebuilding. When you watch the news, you will (understandably) assume that the entire state of Vermont is underwater, devastated and unreachable.

So what can we do?

I was invited to meet with some local business owners this morning to discuss ways to use social media to get the word out that Vermont is, indeed, open for business, and how to help those who are still in need.

We talked about the need to communicate with our readers and our customers. We brainstormed messages and solutions, and found resources online that both the businesses and their readers can use.

We need to think outside the box.

One business owner learned, for example, that even locals are wondering if she’s going to re-open at all. That tells her she needs to get the message out that yes, she is re-opening soon, and in the meantime she can let people know how they can help.

The future of another business is still uncertain, but her customers still care about her. She can continue to communicate via her Facebook page to keep the lines of communication open. I’m willing to bet that she’ll find a ton of support there, too.

The businesses that were spared can use their social media strength in support of their community They can publicize fundraisers and volunteer efforts, and post positive marketing messages on behalf of their neighbors.

We also talked about the importance of visuals.

Lots of people out of state think the roads here are closed, so why not map out driving directions and show them how to get here?

If it’s a bright sunny day, why not take pictures and put them on your Facebook page or Flickr, with a message that’s positive?

We can’t expect people to know what’s going on in our backyard unless we show them.

Throughout our conversation, the theme of neighbor helping neighbor was very clear. It’s easy to focus solely on what’s going on in our own lives, but it’s good to look around us and see how we can work with others to benefit everyone. Not just in times of crisis, but every day.

What are you doing to help your neighbors today?

There are still lots of people who have lost loved ones, homes, cars, barns, livestock, and businesses. You can help by donating, volunteering, and supporting our local economy when you buy from Vermont businesses. Here are some ways you can help.

Many thanks to Cynthea’s Spa for the “VT Open for Business” graphic.