When it comes to marketing and marketing communications, I’m all about schedules. As you’re working on concepts and ideas, unbridled creativity is wonderful, but when it’s time to execute, nothing beats good-old-fashioned discipline.

But having schedules doesn’t mean they have to be carved in stone, especially if you face unexpected factors or if your target audience is experiencing some kind of major problem. For example, if you’re about to roll out a limited-time special offer and Mother Nature surprises your community with the worst snowstorm in a decade, you may want to hold off on promoting it … or if it’s already out there, you may want to extend the deadline.

It’s also a good idea to demonstrate compassion at difficult times. If your community has suffered devastating levels of water (I never like to connect the word “devastating” to that f-word), you can help your customers out and enhance your public image by allowing them to delay payments or extend more credit than you normally would. Don’t try to make yourself look like a hero — just state the facts in a straightforward way, and you’ll catch people’s attention.

On the flip side, if you can develop and distribute a marketing message related to a major event such as a weather disaster, you may leave a long-term impression that will pay benefits far down the road. My hat’s off to the Oreo folks for the quickie social media they developed during the Super Bowl’s power problems. Granted, they had a room full of people ready to react to whatever happened, but that allowed them to create a lot of buzz and media coverage.