Business As Usual After a Tragedy?
What’s the best communications strategy/approach to social media to use following a tragedy such as the death of a major celebrity or the mass shooting? Like anything, there are pros and cons to going on with business as usual or taking a breather. My opinion is to weigh the situation and its effect on your key stakeholders. It’s one thing for individuals to acknowledge such events on their personal social media platforms, but when companies get involved, it can be awkward, unnatural and can even cause backlash. Case in point: when the music legend Prince died suddenly in April, lots of brands jumped on the bandwagon and posted their condolences on social media. After General Mills published a tribute tweet featuring the words “rest in peace” behind a purple backdrop (Prince’s signature color) along with a Cheerio in place of the dot over the letter “i” it received tons of criticism. Even though the tweet was up for a brief period, social media users took screenshots before General Mills deleted it. Even after the tweets were canned, Twitter users continued to protest the brand’s tasteless post.
So, the next time there’s a major news event that is monopolizing the media, think twice about posting about it on your organization’s social platforms. Consider these parameters:
- If a major national/local news crisis has occurred that has monopolized the airwaves, take a breather from social media. Pause all automated posts and resist the temptation to say anything at all. I personally find it distasteful when brands post messages such as “our hearts and prayers are with the survivors.” It’s not endearing and there’s something forced and unnatural about it. People don’t need to be comforted by a company. People provide comfort, not companies.
- If a major personality, political figure or celebrity passes away, consider if there is a natural brand connection to the individual. For example, if Prince served as a spokesperson for Bose headphones and speakers, then it would be appropriate for Bose to post an acknowledgement and tribute about his death on their social media platforms. But if there is no relationship, then it’s better not to post anything. Otherwise, it appears random and without context.
When it comes to a news crisis or death of a famous individual, remember that it’s about them, not your company or brand. Take a breather and wait until the air clears before posting again.
How has your company addressed outside crises in the past? What was your strategy and approach?