This is a blog post I never thought I’d write, but unfortunately tragic events are becoming an increasing part of our everyday lives. In the last few weeks we have had the MEN bombing, London Bridge attacks and just yesterday the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
I know there are far more incidents worthy of comment occurring throughout the world, so please forgive me for focussing solely on those closer to home.
When breaking news occurs, and starts to dominate social media what should you, as a business and brand do? How do you react to it, and indeed should you make a comment at all? The reality is no social media platform comes with an etiquette guide to troubling events, and whilst we may all suggest relying on common sense, in the heat of the moment such an apparently common attribute is often lacking.
Here’s the first things you should consider to avoid getting it wrong.
Ask yourself why
In the wake of a tragedy, celebrity death, terrorist attack or natural disaster you may feel compelled to say something. That’s undoubtedly human nature in this constantly signed-in culture we live in, but stop for a second and ask yourself why you want to comment.
Just because everyone else is saying something doesn’t mean you have to. Sometimes it’s perfectly acceptable to say nothing – you certainly shouldn’t say something just because you want to jump on the band wagon.
Equally, if you do want to say something consider whether it has to be via your company. Is the current event or situation linked in any way to your industry? If not there is every chance any comment you make or any links to the trending hashtag will be seen as a cheap marketing ploy. If that is the case then trust me, any clicks and interactions you get off the back of it will not be worth the negative responses you will foster in the vast majority of people.
If your industry or business is connected in some way to what’s happened then people will undoubtedly expect you to comment. Failing to do so can be seen as being as unnatural as those who try to force the issue. Don’t feel you can’t say anything, just make sure you put some thought in to it before you press send.
Get the message right
I confess I was appalled this morning by a post I saw on a local businesses Facebook page. Late last night (less than 24 hours after the Grenfell Tower fire started) a letting agent posted a photo of himself when he had a brief stint as a fireman over four years ago.
Knowing the gentleman concerned I have little doubt the tone was meant to be one of solidarity and genuine compassion for those involved. However, the use of two photographs featuring himself ensured the post was solely about him. The associated content was just as equally focussed on him, with a statement that he had previously lobbied the local fire service and council for the installation of fire alarms to be made a legal requirement in private rentals (before this became ratified by government).
I was left feeling he was looking for external validation and applause – all on the back of a tragedy in which countless people have lost their homes, possessions and in all too many cases, their lives. This is no doubt not the case, but the shoddy way the posting was handled meant I know I am not the only one who was left querying the motivations.
This business had genuine reasons to be commenting on this tragedy – I do not dispute that for one second. It is simply the way it’s been done that was entirely wrong. No real message was passed on, there was no benefit to the wider public, it was instead “look at me, I’m wonderful”.
A far better response would have been to remind people (a few days later) that if you live in a rental property it might be your landlords responsibility to ensure there are suitable alarms and detectors in the property, but that it remains your duty to check they are working at regular intervals.
The above message could actually save lives.
The original one cannot.
Err on the side of caution
If you are not sure if what you are posting is relevant to your business, audience or industry, but you still want to say something, it is often wise to err on the side of caution and simply post on your personal accounts instead.
Let the message come from you, not your brand; at least then either way you cannot be accused of seeking validation or promotion. Get it wrong and people are unlikely to forget quickly.