When Tragedy Strikes and Brands Fail

Last week, America was shocked by the events in Boston. Regarded as nearly sacred by some, the prestigious Boston Marathon was viciously attacked. As everyone already knows, hundreds were injured and three perished, but this fine city showed their resolve by helping and supporting each other. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families. We were moved by the efforts of law enforcement, first responders, and all others who helped.

How Should a Brand React to Tragedy?

Steven Shattuck wrote an excellent piece — The Brand Marketer’s Checklist When Tragedy Strikes on SocialMedia Today. I agree with every point in the post. In the spirit of transparency, I must divulge I fell asleep at the wheel, and didn’t halt scheduled tweets on the TKO Twitter account immediately after the bombing. While our scheduled tweets about leadership and social media weren’t distasteful (as in aligning our brand with insensitive tweets about the tragedy), they were out of place when all conversation had turned to the unfolding events. The point is, they remained scheduled without regard to current events.

Echoing the advice of many on social media, be aware of current events, and make sure your active or scheduled tweets and other social media conversation fits the current context. As a brand, it’s generally advised to remain quite, or to tweet condolences WITHOUT CTA’s or self-promotion during a tragedy. AND DON’T fall for not-so-cute marketing ploys like the distasteful Epicurious Boston Bombings Tweets.

What’s Everyone Talking About?

There’s another consideration for social media during major events. What is your tribe posting? What are your followers sharing? This doesn’t just apply to major tragedies. For example, if a sporting event is the primary focus of conversation, you may be spitting into the wind if you post about your industry or the 10 best ways to do whatever. Whether there’s a crisis, or a more tranquil event — be aware of what others are sharing.

When We’re Disrupted, do the Terrorists Win?

Last Friday morning, I sat at my computer, frozen. As the pursuit of the bombing suspects were unfolding, should we’ve stopped all business, leadership, and social media posts — and for how long? If we do stop for too long, haven’t the terrorists won? Isn’t disruption one of terrorism’s prime directives? I asked our marketing team for advice. Josh Humble suggested I review our network’s conversations. I opened TweetDeck, and the first tweet I saw was Allison Carter’s post, Just Be a Person. Mostly (I have my moments), I’m a caring, helpful, empathetic person, but at the same time, I feel strongly about not allowing the worst of mankind to dictate my actions. I think I know what to do. Do you? How does your brand react to catastrophes?