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PubCon 2014: Part IV: Handling Tragic News in Social Media

Strategy for TragedyIn today’s world, the news is always on. Consumers are constantly besieged by the 24 hour, seven day a week, increasingly interactive news cycle and for the most part, it’s business as usual. But heartbreakingly, tragedies happen. Natural disasters, violent acts, accidents and catastrophes have become all too common. Today’s consumer expects companies to respond when it is appropriate, but not when it isn’t. When tragedy happens, do you have a plan? If you can’t answer that, in depth, right now, then you are woefully underprepared. Have a plan or process determined before tragedy occurs, so that you can respond immediately, consistently, and appropriately. Lisa Buyer provides invaluable advice for handling a tragedy.

• First, foremost: Be REAL during tragedy, which can and will mean different things depending on your brand. Explore this now, before you need it.
Be human. Stop and acknowledge what happened. People now turn immediately to social media in the wake of tragedies as a place to connect, react, and get information.
Immediately STOP ALL automated posts during the tragedy. React to the news with relevant content. Failing to do so will damage your brand and reputation, potentially catastrophically.
Be credible. If you’re going to share news, be sure to confirm your sources first. So much effort has gone into creating an image of authority or expertise for your brand in its area. This can be destroyed by just one misstep.
Be caring and sensitive. Consider the subject matter, graphics and your audience.
Be considerate. These are times when your brand comes second. Pushing products or making light of the situation risks alienating your audience. Note, it is never appropriate to parachute in or chime in on a news story to try to make yourself look better.
Be alert and aware. Have staff meetings, put someone in charge of monitoring real-time news.
Look at your most recent posts (pre-tragedy). Is the content still appropriate in light of recent news? If it isn’t, take it down.
Know, ahead of time, whether you will cease all planned content. If so, for how long? This needs to be a part of your plan from the outset.
What about promoted posts? Do you have a plan to stop them from showing up? Know how ahead of time.
• Even when it’s not a tragedy, check your sources before posting. Adopt a journalistic set of standards. (Take into account ethics, fact checking, privacy, copyright and opinions. Know where you stand on each of them)
Remember, each form of media has its own style and voice. As a brand in social media, be responsible and be consistent.
Finally, once tragedy does strike, remember to take your brand and its presence day by day. You will want to react in real-time to what’s going on.

Having a set plan for how to handle your social media in times of tragedy, is absolutely essential in the modern world. Being organized and prepared ahead of time enables you to act quickly, connect with your audience, and strengthen your reputation and relationship with them.