If you’re using social media for marketing, what should you say following a tragedy like the deadly blasts at the Boston Marathon on April 15, the horrific elementary school shootings in Newtown, Conn., or the recent tornado in Oklahoma?
Sometimes, nothing at all.
The age of digital marketing brings with it new challenges, including how to respond during a national tragedy. Remember, as recently as Sept. 11, 2001, we had no MySpace, much less Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. Except for email, no vehicle for delivering instantaneous marketing messages existed. After 9/11, one of the most painful days in American memory, most of us had time to pause, reflect and put on hold print, radio and TV marketing campaigns that might be viewed as inappropriate or offensive.
In recent months, there has been lively debate on this topic in the marketing community, including how and when to tie – or not to tie – a marketing message into the news of the day, a widely used strategy.
Gaffes can occur with the most innocent of intentions in any media content, marketing or not. Earlier in April, a new episode of the musical comedy Glee upset and angered parents in Newtown, Conn., because the plot featured a student bringing a gun to school, where it accidentally discharges.
“A lot of people were upset about it and that I feel horrible about,” Jane Lynch, one of the stars, told Access Hollywood Live days later. “If we added to anybody’s pain, that’s just certainly not what any of us wanted … We’re always rather topical and rather current.”
Usually, however, simply applying your own sense of decency and good taste can help you avoid a blunder. Consider American Apparel’s notorious “Hurricane Sandy Sale – in case you’re bored during the storm,” advertised as tens of thousands of people endured freezing temperatures without power. Most of us wouldn’t have even considered such a ploy.
Social Media Strategies in Times of Tragedy