Last week my newsfeed was flooded with brands commemorating the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and I cringed every time. Brands have gone overboard on commemorating a tragedy.
This week we’re faced with the hundreds of people still missing from the Colorado floods and just yesterday another unthinkable and senseless tragedy unfolded at the Washington Navy Yard where a gunman opened fire on employees.
As a brand, it’s tough to not want to respond and express sincere thoughts on what’s happening. However, in my opinion, it has become far too commonplace for brands to post standard responses to tragedies. It feels forced and disingenuous. Of course we feel the loss and sheer sadness related to a devastating tragedy but I don’t need a brand to remind me.
Harsh? Maybe. I’m certainly not saying there isn’t a place for it but unless your brand has some sort of connection to the tragedy, it’s best to not say anything at all through social channels.
There are brands doing it right. For example, the day after the Boston marathon bombings I received an email from online retailer, Rue La La. It said:
Why is this ok and others are not? Because this company is headquartered in Boston. Because it was real, genuine and authentic. Because I could feel the anguish of a company that found itself in the middle of a national tragedy. This company, I wanted to hear from. This company, I felt drawn to.
So please think it through before you post and determine whether it makes sense for your brand to commemorate a tragedy or if you’re simply doing it because everyone else is. My advice is to go through a series of short questions:
- Is our company connected geographically to this incident?
- Is it directly related to the industry your company is in?
- Are you an expert on the cause/issue or does your company stand for something that can be related to the event?
If the answer to all of these is no—sometimes silence is better.