What's now. What's next.

The day after yesterday: the need for brand sensitivity in times of crisis.

by Nextness published October 31, 2012 posted in Insights

Many people woke up to uncertain times this morning. Many hadn’t even slept from the night before. Hurricane Sandy – #frankenstorm - slammed into the Jersey Shore, killing at least 11 people from West Virginia to North Carolina and Connecticut, cutting power and communication, flooding streets and subways.

In times like these, brands have to tread carefully.

If you’re a brand that oversees essential products or services that are highly relevant during the crisis, you must instantly jump into action. Think, of course, Google and its data/mapping capability, supermarket chains, battery makers, phone and electricity and internet companies.

Then you tweet as much as you can to help any one who needs you.

(Just try not to choose that time to upsell.)

But if you’re just an ordinary brand, a crisis is not your time to shine.

It’s vulgar to pump out your prescheduled tweets as if the people receiving them are just chilling in their offices refreshing their networks to take the edge off a normal work day.

Sure, some of your audience are doing just that. Perhaps they’re online even more than usual, hoping to get an update on a storm affecting their friends and family.

But for the ones who aren’t, for the people who are refreshing Twitter because they’re scared and looking for answers, your blithe lack of awareness jars.

Perhaps worse is to try and tack on relevance where none exists. (“Hey, bored of the storm…?”)

So with so much going on in the world, how can a brand and its comms team work out if a crisis is a crisis – one that means they need to stop business as usual?

Turn on the good old fashioned TV news. Is there something breaking the regular schedule, being run on a news ticker or headlining all bulletins? Take a look at your Twitter or Facebook timeline. If you’re following the right mix of people, you should be able to see if something is preoccupying a significant proportion of them. (Be particularly wary if a danger is looming and the full impact or scale is not yet determined.)

That’s when you take a pause. That’s when you know you have to be sensitive.

Don’t make jokes. (How will you feel if the disaster you’re laughing about claims a life?)

Don’t try and use a reference to the crisis to be “relevant.”

Don’t tweet as usual (prescheduled or not) as if half your followers aren’t in danger or scared for friends and relatives.

Just butt out. Keep the timeline clear for what social networks were made for.

Connection, communication, reaching out – one human being to another.

Photograph: The day after yesterday by Noah Kalina. Tweets: @malbonnington, @Kat_George, @hummingbird604.


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