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Addressing National Tragedies on Social Media


Being successful in social media means a brand can’t “set it and forget it.” Engaging in social communities means engaging in conversations as a person, in real time. In a connected world, disasters and tragedies in local markets affect the national conversation.

However, this doesn’t mean the minute breaking news happens, a brand should post a condolence tweet. Sadly, with the frequency of bad news recently, this would result in brands sharing this type of content almost weekly. If you are going to join that conversation, make sure you’re actually adding to that conversation – not trying to capitalize on it.

When a situation arises, the following protocol should be used to decide how to proceed.

Being Prepared

All social communities should have protocols in place that identify key decision makers to approve crises communication. And don’t forget to have a back up in place for those times when your key decision maker is on vacation, in the air or in labor – it happens.

Taking Action

Once a tragedy has been identified, all pre-scheduled posts should be put on hold and key decision makers should be notified. The following questions will address whether or not some action or inaction should take place:

  • Is the tragedy national news (e.g., is the topic trending on Twitter, are major news outlets focusing coverage on this story)?
  • If yes, then is our brand somehow connected to the affected area (e.g., service area, near manufacturing facility, etc.)?
  • If yes, post a short message to express sympathy and/or direct action.
    • Avoid anything that could encourage controversy (e.g., religion, politics, etc.).
    • Don’t use hashtags.
  • If no, is there some type of value we can add to the conversation?
  • If no, consider holding all posts.

Once online conversation begins to return to day-to-day conversation (look to similar brands/thought leaders), resume posting according to schedule.

Are there brands you’ve seen who address tragedies well?

PDF of our Social Media Tragedy Protocol:

Download (PDF, Unknown)

Image Source: AP Photo Sue Ogrocki

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