Just my two cents

Musings on social media and the world as I see it


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Responding to a crisis that isn’t yours

Boston-marathon-Facebook-cover-photo-630x456There have been two recent tragedies that have played heavily in the news and of course in social media. The bombings in Boston and the explosion of the fertilizer plant in West, Texas were horrific events that demanded the attention of the nation and made news across the globe.

Whenever something occurs of that magnitude, in today’s world, many of us automatically turn to social media to obtain the latest breaking news, to share our own thoughts or to pass along information we think is relevant. That’s all well and good when it’s from a personal standpoint. From a brand standpoint, most of us have our own crisis management plans (or at least we should) that provide us with direction in times of emergency.

But when you are using social media as a marketing tool for your brand, what do you do when a crisis occurs and it’s not yours? Your crisis management plan is in place for YOUR brand, not a tragedy like Boston, Texas or last year’s shooting in Newtown, CT.

There has been a lot written lately about this subject. From the danger of unmonitored scheduled tweets from @GuyKawasaki to the tweets that were simply poor judgement and in really bad taste like Epicurious.

A very smart blogger I follow, Mark Schaefer (@Markwschaefer), had a wonderful post on his {grow} blog about this very subject. More recently, my friend Lisa Buben (@lisapatb) recently asked if we should tweet or not during extraordinary events on her Inspire to Thrive blog.

Personally, I think you have to first acknowledge the situation. I think you look self-absorbed, insensitive and uncaring when everyone is turning to that situation and you’re still tweeting about how important your new book is.¬† I remember when the shooting occurred in Newtown. I immediately stopped tweeting and we turned all our attention to this. We offered the resources we could, but mostly we offered our condolences and support.

Even when it’s not a crisis of your own, I truly believe you must recognize it. The whole point of social media is connecting with people and sharing our humanity. That means when a tragedy befalls someone else, especially when it’s as big as those situations, it’s time to step away from our own agendas and be part of this social community we have built.

Even the day after a crisis has occurred, I still don’t feel right about going back to regularly scheduled posting. I just feel like it makes a brand appear cold and uncaring, and even personally for that matter. I believe you have to wait at least 24 hours and then test taste the waters.

I have adopted that plan for the brands I manage. After a tragedy has occurred, I announce that we’re going to interrupt our regularly posting due to the situation. During that time, I will post releveant information that I feel is important to relay or share with our own community for their health or safety. I will also share resources that are relevant to the situation that might help others. Usually I wait 24 hours to even consider going back to normal posting. At that point, I acknowledge that 24 hours has past and slowly start moving back into¬†regular content, but still including some relevant posts about the situation at hand.

That’s my plan, that’s how I approach it. It’s not because someone told me that is how I should do it, it’s just what feels right, what feels respectful, and what feels most comfortable and natural. Social media is about reaching out to people… and in a tragedy that’s even more important. Because when it comes to a tragedy, you or your brand aren’t all that important in the big scheme of things. It all comes down to getting some perspective I guess.

What do YOU do in a crisis that isn’t yours?