Social media allows us to respond to events in real time. It has an amazing ability to make the world smaller and can be used for so much good. But it can also be a shallow and murky place where organizations become opportunists and use tragedy to push their own agenda. Some organizations have a habit of seeking publicity even at the expense of damaging or compromising their brand values, as well as image. It typically happens when they see an easy opportunity (and little work) to tie into something “newsy”. And sure, this is normal practice when they’res a direct connection, but much of the time it comes across as thirsty and tone deaf.
Are your communications and marketing tone deaf?
(1) If you have a habit of latching onto every single tragic event happening globally with the intent of driving people through social media channels to your website ‘for more information’ (to serve your ends) – you are tone deaf.
(2) If something tragic happens and you shill your product or service as a solution as events are still unfolding – you are tone deaf.
(3) If you use trending hashtags of tragic events that have nothing to do with you, pushing people to your unrelated content – you are tone deaf.
(4) If your organization finds itself consistently having to apologize internally or externally for communication missteps – you are tone deaf.
How can organizations avoid being tone deaf during tragic events?
Remember that old saying, walk a mile in someone else’s shoes? Do that. Here is an example.
It’s lunchtime and you just got a call that your condo is on fire. The world, as you know it, stops. Your condo was the first place you ever bought on your own; you have all of your worldly possessions within its walls, including your new puppy (he’s a Golden Retriever.) As a colleague races you to the scene, in a frenzied state you scroll through Twitter to look for updates. Surprised and annoyed, you see a tweet from a local insurance company: “This is why you need condo insurance, contact us today…” – with an image of your condo ablaze. Tone deaf.
Insurance is an important conversation to have, but fear mongering during a tragedy isn’t the best way to market your products. The key to communicating effectively is to reach the right people, with the right message, at the right time. In this scenario, none applied. The intention of the insurance company was to capitalize on the situation by grabbing the attention of people who were following the story (perhaps they too have condos without proper insurance.) And because they’re not in the immediate situation but can relate, the tweet may make them feel uneasy and perhaps they’ll call for a quote. And that, right there, is why people don’t particularly love insurance companies. Fear isn’t a good way to market, no matter what you’re selling.
The reality is that organizations have to balance business and good citizenship. They must understand that not every opportunity is worth seizing, and not all publicity is good publicity.
So next time, instead of using a tragic situation to bring attention to your own business and interests, consider how you can help and add value to those affected. What do they need right now (support), instead of what you need (sales)?