Grief-jacking: How Do We Deal With World Events as Brands?

When the world goes dark

I’m afraid this is going to be a discussion, rather than a how-to guide.

Every brand is made up of individuals, all of whom have opinions separate to mine and will feel differently about this issue. But it’s an important one to talk about.

We live in a world where bad things happen. Things that make marketing seem very hollow indeed.

We all saw people attacked on social media for mourning David Bowie or wanting to talk about the Paris terror attacks.

They ‘weren’t real fans’ or ‘had ignored the deaths that happen around the world every day’. Personally, I don’t think it’s anyone’s place to police other people’s grief. If you need to do it publicly, if you need to share in a collective experience – you go ahead.

As a business owner, you need to know where you stand on this. Where relevance, human feeling and professionalism collide is something only you can decide, but having a public opinion at all has gone badly wrong for small business owners in the past.

So, what do we do? Do we ignore massive global events that have reached every one of our customers, if only emotionally?

A useful source of ‘what not to do’:

Condescending Corporate Brand Page is a celebration of everything terrible and off-key in corporate social media. If it’s on this page, don’t do it.

Bowie grief-jacking

Definite dont’s

1. Don’t use the tragedy as an opportunity to push products

Within days of the bombings in Paris, commemorative t-shirts, hats and who-knows-what-else had started appearing all over the internet – most bearing a stolen drawing of the Eiffel Tower by an independent artist.

That in itself is monstrous. Imagine how people feel when you pitch products in the middle of it. Even if you’re not referencing a world event, be careful of the tone. Bombs killed 80 people? Probably don’t launch your new range of fireworks.

2. Don’t blindly trust to your scheduled posts

When the world is watching and mourning collectively, you may as well scrap the posts you had lined up. Anything you planned will either be ignored or seen as insensitive.

You might choose to share your condolences or you might choose to stay silent; just don’t go ahead with your “OMG it’s #Friday! #weekendgivingmelife” posts.

3. Don’t voice an opinion you know will be controversial

We all believe that what we believe is 100% right and everyone else is just silly. But your business isn’t a soapbox and someone will always disagree with what you have to say, tempting the wrath of the social media gods.

I know I don’t have to tell you this, but it happens. Your social following can flip in a heartbeat, and companies have folded under it. Acknowledging a tragedy doesn’t have to come with an opinion – a simple “Our thoughts are with everyone involved.” says more than a 400-word Facebook essay.

Tragic events aren't business opportunities. Be sensitive with your social. #griefjacking Click To Tweet