Like many of you reading this, I am horrified by the events which unfolded at Sandy Hook and as a parent—especially affected by the thought of parents who will be grieving during a season when they should be celebrated. The tragedy is incomprehensible on so many levels and it makes my heart heavy. But I am also more than a parent and as a professional who spends so much of my time working with companies who are grappling with new dynamics in marketing, communications and doing business in a real time connected environment, I can't help but think about how much this creates the need for organizations (and people) to be sensitive (and responsible) especially during times like this. If we are really moving toward a "content economy" as I've recently outlined, and all brands and organizations can now directly manage their own media—then they are going to have to do it responsibly. Here are five suggestions for managing branded content during sensitive times.
1. Call a Meeting Between Staff & Partners
Most organizations now have staffers such as community/social media managers and agency partners who are running their social and owned properties (Facebook, Twitter, Wordpress etc.). When a sensitive story breaks which dominates the news cycle or at minimum their industry—they must themselves act like a news organization and huddle together the teams responsible for putting out content. Call an "all hands" meeting to discuss impact of story and devise a real time strategy for immediate steps moving forward.
2. Determine Appropriateness of a Response
Once a sensitive situation is in play, your organization is now faced with a question: do you stay silent or speak out? I recently advised an organization on this telling them that it's always best to "do the right thing" however, if they acknowledge what's going on (in this case with Sandy Hook) they had to be prepared to steward any conversation good or bad that came along with it. When determining if it makes sense to make a statement during a sensitive situation, it's best to do the right thing but be prepared for what may follow. If you're not prepared, then your organization has a bigger issue.
3. Temporarily Disable Automated Posts
Auto posts (scheduling content and posting later) are now a reality for how brands communicate at scale and the technique isn't going away any time soon. However during a sensitive situation there is no way to better damage your brand's equity and reputation than allowing auto posts to continue as if nothing is happening. There's a simple solution: direct your content team to temporarily disable them until further notice. It's ok to take a break and back to point no. 2, it's the right thing to do.
4. Review Content Calendar
Many brands and businesses now run content calendars to help them plan in advance for posts, marketing, communications etc. If your organization does this—check your content calendar to see if there are any scheduled communications that could come off as tone deaf or inappropriate due to the situation at hand. Reschedule evergreen content for another time and remove "at risk" content. In short, proactively manage your calendar or it will manage you.
4. Edit/Remove/Reschedule Sensitive Content
No matter how vigilant you try to be, there will always be situations where a communication is already out in public for whatever reason, maybe the publisher wasn't aware of the news. This is where the public can be your best ally, by alerting you to the issue and as long as you are listening, you'll have the opportunity to correct the mistake. Do it transparently and over-communicate over-communicate. If you end up deleting an offending piece of content which was not intended to offend—be sure to explain the steps you are taking.
One could question the timing of this post and my intentions. As I've stated, I'm both a parent and a professional, and while I have trouble wrapping my mind around recent events, I feel called to share whatever I can to get us all thinking about how we can manage direct communication channels responsibly. Brands are now built in real time and they can be unbuilt just as quickly.