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Social Media Etiquette During a Crisis
By: Mike Bush
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One of the job functions we as flacks should be cognizant of is our duty to be our brand’s social conscience. While there’s always a nimrod who decides to attempt to build awareness of the brand by “capitalizing on current events” during a time of emergency* we need to know better.
*Yes, there were brands using Twitter and Facebook to push their message out there in the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy. Google “Epicurious” if you want to read more about it. Ya know the worst part about this? People are writing about Epicurious. If you believe in the old saying of “no publicity is bad publicity,” then the simply horrific behavior is being rewarded. I had never heard of them and I looked them up. You win… ugh.
As such, here are three things we need to do as soon as a crisis emerges:
  1. Turn off any and all automated messages that are programmed to go out as soon as you hear of the emergency. Even if the pre-programmed messages are harmless and don’t in any way have any chance of showing the despicable levels of tastelessness mentioned above, they show an alarming disconnect between the world and your brand. If social media is supposed to put a humanistic touch on our brands, then promoting an upcoming webinar at the time of an emergency either A) shows our brand doesn’t care what’s going on or B) shows that we’re automated (it’s the radio equivalent of the old woman who loves a particular morning radio shows, bakes a pie for the hosts, and goes to the station, only to learn the show is syndicated from somewhere else…it completely destroys the illusion).
  1. Find a local reporter in the area (or a reporter at a major news outlet), and retweet or share what they are saying. While social media allows us to have an in-depth knowledge of our audience, there are, of course, things we don’t know about our followers and fans. We don’t know if they have family running in an event. We also don’t know if they are desperately trying to find out more information. Point your followers in the right direction with a couple of retweets and then get out of the way.
  1. Leave the comedy to comedians. After September 11th, the first episode of Saturday Night Live featured the shows producer Lorne Michaels asking (then) Mayor Rudy Giuliani if it was OK to be funny. If you need to ask that question after something tragic has happened, then the answer is “not yet.”
Thoughts and prayers to everyone whose life was touched by the tragedies in Boston and Waco.

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About the Author
Mike Bush is a PR and Marketing freelancer with more than a dozen years of experience in the field. Find him on and connect Twitter @mikebush or at www.mikebush.nyc. 
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