When something overwhelmingly tragic in the world happens (mass shootings, bombings, social injustice, overt oppression, natural disasters, etc.), it has become customary to pause, and react on social media. We express our feelings and experience the unique catharsis of a status update. Then in real life, we say silent prayers, we meditate, we cry, we debate with our families and friends.
But what, then, do we do with the social outlet of our brands? What in real life, if anything, do our businesses do to aide those effected by the tragedy, and what steps do we take contribute to the prevention of future tragedies? And if we’re doing anything…should we publicize it as our business?
Do we update our business page to demonstrate that we are in fact aware of what is happening? Or, do we simply run our normal campaigns, and stay out of the fray? Is it offensive to express our opinion, or is it offensive to stay silent?
This post isn’t going to provide an answer to that, it’s just an exploration of the questions. I know there are brands, organizations, people of whom I am a fan, whose pages I will check to see if they have used their platforms to give voice to an opinion. Sometimes, I’m disappointed that they’ve said nothing—other times I’m disappointed that their statement borders on bigotry.
As small business owners, corporate and social responsibility is something we should all consider including in the brand of our businesses. But often, that is a safe route. It is not polarizing to feed the homeless, nor is it controversial to read to children from poor communities.
What does a small business do about issues of racism, classism, political candidates, and policies that are potentially divisive and can alienate some members of their audience? Being a smaller brand provides the luxury of having a smaller fan base that may not mind your silence during times of highly publicized tragedies.
The truth is, there is no right answer to these questions. Only you (or your Marketing Director) can determine what is the best route for your business to take when it comes to taking a stand on charged issues. But whatever road you decide to take, make sure your statement (or silence) is consistent with your company’s core values.
Never release content that is inconsistent with what your company truly stands for in an effort to appeal to a trending topic. Distributing content that goes against your brand’s values sends mixed messages that will not only make you uncomfortable, but can be harmful to growing your company’s presence in the marketplace. It is also important to be mindful of those affiliated with your brand, and how they express their concern on potentially controversial issues. Be mindful of their tweets, status updates, or video posts—if they’re opinions are inconsistent with your brand values, it could lead to a harmful portrayal of what your company stands for.
As with all content, it is important to consider the way your audience will receive your messages. If you are going to take a stance, be strategic about your communications, and thoroughly research the issues before releasing anything. If you find you would like to address the issue of the day, and your content is consistent with your brand’s values—stand firm in your statement, but be prepared to defend it or clarify. Chances are, if your statement is consistent with your brand’s overall message, you will not end up apologizing.
On a personal note, to all of those personally, emotionally, spiritually and physically affected by recent tragedies both in the US and abroad—as a writer I wish I could string together just the right words to ease all of our fears and sorrow. I can only say, we have to keep going, we have to keep thriving and enjoying the life we’ve been given. We are here to lead joyous lives, that is what we are fighting for—joy for those who would be robbed of it. Be blessed, stay strong.