Yes, your response in a crisis is important, but it’s not just about what you say. It’s about how balanced your response is. How you cushion your words – your inflection, your vehicle of delivery, your expressions – tells an equally important story. It’s crucial to know how to temper your response in a crisis, also known as, “how to not film yourself singing John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ while people are suffering.” Don’t be cited by PR professors and columnists as shining examples of “brands that responded poorly during a crisis,” and do what you can to avoid the temptation of tone-deafness.
Look back – think about what you already had planned, posted or scheduled. Just like many public relations practitioners and business owners, many people pre-plan their content, usually scheduling out posts and other types of content by the month. Unsurprisingly, most users on social media don’t know that’s the case. Your post about shareable appetizers could make people think you’re anti-social distancing, instead of realizing that you simply forgot to cancel a post you planned months ago. So, taking a look back at what you scheduled to see if it’s going to read differently in light of current circumstances is critical. And a good rule of thumb is if you have to “think about” whether or not it could be taken the wrong way, go ahead and delete it.
Don’t make it look like you’re capitalizing off of a tragedy for your own gain. Let’s say, I don’t know, you’re a rich celebrity who happens to be garnering significantly less attention due to certain worldly preoccupations. It might seem as if you’re trying to redirect everyone’s eyes back to you if you were to, oh I don’t know, release a video of yourself singing a (debatably) “feel-good” song. Although it is rarely anyone’s intention to gain something out of a tragedy, in such a sensitive climate, everything will be taken as such. For example, the Charmin Bears probably don’t need to take advantage of panic and start pushing extra advertisements and specials hoping no one will notice ‒ because someone will, and it won’t be a good look.
Don’t say something just to say it. Adding to the crowd of voices parroting the same “reassuring” sentences during a crisis can make you seem disingenuous. In fact, most of us would probably prefer you stuck to the essentials, as there are only so many crisis response emails we can get from restaurants we ate at once in 2009. Especially in a crisis that isn’t specific to you or your company, (i.e. an unprecedented global pandemic), believe it or not ‒ we do not HAVE to hear your take. Pertinent information regarding updated hours of business or other rapidly changing company policies as a result of an emergency are relevant. But if you’re notifying your patrons of your arbitrary “monitoring” of a situation, maybe reconsider your approach.
Above all, remember ‒you only get one try, so make it count. Otherwise, you’ll be known as “the girl who made all her celebrity friends sing ‘Imagine’ to a suffering world” instead of Wonder Woman.