I’ll start by saying that this is not going to be an easy topic to talk about. Unfortunately, it seems that more and more tragedies are happening around the world that cause us to stop and think more about life. Why do events such as the Boston bombing have to happen? Why can’t we all just get along? But, this seems to be something that we are facing on a more regular basis. As a human being, I have a plethora of thoughts that happen around a crisis like this. And, that only gets more complicated as I am a business owner. When a tragedy like this occurs, trying to find the right thing to say is impossible. There is nothing you can say that would be “right”. But, there are a few things that I think we should all be on the same page about when it comes to communicating after a crisis.
Before I get into those things, I will just say that I do not think I am an expert with this. I write this article with a little bit of trepidation as I know that people approach this topic in so many different ways and often feel very strongly about this topic. Last year, when hurricane Sandy hit New York, it was just days before our big PlannerTech event. This year, the Boston bombings happened the day before our Event Alley radio show. Both of these situations put me in a place but I never wanted to be – having to address a crisis in the public way. It’s incredibly hard, and these are some of the thoughts I had as I was putting together my words.
A crisis like this is incredibly emotional and I think the first key to any good communication plan after a disaster has happened is remembering to be real. People are hurting. People are mad and they want change. I think it’s perfectly okay to say that you are not sure what to say. And, I think the less you say, the better. If you try to force yourself to write or say something long and eloquent, you will not be heard as well. That being said, after a crisis, everyone is on edge. People’s emotions are very high and everything you say can be taken differently than you meant it. Be extra careful about everything you say.
Immediately delete/move scheduled posts
It’s hard to focus immediately after a tragedy strikes, but as a business owner, this is your responsibility. If you have any tweets, Facebook posts or other blogs etc. that are scheduled to be released later that day, cancel them. It is bad form to have scheduled things going out, especially anything that is marketing or pushing your brand or pushing a contest. Out of respect for what has happened, just move all of your schedule posts to future days.
Don’t create an image and write something like “Pray for Boston” and then share it on your Facebook page and ask people to like or share it. This is not classy. Profiting off a disaster is never okay. If you want to address a crisis from your Facebook page (or other social network), keep the focus on the victims and their families. Also, be careful not to talk about political or religious implications. Keep those thoughts for your personal accounts, or not at all.
Everyone handles these situations differently so don’t have a heart attack if some of your “followers” or attendees are missing. We held PlannerTech two weeks after Hurricane Sandy and there were a lot of people who still could not come. You have to understand this. Some people were still staying in hotels (and still are!) and others just didn’t feel in the right mindset to be at the event. You have to understand.
As I said, I’m not sure what the “right” thing to say is, but these are some of the things I’ve tried to do when communicating after a crisis. Be genuine, focus on the victims and react quickly. At some point, you will have to resume your standard social posts and your content will have to go on. That is a decision you need to make when you are ready. I think that will be different for everyone, and certainly based on the situation itself.