"Unprecedented times" has become an all too familiar term to marketers. Throughout 2020, entire campaigns needed to be rethought as all eyes turned to the news of COVID-19. It was tone-deaf and willfully ignorant to continue business as usual when it came to posting. Campaigns were scrapped, launches were delayed, and new messaging surrounding "we're in this together" was brought forward. Now that the vaccine is making its rounds, we should be coming out of the those times, right? Unfortunately, we find ourselves back in Zoom meetings to discuss the circumstances we're in yet again.
On Wednesday, January 6th, the United States Senate convened to vote on the election certification for the 46th President. What was meant to be a celebration for the nation, was met with violence and unrest. The Capitol building was raided by Pro-Trump groups that did not want to see him lose. A lockdown was enforced, shots were fired, property was stolen or damaged, and a country was left heartbroken. The day was full of tension and discomfort for just about everyone. Twitter's top trending page was exclusively hashtags regarding the attack. Instagram stories were filled with images and videos of the scene. Facebook was full of somber posts by people who could not believe their eyes. So, what does that mean for marketers?
A lot of questions are currently unanswered. When will it be an appropriate time to start posting regularly again? Can we glaze over this without mentioning it? How will the next two weeks of election turnover affect my social strategy? If you've checked social media since about 3:30pm on Wednesday, you may have noticed that campaigning was limited. Major brands have been advised to put all social media assets on hold for at least 24-48 hours. At times like these, social media isn't being used to see what the latest gossip is, but to find out what's happening in the midst of turmoil. To have brands insert themselves to push their own agenda is not only selfish, but tasteless. As one twitter user stated, "There is only one thing happening right now. Full stop." and I couldn't agree more. Right now, most people don't care much about the launch of a soda or the latest update to some website. While people are asking for brands to pull back, situations like these raise the question of whether or not brands should be radio silent or speak out to what's happening.
In a previous post, I mentioned the impact campaigns can have on people. Big brands have large follower bases that can spread a strong message quickly. Although people may not want to see them talk about their brand, that doesn't necessarily mean they should pretend nothing has happened. At the start of Covid, many brands switch their previously scheduled posts to something related to Covid, whether it was informational or a bit of comic relief. Posting during this time is still a risk and should be approached carefully. Any material that comes across as insensitive or insincere will cause more harm than good for your brand and for the general public. With that said, no brand should be trying to capitalize on a disaster or make matters worse by using language that instills fear.
Strategists will be patiently waiting for the greenlight to roll out their previously scheduled content. The smartest move is to pause, reevaluate, and to let people know that we will all get through this madness. Offering simple words of relief and letting your audience see the empathetic side of your brand isn't a bad thing. It lets the world know that behind your name are people that care, and when this is over your kindness will be remembered.