Brands should think first, act second when responding to global events

By Shazia Khan

Globe Content Studio

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

All eyes are on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As content marketers, it’s important to think critically about our role in the social sphere during times of political unrest, including what to say publicly — if anything.

It’s important to know how to navigate tumultuous times when you’re the voice behind a brand.

When there are big, important socio-cultural events occurring in the world, how should social media managers for brands react?

In the world of social media, you’re trained to react quickly — an act-first-think-second mentality. This is a hard habit to break, especially with the fast pace of the Internet. But that approach can lead you to react poorly, or to overreact, to situations. (This is a really good article about the phenomenon that was published when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit.)

Often, a simple, authentic response is more appropriate than an overthought one.
Often, a simple, authentic response is more appropriate than an overthought one.

The best advice is to flip that mantra: Think first, and then make a careful plan about how to act. Do some research to understand the situation. Gut check your decisions with your internal team to make sure it’s in-step with your brand’s overall approach. Consider all possible ripple effects, whether you make a statement regarding the situation, continue to post as normal, or opt to stay silent.

Remember that sitting back and listening is an option. Then put your plan into action, and monitor your channels for feedback.

For example, at Globe Content Studio, we had a live virtual event scheduled for February 25 about SEO strategies. Promotion had started, but we met as a team on the 24th and decided the situation in Ukraine made for poor timing. We postponed indefinitely, with a brief explanation that it was due to “recent world events” and would be rescheduled at a later date.

These situations can also be an opportunity to explore brand safety filters you have in place for your social ad campaigns on each platform. You’ll want to familiarise yourself with how you can protect your posts so they don’t appear in any inflammatory or controversial environments.

If you decide it’s right for your brand to speak up, what do you say?

Often, simplicity is best. An authentic, human approach is likely the better route rather than something overwrought and heavily branded.

If it’s the right thing for your brand, you can support words with actions, whether it’s sharing donation links or referring to reputable news sources for more information — anything that aligns with your overall efforts and messaging. Again, gather feedback from your internal team before making any public commitments online.

If you make a post that’s out of step with the current conversation, what do you do?

Scott Galloway has a really great take on the three-step apology for companies in crisis management:

  1. Acknowledge the wrongdoing specifically and apologise explicitly.
  2. Take responsibility for what happened. Own the mistake, without passing blame off to the circumstances or others involved.
  3. Overcorrect by taking action that shows you mean your apology and follow through consistently.

Every brand is going to make some sort of communications blunder. Instead of living in fear, put a plan in place that swiftly and effectively addresses it. Then you’ll be ready if and when it happens.

About Shazia Khan

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