October 18, 2023 | Article | by Lisa Throckmorton & Robin Bectel | Public Relations
Probe Your “Why” When Considering Social Comments on Global, Social, Humanitarian Crises
In an age marked by an escalating frequency of global, social, and humanitarian events and crises, organizations and businesses find themselves grappling with how and if to address them both internally and publicly. Navigating these waters requires a nuanced approach that goes beyond perfunctory gestures. It demands a deep introspection into the motivations and consequences of a public stance. From considering your company values to potential risks, stakeholders' perspectives, and alternative support measures, the road to determining your company's response is lined with multifaceted considerations and, in most cases, the need for quick decisions.
The most important thing in choosing whether or not to address a global, social, or humanitarian event or crisis on your organization's social media channels—is to probe "why" you should or shouldn't take this step. Asking yourself and your leadership team these questions below is critical to making meaningful, impactful choices rather than reacting based on speed, emotion, or expectations.
- What is the desired outcome if your brand posts on social media?
- If part of your desired outcome is focused on company values/employees, have you considered leveraging internal communications (email, all-hands, etc.)? Do you have a presence/employees in the area?
- Would posting put your team members, facilities, or customers at risk in any way?
- Would posting put the business at risk in any way (investor reaction, hiring, revenue, asset, brand image)?
- Do you consistently post in these situations (and are you prepared to make statements on similar issues moving forward)?
- Is posting the best/only way to align with your brand and core values?
- Is an important audience suggesting you should take a public stance (executives, investors, board members, employees, customers, community, politicians)?
- Are you part of a membership organization that may be better positioned to take a public stance?
- Are there other actions you can take to demonstrate support for the cause (donations, supplies, connectivity support, free product usage, blood drives, etc.)
- Are there other actions you can take to support affected employees or customers (food and shelter in your facilities, extended time off/flex time, access to telemedicine, travel stipend, ongoing communications, discounted/free products, internal support groups)?
- Have you considered the risks and benefits of staying quiet as an option?
- Have you considered pausing/rethinking your marketing/PR efforts within or to the affected area/community or more broadly?
- If you choose to proceed, can you express your stance in an apolitical statement that focuses on the human/civilian aspects of the crisis/event?
- How would your current employees respond to the company posting publicly or internally, or posting one, not the other?
- Are you prepared for backlash? Divisive issues can cause heated exchanges, and you need to be ready to handle negative comments, criticism and potential threats.
- Consider the timing. If you can't decide relatively quickly, the time to post may have passed, and you could seem late to the game. At the same time, it's important to wait and assess any situation before making a public statement in an evolving event/crisis.
In times of crisis, our choices as organizations carry profound weight. Whether it's a political conflict, environmental catastrophe, social upheaval, or a humanitarian crisis, our decisions reflect our values and commitment to our employees, communities, and world.
While the answers to these questions provide valuable insights and considerations, the list alone also acknowledges that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Each situation is unique, and the complexities of your organization play a vital role in shaping your response. The common thread is the importance of thoughtful introspection, strategic thinking with various colleagues responsible for the potentially affected audiences, and, perhaps, a willingness to embrace change.