Responding during a tragic news cycle: Don’t be tone deaf

The barrage of horrific words and images recently from the middle east have rocked all of us. The Israel/Gaza situation has caused us at Blue Wagon Group to consider our own humanity, be mindful of those in harm’s way, and thoughtfully consider own responses, as well as that of our clients, during this tragic news cycle.

Not Business as Usual

We are in public relations and we, of all professionals, should thoughtfully consider how we go about business in the aftermath of tragic, unthinkable events and we believe it’s incumbent on us to offer wise counsel to clients. Our words and actions count.

If we were actively pitching for coverage of a client event, say, opening an email on Monday, Oct. 9 with “Hope you had a great weekend,” or “Happy Monday – excited to invite you to our grand opening,” would have been amazingly tone deaf. Chances are many people, and certainly those in the journalism world, know – or know of – someone personally affected. If an email must be penned to keep projects moving, consider something more empathetic like:

  • “It’s been a tough week…”
  • “Hope you’re ok in light of current events…”
  • “Are you accepting pitches right now given the tragic world situation? If not, please feel free to disregard or opt out of communication at this time…”

Apologize If You Do Misstep

And if you do slip, apologize. Own up to your mistake/misstep and actually voice an apology. Quickly and authentically.

5 Thoughtful Pieces of Advice

  1. Decide as a group how to handle outreach. Silence sometimes is the best choice. Share your decision with your staff and clients, and stick to the process for the defined time frame.
  2. Consider rescheduling (or canceling) or any upcoming events.
  3. Look at your own social media and any clients you advise. Make sure the content is not tone deaf. This especially applies to pre-scheduled posts because they are easy to set and forget. Much damage can be done here.
  4. Check in with clients for a pulse check on their plan. Is it business as usual for them? Can you provide best practices, education, and answers to tough questions?
  5. Remember, as a PR professional, you are well-positioned to advise clients on perceptions and realities of actions – when everything is good in the world as well as in times of tragedy.

This post was co-authored by Becky Peterson and Nancy Mayes.