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When Tragedy Strikes: 5 Factors Brands Should Consider Before Posting on Social Media

Jesseca Frost - August 17, 2017

Whether it’s an act of terrorism or a national disaster, our clients look to us for guidance on how to respond to tragedy on their social media accounts. The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Brands must strike a balance between showing compassion and respecting the sensitivity of the situation and those involved. We recommend evaluating five factors when deciding whether or not to post about a tragedy on social media.


If an incident occurs near your brand’s physical location, verify that employees, guests, and all involved are safe. Once you are able to verify there is no longer a threat, it may be appropriate to post on social media and update your online community that your employees and guests are safe.


Some tragedies happen in an isolated area but still have a national impact; 9/11 is an example of a tragedy of this magnitude. Major news outlets interrupting their programming or the development of a trending hashtag on Twitter are good ways to gauge whether the magnitude of the event warrants a national or local response.

Impact On Your Audience

Your customers should influence how your brand responds to an incident. It’s important to monitor your audience on social media to determine how, if at all, they are impacted. If your online community is commenting about an incident on your social media accounts, some level of a response is likely necessary.

Alignment With Your Brand

If an incident involves your brand in any way, activate your crisis communication plan immediately. A public statement should be issued once the crisis has been assessed and the threat is no longer at large.


If you’re ever in doubt about whether or not a post will be taken the wrong way, go with your gut and avoid publishing. Very rarely is a brand criticized for erring on the side of caution.

While you certainly want to show compassion in the wake of tragedy, there are a few potential concerns to be aware of:

Posting about issues that have a negative sentiment does associate a brand with those feelings of sadness, grief and anger.

Responding publicly to a tragedy or disaster can unfortunately come off as an attempt to capitalize on the event or promote the brand.

If the incident has a nationwide impact or takes place in a community your brand is affiliated with, it is important to review any scheduled or recently published pieces of content and pause or possibly delete anything that is overly promotional or could be construed as insensitive during a time of mourning. Even if you decide not to publish a post, it may be appropriate to “go dark” and remain completely silent on social media for a period of time.

You might also be interested in our Social Media Best Practices Downloadable.

Source: Awaken Your Superhero

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