Communication Tips for Tragic Events

You can’t continue with messaging “as usual” when things are anything but

Throughout the crises past week, we saw examples of both individuals and organizations whose communications made them look uncaring, foolish, or both.

That’s why, when we read an excellent article titled, “How to Communicate in the Midst of Tragedy,” written by Nancy Schwartz for the nonprofit marketing site Getting Attention, we felt compelled to share a couple of excerpts.

Immediately—Get Off Auto-Pilot

Given our collective state of mind, some of the nonprofit outreach I saw post-bombing was off the mark—like the e-invite I received at 7:19 PM that day from Save the Children via Harris Interactive, asking me to respond to its survey.

This email came in as the details of deaths and serious injuries continued to flow, including the death of an 8-year-old boy and the critical status of his mom and sister. It was obviously auto-scheduled and on auto-pilot.

As a result, this ask missed the mark by 1,000 miles, coming across as a huge “who cares.” If I was in charge of this survey, I’d put it on ice for now.

Be aware that we could have all so easily made similar mistakes. I have. In fact, this was just one of many pre-scheduled tweets, Facebook posts and emails I saw in the hours following the bombings when we were in the spell of first shock.

These “business as usual” communications, at a time when nothing was usual, which caused a huge disconnect. And yes we’re all just trying our best at times like this, but slow down.

Our state of mind doesn’t get more ungrounded than it is right now. Be ultra-sensitive.

Nancy hit the nail on the head here. Our social media feeds were flooded with messages promoting new blog posts, selling product, and a huge amount of other information that simply wasn’t relevant and made the sender look incredibly insensitive.

Immediately—Show You Care & Offer Right-Now Help

Show your support for the affected community and empathize with the shock and sadness your supporters are likely to feel via Twitter or a brief Facebook post.

This is a same day or next two days approach in most cases; after that it’s not additive, and will seem like you’re jumping on the bandwagon. If you’ve missed that, fine. Just note for the next time.

Social media is an ideal way to let your supporters know you’re with them right now, and to share words of comfort. Plus any tangible help you can provide. That’s the kind of response that puts a human face on your organization.

In any crisis, showing empathy is the best way to reach out to stakeholders. In addition, many of us in the business world have resources and information that the average person on the street may not have. Take this opportunity to share what you can with others. Not only is this the right thing to do, but it reflects well on your organization, and people will remember.

You can find the rest Nancy’s post on the Getting Attention blog, where she shares several more essential tips for communicating in tragedy.

Whether you got a great response, completely messed up or just sat silent, evaluate last week’s communications and determine how to improve. Modify (or, for many) create crisis management plans that include guidelines for communications during tragic events, and you’ll be better prepared to help your stakeholders, and protect your reputation, the next time around.

The BCM Blogging Team

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