Companies can often amplify their media coverage by tying their products, services and expertise to the news cycle. This may entail using timely national data on employment to strengthen an economic development story, providing a local illustration – or counterpoint – to a national or industry trend, or offering expertise in response to a knowledge or data gap noted in a recent piece of press.
While providing timely and relevant expert to media can be a great way to build relationships and reinforce your expert positioning in the market place, remaining sensitive to the bigger picture, particularly during times of crisis, is key to maintaining brand equity and preventing a crisis communications situation from emerging.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen some social media gaffes in response to national disasters and other tragedies. We’ve seen a celebrity deploy a disgruntled tweet about a ruined vacation when Puerto Rico was struggling to recover from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, and CNET reports fake tweets had to be suspended in the wake of the tragic shooting in Las Vegas. I also saw a cautionary tweet go by from a communications pro in the food industry encouraging brands in that sector to avoid seizing an opportunity to market themselves as a provider of comfort food in response to the incident in Las Vegas – and I’m hopeful that’s an instance where one tweet made an impact.
Yes, the temptation to seize timely news opportunities – both in traditional and social media – can be strong. But, brands who understand the risks and rewards that come with these opportunities realize that something as seemingly small as one hasty tweet can have a lasting impact on reputation – not to mention the bottom line.
If you’re going to take advantage of timely opportunities to insert your company or cause into the news cycle, follow these tips and best practices to avoid damaging your brand.
Assess the “What if” factor
Envisioning the possible outcome(s) can be helpful in determining what steps to take. It can also be helpful to assess what events could throw your plan off track and yield a less than desirable outcome. For example, if your company specializes in disaster response and you want to talk about best practices, you want to assess what the impact would be if your company was portrayed as critical of how a situation was handled. Would it demonstrate expertise or could you be perceived as a distraction from the “real news” of the day?
Litmus test your concept
Creativity is great – but you want to be sure it isn’t mistaken for making light of a serious situation. In the comfort food example noted above, you want to be sure that you are demonstrating an appropriate level of sensitivity and understanding for the situation at hand. On social media, in particular, blatant attempts to get attention for the sake of getting attention are hard to mask. And we’ve all seen what happens when a brand makes a misstep and their online communities catch wind of it. Bottom line: hitting delete just isn’t enough when it comes to reputation management / damage control in a real-time media world.
Consider the end value to the reporter, the reader, etc.
By inserting yourself into the news cycle, what value do you aim to impart on the end user? Do you want them to know how a situation would be handled in their home state if a similar event took place? Do you want to help people understand a complex and often misunderstood set of circumstances to put their mind at ease? If you’re going to head into the eye of the storm – also known as the breaking news cycle – be sure that you are adding value and not creating clutter.
Seizing timely news opportunities can yield positive returns for businesses and non-profits alike. It can provide a unique opportunity to share expertise with a wide audience and alert the right people to the programs, services and resources that are available to them both locally and nationally. By carefully vetting opportunities, and thoroughly assessing both the risks and rewards, brands can develop strategies to maximizing their news value while ensuring they remain sensitive to the situation at hand, ultimately protecting their relationships and their reputation.