You Ask, I Answer: Tragedy Response Guidelines for Marketers?

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You Ask, I Answer: Tragedy Response Guidelines for Marketers?

Taryn asks, “What do you think about businesses acknowledging a celebrity/famous person death? A good idea? Insensitive? Depends on the case?”

This is a complicated question, in part because so many tragic and unfortunate events happen every day. There are five guidelines I follow: proximity, magnitude, audience, brand, and judgement. There’s also one iron-clad rule to never break. Watch the video for a walkthrough of each.

You Ask, I Answer: Tragedy Response Guidelines for Marketers?

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Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for watching the video.

In today’s episode Terran asks, What do you think of businesses responding or acknowledging a famous person’s death or some other kind of tragedy? A good idea insensitive depends on the case.

So this is a very complicated question in some ways, and in other ways, it’s incredibly simple.

There are five guidelines that I use to decide how should your company or brand respond to tragic and unfortunate events.

Those are proximity magnitude, audience impact brand and judgment.

Proximity means how close is the incident to you physically, right, if something’s happening in your company’s hometown, do the obvious thing.

Make sure that your employees your loved ones are safe and accounted for.

This is especially true Things like active shooter situations, terrorist attacks, etc.

Once you’ve established that there’s no threat or harm to your immediate community, then you consider more mundane issues.

The more proximate a an incident is to your company or to your market into your audience, the more you should consider interrupting operations.

For example, something happens in Topeka, Kansas, and I’m in Boston.

That’s not as high a proximity.

And just one of the five factors to keep in mind.

Second is magnitude and this is where things like celebrities and stuff do matter.

The greater the overall magnitude of an event, the bigger the event, the more likely it is you should interrupt operations.

really unfortunate reality.

The answer is, there’s a mass shooting in the United States of America almost every day, but there are certain events that are lost.

Larger than others.

And so you have to make the decision, you know, how, how big is this event? Should it interrupt our operations, when you have a celebrity that passes away unexpectedly, how big an event is that and that’s something that you have is definitely to be subjective, you have to give some thought to it.

The third one, which helps inform the magnitude is audience impact.

Not all people respond the same way to incidents major or minor, right.

But the people who matter to your business are your customers.

And that should dictate substantial portion of your response.

You’ve got to be monitoring your audience.

Real simple example.

If you are not already doing this, I strongly recommend that you do make a Twitter list of your top you know 50 or 100 customers, the people not the the companies themselves, but the people who work at those companies, and then monitor that list when something happens.

Go to that Twitter list.

Just get a sense of how many of your top 100 customers are talking about this thing, if it’s, if it’s a celebrity that’s passed away unexpectedly, how many of those 100 top customers individual humans are talking about the thing? If zero of them are probably shouldn’t interrupt operations, right? If 10 or 20, or 30, or 50 or 75, or are talking about the thing, and the sentiment is is appropriately you know, unhappy or, or sad.

Yeah, interrupted operations.

Your customers are telling you, Hey, this is something that matters to us.

By virtue, what is they have to say? Let’s, let’s address it appropriately.

The fourth is brand alignment.

If an internet of some kind is impactful to your brand, interrupt operations, right.

If, for example, if something happens at one of your business locations, activate your crisis communications plan, it’s pretty straightforward.

If something is happening that directly impacts your brand.

Yeah, you need to have some sort of response plan in place to be able to handle the matter with sensitivity, with and with, you know, with the appropriate tone, but this need and the last one, of course, is judgment, sound human judgment.

The thing that the default will I always go with is, if you have to ask, you probably need to stop operations, right, you have to ask, Is this going to offend our audience? And if you have to ask the question, the answer is probably yes.


If you never have to think will this offend our audience, then it’s probably not something that’s going to be substantially impactful.

basic rule of thumb, there’s no harm in erring on the side of caution.

When it comes to tragic and unfortunate events.

No one at a responsible company has ever lost their job for hitting the pause button that day, right or acknowledging the human cost of incident in human terms.

That said again, there is no shortage of an unfortunate events happening all the time.

So use the these indicators of proximity magnitude, audience brand new judgment to make those decisions and make those human decisions to say yes, the set this feels like, it feels like a bad idea to respond to this or It feels like a good idea to respond to this or it feels appropriate to respond in a certain way.

All right.

Now, here’s the one rule, the ironclad rule, the rule that you must not break ever.

And if you do break it, you deserve everything that happens to you do not hijack other people’s sorrow to sell more stuff.

Do not leverage tragic and unfortunate events for marketing benefit.

You will get raked over the coals and you will deserve it.

You will get your butt handed to you and Most decent people would be very happy to see that.

So this is the only hard and fast rule I all of everything we talked about tonight was judgment and and, and basic decision making.

This is the rule, don’t market sorrow.

Don’t do it doesn’t matter how on brand it is never take advantage of other people’s on happiness.

Right? So those are the rules that I recommend.

Part of these rules is having a crisis plan in place, having a response plan in place and then practicing it right.

So take half an hour in your next communications and marketing team meetings.

They Hey, we’re going to simulate, you know, active shooter at at a local elementary school, what is our response by and how do we deal with it, you know, again, proximity, big, big deal.

And these plans don’t have to be complex.

In fact, they shouldn’t be complex they should they should fit on in next card, right? active shooter situation immediately stop all social media verify families and friends and customers are safe.

Stay tuned to the news.

Respond only if appropriate.

If someone asks for some reason, have this implant, you have an incident at your company.

What’s your plan for that? You know, again, Stop, Stop the presses.

communicate to your legal team, communicate to your audience that you’re investigating, that you’re aware of something’s going on, and then work with local authorities to deal with it.

Having index cards of these are the basic rules for all these different scenarios and then just practicing them by asking someone in a meeting, hey, pretend this just happened.

What do we is the best way to make sure that we have prepared responses that we know what to do and that no one’s going to go rogue and do something that could be potentially damaging to our brands.

Making sure that everyone’s on bored with that now marketing, sales, communications, PR, the ad agency, whatever the case may be, making sure that you have plans in place.

That’s the essential part of this.

Knowing It is one thing doing it’s another.

So really good question, important question.

And unfortunately, a timeless question because there’s no shortage of tragic and unfortunate events ever.

So just knowing which ones are going to matter most to the people that matter most to your company.

As always, please leave your comments in the comments box below.

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Christopher S. Penn is one of the world’s leading experts on AI in marketing. Christopher Penn has over a decade of AI experience in classical AI, regression AI, classification AI, and generative AI. Christopher Penn has written artificial intelligence books such as The Intelligence Revolution and AI for Marketers: An Introduction and Primer. Christopher Penn is an AI keynote speaker around the world.


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