• Lauren Perna

The Elephant in the Room: Communications During Social Unrest

Updated: Oct 22, 2020

The reality is we are in a time of deep civil and social unrest. It's impacting our everyday lives, whether we want to admit it or not. So how can you go on with "business as usual" if the world around us is in turmoil?

Well, you actually can go with "business as usual." Complete avoidance. Ignorance is bliss, right? That is certainly one approach. But for the rest of us, how should we be communicating with our audience during these troubling times?

Before every post, I do my research so I can add resources and backlinks, like the good little marketer I am. Quite honestly, this is a topic I did not find much on. Probably because it's uncomfortable and people don't like talking about it. It's the elephant in the room.

As I said, avoidance is certainly one tactic. On the other hand, you can go guns blazing. For some folks, like a political candidate or an advocacy group, guns blazing is the approach. However, if you fall into this category, this approach still needs to be respectful and truthful.

Sometimes non-political/advocacy businesses go guns blazing. We've all seen it on all sides, and it can be very polarizing. So if that is an approach you want to take, go for it. Stand up for what you believe in. Just remember, it will most likely have consequences. That said, not all consequences are in the form of lost business. Sometimes consequences result in change for the better.

For most other businesses, what I suggest is somewhere in the middle. I've boiled it down to these pointers.

Follow the rules of the platform. Don't get kicked off social media. Seriously, don't get kicked off. Be respectful. Don't insult people. Read the rules if you have to because there are rules you may not even realize exist.

Have a strategy. Jim Ylisela, co-founder of Ragan Consulting Group, explains that you need to have a strategy and a plan; don't just go off the cuff. "There is urgency to get out there, but not without at least some thought and planning behind it.” Ragan's article on How to communicate during civil unrest is an incredible resource if you're looking for tangible steps on creating a strategy.

Ensure your actions are in line with company values and policies. This next point piggybacks on the idea of having a strategy. Whatever the strategy is, it should align with the company's values and everyone on staff should be looped in. Also, make sure employees are clear on your social media policy.

Feel comfortable accepting the consequences as much as the action. Reiterating what I said above, if you are going to go guns blazing, own it. Accept that you may lose people. Even if you don't go guns blazing, you could still lose people. That is the price of doing business during these challenging times.

People tend to notice what you're not saying as much as what you are saying. Trust me when I say if you choose not to say anything at all people will notice. Especially if everyone else in your niche is saying something, I promise you, people will notice. If everyone in your niche has mostly been quiet on the matter, my suggestion is to do what aligns with your company values and feels right to you.

On that note, set a good example. Honestly, just be a good person. Is it that hard? 🙄

Recognize that change only comes from speaking up. Your voice can make an impact, especially if you are a community leader or a more well-known brand. The beauty of social media is that you have a platform to share that voice. But, remember people have differing beliefs. By all means, speak up. Just know that not everyone is going to agree with you, and that's OK.

How are you handling social and civil unrest as it relates to your business? If you need any advice on your strategy, don't hesitate to reach out.

Resources: Northwestern Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property: The Collision of Social Media and Social Unrest: Why Shutting Down Social Media is the Wrong Response

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