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Posts Tagged ‘Boston Marathon’

How Should Brands Respond to Tragedy on Social Media?

Boston!This post was co-written by the author and his wife, Stephanie Coffee

Horrific events that shock and captivate entire nations, superseding all other news—tragedies like the Newtown shooting and last week’s Boston Marathon terror attack—are thankfully rare. And yet, as we all know, social media and the 24/7 cable news cycle have intensified the public’s focus on these national crises and their aftermaths.

Now that the Boston case has been resolved with amazing speed by state and local authorities, we can examine the media response to last week’s events from a PR perspective.

As communications professionals, we know that the public doesn’t just demand (accurate) news as it breaks in times of crisis. They also value reassurances and statements of support from sources they follow on social media—sources that include their favorite brands.

At least one brand has already demonstrated the dangers of an inept response. So what should public entities and the people who manage their accounts do?

What NOT to do: 

  • Don’t tie the event into a promotionEpicurious (which is usually a very good food site) gave us a perfect case study on Monday with its tone-deaf promotional tweet encouraging followers to buy specific Boston-themed products. We won’t go into why it was a terrible idea because that should be painfully obvious. As another example, who can forget Kenneth Cole’s infamous Egypt uprising PR Fail?
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How the ‘One Fund Boston’ Relief Effort Was Created in Seven Hours

We talked last week about a company’s major PR failure in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. Now, we’d like to share an epic PR win inspired by the same tragedy.

Shortly after the attack that killed three and wounded over 180 at last Monday’s Boston Marathon, Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Governor Deval Patrick contacted Jim Gallagher, executive VP of John Hancock (which has title-sponsored the race for years) in an effort to brainstorm ways to provide assistance to the victims.

At 10 a.m. the next morning, Mr. Gallagher got on a conference call with Mike Sheehan and Karen Kaplan, CEO and president of Boston ad agency Hill Holiday. Within hours of that call, the agency created One Fund Boston, a foundation designed to help victims.

During the 10 a.m conference call in which Mr. Gallagher promised John Hancock would donate $1 million to get the ball rolling, the Mayor’s office requested it be able to announce the creation of the fund at a 5 p.m. press conference. That left Holiday Hill seven hours to create a charity from scratch.

Communicating mostly via text message, the agency got to work. Read more

PR Fail: Food Website Exploits Boston Tragedy

Why, for the love of all that is decent, human, and empathetic, haven’t brands figured out that it is never okay to exploit a tragedy that irreversibly altered and ended human lives?

In the hot seat for today’s installment of who the hell let this company near a Twitter feed, is food website Epicurious. In the wake of the horrific events at Monday’s Boston Marathon, the company tweeted this to its 385,000 followers:

As a lifetime Massachusetts resident, I was particularly appalled and offended by this gross, clumsy, and unfathomably insensitive attempt at self-promotion. The suggestion that a recipe for cranberry scones or a bowl of cereal could somehow alleviate the sense of fear and loss that swept Boston, Massachusetts, and the country after the explosions would be laughable if it weren’t so terrible.

And then, instead of making real, human apologies or taking any meaningful steps to backtrack or make up for their offense, Epicurious chose to simply tweet the same cookie-cutter mea culpa over and over again: Read more

CNN Focuses on Gap between News and Life

There was a day when a 24-hours news network sounded like a brilliant idea. We live in a complex world full of complicated events that highlight the worst and best of humanity.

From violent wars and corrupt politicians to heroic deeds and acts of selflessness, how could a network not fill its programming with constant and original news updates?

However, with the technology that allowed networks to report 24-7 from every corner of the world, we learned something very important about the public: from cuddly kittens to sickening carnage, we’ll watch the same images over and over and over and over and over again. Who needs a news cycle when you can just hit replay again and again?

The public is strongly addicted to emotional footage, and after September 11, coupling dramatic scenes and outlandish scenarios with charged commentary and paranoid speculation fractured viewers into different but loyal viewing demographics. We all know the stereotypes about the people who watch Fox News and the people who watch MSNBC, as stalwart news anchors like Brian Williams continue to scratch their heads.

Just as times were changing back then, times are changing now, and Jeff Zucker, CEO of CNN, fully understands this. Throughout the past decade the public sensibility has evolved and viewers began migrating from the constant barrage of loud news and bombastic analysis to shows that focused on the more pleasant aspects of life such as food, travel, health, history, science and reasonable opinions on real, everyday challenges.

Though yesterday’s bombing of the Boston Marathon demonstrated there will always be senseless violence and inexplicable trauma in our world, the public appears to be internalizing the frailty of life and living by the mantra we all—at least in theory—agreed to after September 11: the best revenge is living well. And now CNN’s network is beginning to reflect that with more accessible programming. Read more