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?