The Case for Quiet: PR Best Practices During Breaking News

September 19, 2013

By: Rebecca
Last Monday morning was pretty busy around here, as it usually is, and it would have been easy for us to miss the breaking news out of Washington, D.C. When we noticed #NavyYardShooting trending on Twitter, however, we knew we had to take a break in our regularly scheduled programming.
Here's the thing: the fact that every brand can now be a publisher is an amazing opportunity for companies. A business with valuable content to share can talk directly to prospects and influencers via its corporate blog and social media channels to educate, engage and convert. But with great publishing power comes great responsibility. When the story of the day is far more important – life-and-death important – than the brand story you had planned to share, it might be time to change your plans.
Smart PR pros have always known that best practices occasionally require quiet. If your announcement or story idea has nothing to do with an unfolding municipal, regional or national crisis, it's sometimes best to sit on it for the moment. If your spokespeople can offer real value on the story of the day, then cautious, targeted engagement makes sense. If not, consider whether you might be better off holding your product announcement, rescheduling your tweets and pushing your Facebook posts to later in the day or week, depending on how the news of the day shapes up. As AT&T found out last week, the mere act of commemorating or commenting on a tragedy –whether it happened hours or years beforehand – can cause significant backlash if not done well.
In April, after the marathon bombings rocked our hometown, we moved quickly to advise clients on communications best practices. Much of that focused on social media etiquette during a crisis, which was also the subject of numerous articles at the time. These applied again on Monday, as news broke out of D.C.:

Do your PR and marketing teams ever decide to go quiet? Where's your threshold for doing so?

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