Did you rush to post #jessuischarlie? Perhaps you felt moved to give it up – digitally speaking – for Beirut, or upload a French flag or Eiffel Tower image as your Facebook profile photo. Maybe you, too, liked the recent #jesuisparis hashtag.
This blog posting isn’t here to question whether and how private individuals should respond to dramatic, and recently horrifying, world news events in any way. That is down to people’s individual consciences.
But as an experienced copywriter and PR adviser, I sometimes wonder about the wisdom of jumping on the newest, trendiest bandwagon to achieve publicity or even commercial gain.
A few thoughts:
• Getting involved with heavily trending social media sensations – generated, of course, in response to horrendous news events – can certainly get you noticed. And quickly. But choose wisely; the above mentioned hashtags were (and are) extremely public and people will be quick to judge your motivation for commenting on, or becoming part of, the debate
• Think about your long-term strategy. If you’re always ‘in the news’ commenting on topical, and sometimes highly controversial, issues, then offering your perspective using Twitter, Facebook and other channels may just be part of your daily work
• But if your organisation is new to showing its face in public, you would be better to start on safer, more familiar local ground than launch into the so-called ‘Twittersphere’ reacting to a big international news story. Especially if the event is one whipping up strong emotions and controversy
• If you don’t necessarily seek a high profile, sometimes silence is the best option. Some members of a charity representing members in the UK and Republic of Ireland were offended and annoyed to see the genetic condition it speaks for misrepresented in the British national press last autumn. A quick reaction to the tabloid newspaper pictures and news stories might have generated results in terms of seeing the charity’s own views in print. But ultimately, the charity trustees made the right decision by choosing not to respond on that occasion. As a result, the news story died out within a few days because the flames of controversy had not been fanned again
• Likewise, sometime as a copywriter it is worth avoiding the bandwagon of the day, or thinking carefully before you plant your boots on that wagon – so to speak (public opinion moves on quickly). Does talking about a particular event or cause suit your client’s purposes; does it fit with your audience and their needs? Or would it be just tacky, inappropriate sensationalism to drop that name or join in?
All food for thought.