Brands going the extra mile in times of crisis

November 20, 2015Uncategorized

Squeegee Scott, Native & Social Account Manager & Strategist

When tragedy strikes, it’s human nature to show support.

This week, my social feeds have been peppered with profile-picture changes, shared news reports, videos and semi-rant posts of shock/outrage/support/solidarity. As a social media user, it’s easy to share your emotions as you experience them, and although you may get a few trolls stirring the pot, your friends will generally share the same sentiments. After all, you’re in this together.

But what do you do when you’re managing a brand? It’s not as easy to hop on a hashtag and express sympathy when you’re juggling company values, stakeholders and your customers’ wants, needs and expectations. There are no second chances on social media, so how do you manage such delicate situations? Before taking any action, these are the questions social media managers should ask themselves:

– What are you adding to the conversation? Are you offering something of value to customers?
– Are you jumping on the bandwagon because it’s expected?
– Are your actions in alignment with your brand values?

Amid the minute silences, thoughts and prayers, some brands have taken it to the next level, showing that while they are representing a company, they are still real people. They’ve turned their sympathy into empathy and offered their service to help those who need it most.

Here are some brands that have stood out with their support in an authentic and honest way.

The brands doing it right

Airbnb was one of the first brands to respond to the recent Paris tragedy. The brand brought its customers and the wider Parisian community together to offer emergency accommodation to those affected. Airbnb recognised it had a powerful service that could be offered to those in need, and the company launched its disaster response within a matter of hours. Airbnb’s actions went above and beyond merely generating positive brand sentiment – it promoted a sense of community, which aligned with its overall brand messaging.


Likewise, Uber taxied stranded Parisians to safety for free throughout the night and warned travellers to avoid the area unless absolutely necessary.

Caption: Uber updated its app to include the French flag following the Paris shootings.

Service providers also recognised their customers’ global needs. Google offered concerned friends and family free calls to France via Hangouts, as did Vodafone and Skype. Optus and Telstra extended their services to include free calls to Lebanon as well as France. Such crucial services helped ease the anxiety of Australians whose loved ones were in affected areas.

One of the most prominent brands in all this was Facebook. The social media juggernaut had been field-testing its Safety Check tool for the past few years before finally activating it in the wake of the Paris attacks. Though there has been positive sentiment surrounding the tool, many Facebook users took to Mark Zuckerberg’s official Facebook page demanding an explanation of why it wasn’t activated for disasters in Beirut or Baghdad. Zuckerberg responded by announcing Facebook’s plan to “activate Safety Check for more human disasters going forward as well”. Just days later, Safety Check was activated after the bombing in Nigeria.

Forward thinking in these situations goes above and beyond creating a positive brand sentiment – it’s about making a positive impact. As someone in social, I appreciate the responsiveness and foresight these brands brought in the wake of recent tragedies. It’s so easy to get it wrong, so when someone gets it right it warms my heart and restores a bit of my faith in humanity.

Social media planning for a crisis

For those contemplating an emergency response plan, here are some tips to consider:

– Create an escalation plan: Also have the relevant people’s contact details on hand. You don’t want any rogue employees speaking on behalf of the company in sensitive situations.

– Agree on parameters: When do you get involved and where do you draw the line?

– Anticipate questions: When is the right time to change the profile photo to remove the flag? How do you react to similar crises to ensure your brand responds equally to other tragic events around the world?

– Ensure your team understands crisis management and arrange training: Your brand may be fielding a lot of calls for help and your team needs to be prepared.

– Be genuine and, if possible, do something to help: Again, this is where crisis management training comes into play – your stance/message should be understood by every team member.

– Turn off all ads and scheduled communications: This is not the time to promote your products or brand.

– Discuss next steps with your team: When is the right time to resume posting? Should you reconsider launching your next campaign?


Read more tips on marketing and reacting to real-time events.