Posted by eireland 1 year, 5 months ago

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These two articles caught my attention after Prince died:

Mashable "Brands awkwardly try to pay tribute to Prince"

Adweek "Brands post tributes to Prince, but struggle to make them Heartfelt and Not Promotional"

Death can often bring out the worst in brands, and people, on social media. I’ve been thinking about this for years. It’s obviously a sensitive subject so my opinions may be unpopular. One of my friends said it best recently that “grief is selfish.” Attach that selfishness to social media and it can be the perfect storm of narcissism.

I remember reading endless Facebook posts dedicated to a friend that passed away a couple years ago. Every other message was someone he hated, or barely knew, going on and on about how they couldn’t cope with this incomprehensible loss. I just felt disgusted. My social feed looked more like a contest to showcase who knew the man better than a forum for genuine tributes.

I’m a Prince fan, always have been, so this one hurts more than I imagined it would. Here I am rockin' my raspberry beret. The only appropriate accessory for braces and a spiral perm! 

I have mixed feelings about whether or not brands should hop on the trending topic of the day. Many times, I think it’s an exercise in futility that will get lost in the tsunami of white noise unless you have something truly authentic to say. 

Here are some thoughts, probably just as relevant to people as it is to brands, when approaching social media upon hearing tragic news:

  • Does your brand have a clear connection to the person who passed away? If the answer is no, it’s probably not appropriate to comment. Instead, find someone within your company who has a personal story to share. I liked how TODAY posted a video to Facebook of Prince surprising Bryant Gumbel on set in 1997. I also felt Chevy’s Tweet was appropriate given the iconic song. 
  • Take yourself out of the equation — This isn’t about your brand or you. When coming up with the creative focus on the person you’re honoring, not product placement. Otherwise you’re running the risk of these little humiliations i.e. the Mashable and Adweek articles. 
  • Ordinary can be extraordinary — A knee jerk, and understandably so, for companies and media outlets is turning to celebrities to help honor someone. However, it's often reaction from ordinary people that is the most moving. I'm so happy this student’s Twitter video of her teacher hearing the news went viral. There is a reason why it got so much attention — it's relatable. Remember that sentiment when concepting your own response. 
  • It's OKAY to wait for the dust to settle — Being FIRST isn’t important after someone passes away and if it is, then you need to check your ego. Take time to come up with something REAL before posting. 

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