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Should brands promote their efforts to help hurricane victims?


The last few weeks we’ve watched friends, families and colleagues struggle in Texas and Florida with two of the biggest hurricanes to ever make landfall in the U.S.

We’ve also watched a number of brands make the same mistake we’ve been watching brands make for years–attempting to “capitalize” on a horrible situation that literally involves life-or-death scenarios.

Most of those have been fairly obvious. But what about the brands that are truly doing great things to help? What about the brands that are donating millions to the recovery efforts? What about the brands that have truly unique and interesting stories to tell about how they’re helping in this areas?

Should those brands be promoting these stories and efforts?

That’s a different scenario.

But, I’m not so sure the answer isn’t the same as the answer to the scenario mentioned above.

And that answer is: “Don’t do it.”

Here’s the scenario I imagine played out across the U.S. the last few weeks. Many companies are dealing with this.

Scenario #1: Company A makes a major donation to the Red Cross in an effort to help citizens (including customers) in the Houston area. Company A’s CEO approaches the PR team asking, “Why aren’t we promoting this on social media?”

Scenario #2: Company B is taking great strides to make sure employees in the Naples and Fort Myers areas are supported in the recovery efforts. They’ve gone to extraordinary lengths, and they have some fantastic, heart-warming stories, as a result. The COO of the company is asking the PR team, “Why aren’t we leveraging these stories in the media? Don’t they eat this kind of stuff up?”

Either of these sound familiar? I bet they do. Maybe not this week, or last week, but I bet you’ve run into something similar if you’ve worked in PR for any length of time.

What’s the best answer?

In both the instances above, the best approach is to resist the urge to go down this road. There are a couple reasons why: 1) Huge noise–and, worthwhile noise, I might add. Hundreds of thousands of people are trying to get their lives back in order right now. That’s the priority–not your brand. 2) Blowback could be big. Risk management 101. What are the chances of huge blowback against your brand online? Depending on the story or the news hole, pretty decent, I’d say.

Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t share these stories and talk about your efforts internally with employees. In fact, they’re an absolute key audience in these situations.

But sharing externally? That’s a different situation. And one you should wade into very carefully.

As a wise friend said to me recently: “Not every situation needs to be capitalized on.”

Couldn’t agree more.

photo credit: MyFWCmedia 20170913 Irma Governor Clay County flooding 18 via photopin (license)



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