5 Things to Consider Before You Publicly Respond to a Crisis or Tragedy

When the country is in turmoil, how should you respond?

In the wake of unrelenting tragedies that have captured the nation’s attention, silence can be seen as indifference or complicity. That said, there has been a seismic shift in terms of the expectations placed on organizations. You can no longer just respond to a crisis or tragedy by offering your “thoughts and prayers.” Those days are over.

People are interested in action, not platitudes. Therefore, it’s necessary to understand what constitutes an appropriate response before reaching out to your network.

So, here are five things to consider before you start typing.

1. Ask yourself: “Should we respond?”

When the nation’s attention is focused on a single issue, it’s normal to feel compelled to participate in the conversation. First, though, consider if the issue directly affects anyone in your organization or any of your stakeholders. If your organization publicly values diversity, your network may expect to hear from you. Second, determine if your operations could be impacted. If either are true, you should publicly respond to the crisis or tragedy.

However, if a response would directly conflict with your organization’s mission or vision, think very carefully before you issue a targeted response. In the era of cancel culture, often the only thing worse than silence is hypocrisy.

2. Read the Room

If you opt not to respond to a crisis or tragedy, that’s fine. However, do not engage in self-promotion or frivolous marketing campaigns. This is not the time. Because, even if you determine that your audience is not directly or indirectly impacted, your communications will be received as tone deaf, at best. At worst, you could alienate your stakeholders or destroy your brand.

3. Acknowledge Your Role

In this moment, understand your role. Are you a listener or a leader? In other words, are you an ally, or is this your lived experience?

If you’re an ally: LISTEN. Assert your support, link to leaders’ resources, but then take a step back. You can coordinate efforts with leaders, but under no circumstances should you hijack their message.

If you’re a leader, get to work. Immediately. Draft a statement, issue a press release, and launch social media campaigns targeting your supporters and allies. Additionally, you should send regular updates and calls to action as the situation dictates. Likewise, have the resources in place to support these efforts.

People are looking to you for answers. So, you better have them.

4. Be Direct

If an issue is major enough to warrant an organizational response, address the topic head on. Now is not the time for vague language. Assert your opinion. Take a stand.

Don’t speak just to speak. Make sure you have something to say.

5. Consider the Messenger

Is this the time for the Executive Director to speak on behalf of the organization? Or, is this a message of solidarity from your entire team? Perhaps a team member has a personal connection. Amplify these voices. Not only will your message be stronger, it’s also the right thing to do.

Ready to Write?

Before you get started, it can be helpful to review messages you’ve received from other organizations in your network. (If you haven’t received any, refer back to tip #1!)

If you’re still at a loss, we can take over for you. Let’s get to work.

Left Brain Write Mind