How and why do brands respond to the Queen’s death on social media?
What goes on behind the scenes?
A few , let’s say ‘unexpected‘ brands have shared condolences in the past 24 hours.
I went to Tiktok to share a few thoughts – but let’s go into more depth.
Why do brands and companies pay tribute to the Queen on social media?
Back in pre-social days, all journalists would contact a handful of notable people to comment on such a momentous occasion.
But now, brands can put out their own statements, for free, whether people are interested or not!
When the queen died, thousands of people who work in social media will have had bosses and colleagues all barking at them.
The pressure internally to ‘say something now ‘ will have been intense.
Many fear a backlash for not posting.
But there’s rarely backlash for saying nothing for something like this – those brands who need to say something will have had this planned for months or years.
However, behind the scenes there will be nerves and colleagues can panic and let their own feelings and wish to share their personal sadness cloud their judgement.
So what do social media managers do, when the news is announced?
First thing social media managers and comms people do is check all their scheduled social media posts to make sure there’s nothing insensitive in there.
Then lots probably cancel all other planned content.
Some will feel posting condolences is a natural thing to do to fill the gap/explain the silence.
And some social media managers might see this as an opportunity to chat with their audience and share memories.
This will be fine if their brand has some relevant link with the Queen – like if they ever had a business visits from her, or charities who benefit from her or her family’s patronage, and of course government and public services.
Brands can do what they want, of course, but they may encounter negative responses from people who feel it’s disrespectful.
A potion of the comments I got on my TikTok about this told me that there is no reason all brands can’t ‘show their respects’.
Well, it’s a matter of opinion. I’m not sure a few words posted for attention fits the profile of showing ‘respect’.
I don’t think many of these commenters actually work in corporate comms and understand the responsibilty to protect the reputation of the brand, and build trust with their communities.
I’m not a royalist, by the way – but I do feel brands should understand how to reflect the mood of a nation.
Ok, so which brands should post, and which should stay quiet?
It’s a judgement call – but, the social media manager is the one who understands what the reaction will be online, so they should take the decision if and how to post.
Well-meaning CEOs or other people who rarely go on Twitter or TikTok, will not understand the nuance and tone required.
If they post, what should brands avoid doing?
Don’t be self-promotional. Make the thing feel like a genuine statement by not trying to promote your brand or service.
I noticed a few brands, like Greggs, choosing photos of The Queen where she was wearing a colour that is their brand colour.
It’s not too bad, but it might get up a few people’s noses, who read that as being a little less heart-felt, and a touch self-serving.
I love Greggs, and they’re the kind of brand that can get away with it – just know the consequences of using things like logos and brand colours on content designed for solemn occasions. It can feel like a promo, which isn’t the best look.
I remember when Prince died, a butcher did a ‘tribute’ to him by creating purple sausages for sale. Prince was vegan.
Why do random brands who have nothing to do with the Queen get involved?
1. I mean, I guess they do it for attention.
Sometimes when our jobs require us to chase increases in social media reach and comments day in day out, during an important public event we can get carried away and forget to consider if the extra attention and engagement will actually harm the brand.
However – usually, there aren’t many benefits to people commenting and sharing to say that you’ve done something in poor taste.
A little algorithmic boost maybe, but if that’s countered by negative sentiment, it’s not worth it.
2. Some just look to others, and want to follow other brands (because it’s tricky to know what to do).
3. Some brands don’t invest in social media professionals, and leave an inexperienced intern to make a huge decision, then blame them if it goes wrong.
So comment and rib a little by all means, but don’t be mean about the ones who get it wrong in your opinion – there is a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff we can’t see.
And we’ve all got tired, and cocked up a little in some way in our careers.
What can social media managers learn for the next sad occasion or icon’s death?
- If your brand has a link to the event or person – absolutely share your brand’s sympathy in a way that is releavant to your audience, and their experience of it.
- Don’t let your bossses panic instruct your strategy.
- Plan ahead, and if you haven’t planned ahead – take an hour or two to respond sensitively.
Unless lives are at risk, or this is some kind of reputational crisis for your brand – you can afford to take your time.