Google “What to say at a funeral” and you’ll get about 100 million hits; clearly death makes many of us awkward, bumbling messes just aching to shove our feet into our mouths. Most of us aren’t purposefully seeking out the funerals of people we’ve never met, going up to the family and saying, “You should check out my blog.”
Paying respects with dignity
Even in times of grief, marketers gonna market, but there are ways to join the conversation without looking like you’re capitalizing on a celebrity’s passing (and angering your followers). If you and your company really want to pay your respects, here are a few things to remember:
Carefully consider your relationship with the deceased. Does your company hail from the same place as the departed? Do you work in the same industry? If you answered no to both of these, you’re just fans. And there’s nothing wrong with being fans; fandom entitles you as much freedom to express your grief as anyone else. But under no circumstances should you attempt to manufacture a connection between the two of you — for this is how the worst, most tone-deaf posts are born. And if, for some reason, there’s a bad connection between the person and you or your industry, you’d better own that or the Internet will helpfully point it out to you.
Be understated and trust your audience. Content marketing is already part of the long game, building goodwill toward your brand story over time. So why do so many companies feel the urge to stick product pictures or trendy hashtags into RIP posts? Consumers are not stupid—if you, for example, tweet nothing but a simple purple window after Prince’s passing, they’ll get that you forewent an opportunity to shout out to your latest promotion, and they’ll like you more because of it. Isn’t that the whole point of your social media account?
Make them the focus. There is an inversely proportional relationship between the emphasis your post puts on the person and the amount of hate you’ll get from followers. A simple message of “A legend lost way too soon, RIP” and maybe a photo is totally unobjectionable. When you start to slide in mentions of your weird mascot or you just tweak your logo to tie in the death, you open the door for your benefit of the doubt to escape. The moment is about the person, not your brand, and your post should reflect that.
Want to be part of the cultural conversation? Contact me for more advice on when can you open your virtual mouth and when you might consider keeping it closed.