content isn't always king - man holding newspaper

Content isn’t always king

There’s a time and a place for everything. Discretion is key. Content isn’t always king. Yet the pressure on marketeers to have an opinion or comment on key events is mounting, despite it not always being relevant. Coupled with this, brands are being scrutinised more than ever for every character posted on their owned channels.

To not comment can be as damaging as posting and saying the wrong thing. And the social trolls are out, waiting for brands and marketeers to slip up so they can jump on them. Balance this with internal stakeholders asking what our position is on x, and when we’re saying what about y, and you can see why there’s sometimes a mad panic to get something out, whether it’s the right thing to do or not.

But we need to pause and take a step back.

Everyone has a differing opinion on reactive PR/newsjacking/piggybacking on topical events (whatever you’d like to call it). And there isn’t a set formula or necessarily even a right or wrong answer because every situation is different, and some are unprecedented. The news around the Queen’s passing is a current example, and a sensitive one at that.

There’s been backlash to brands that have simply commented and paid their respects, and similarly backlash to changes in the delivery of services (did the weather updates reeeaaally need to be reduced to pay respect?). This is perhaps on the harsh side when they aren’t overtly trying to capitalise on the situation. And they may think posting as normal is insensitive but are they purely posting to jump on the bandwagon and be ‘seen’ to do the right thing and pay their respects when there’s no direct relevance?

Would the correct approach not have been to observe the mourning period and then continue as normal, maybe with a nod to the scale of the ‘event’. Or have a senior spokesperson from within your company post a sincere and succinct message on behalf of the brand and everyone within the company, rather than comms coming from the brand itself?

I’m not entirely convinced that a Queen Elizabeth II workout was seen as tasteful (sorry CrossFit). And I wouldn’t have been too chuffed if I was meant to be at Center Parcs yesterday either (the swift u-turn suggests that staying silent on the matter may have worked wonders).

The issue with newsjacking is the speed at which you need to do it. But, when occasions are as nationally significant as this, it seems more tactful to pause, reflect and think about the content you’re pushing out rather than be so knee-jerk – especially from a brand perspective.

Some content, for example this thread from steakhouse Hawksmoor, has been thoughtful and considered. It wasn’t using the event as a springboard to launch something new or for self-promotion (although inadvertently you could argue that it’s done just that). It was merely summing up the nervousness faced by brands, businesses and employees when it comes to doing the right or wrong thing, a reflection of the social landscape at the moment.

A key learning is that brands don’t need to have an opinion on everything that happens in the news agenda. Key considerations should be –

·       Does the ‘event’ impact your audience? In what way?

·       Does your brand have a natural link to the ‘event’? Would comment feel natural or forced?

·       Are there any commercial implications linked to commenting vs. not commenting? Could either be damaging to your brand?

·       What’s the purpose behind posting? What will it achieve?

Piggybacking on sensitive events naturally poses a greater risk for brands. There’s one thing launching limited edition Royal Wedding memorabilia but the death of ‘The Queen’ (who has her own entry in the German Oxford English Dictionary apparently) is slightly more delicate.

The irony is there is no correct answer when it comes to whether you should or shouldn’t newsjack. You just need to use your discretion and be sensitive and sensible.

Please note: this blog post is about newsjacking. It is not a piece of content piggybacking on the death of the queen but it might be fair if it’s interpreted as such.

About the author: Amy Airey is CreativeRace’s Communications Director. Amy has extensive experience in communications and PR, working on big name brands such as British Military Fitness, Morphy Richards, Landsec, Barratt Developments, Yorkshire Water and Thomas Cook.