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How do you keep up online marketing while the world’s on fire?


How do you keep up online marketing while the world’s on fire?

The frightening events at the Capitol Building over the last few days have left the USA in one of the most difficult and sad times it has ever known, and that prompted some US marketers to take a step back during the latter half of last week.

Aside from Twitter and Facebook blocking President Trump from posting, there were other examples of companies deciding online silence was the best policy. On Twitter last Thursday, Search Engine Land’s Barry Schwartz quizzed marketers on how they were reacting to events:

Among the responses, one digital agency CMO even suggested brands should pause their campaigns for a few days out of respect. This would echo Blackout Tuesday, which many businesses observed in June shortly after George Floyd’s death.

While we’re not quite in the thick of it like the US is, there have been times here in the UK when it has felt like events going on around us put everything into perspective. The ongoing pandemic is the obvious example, but we’ve had political turmoil ourselves too. The last five years has seen the constant toing and froing of Brexit, which although “done”, will never be fully agreed on by the British public. We’ve also had three general elections, the suspension of parliament (unlawfully, as it turned out) and repeated talk of Scottish independence.

In a time when everything seems to be so chaotic, it can be difficult to judge social media. Is it a good idea to post something jokey and light-hearted at serious times? Will that cheer people up and be a welcome distraction, or could it come across as trite and disrespectful?

With UK businesses already feeling the strain of a third lockdown, few have the luxury of suspending their digital marketing campaigns, so what other approaches could they take?

Another respondent to Schwarz’s tweet said he was taking a different approach and focusing on “positive non-political content”. That might mean sharing positive stories and advice that everyone can get behind wherever they sit on the political spectrum, reminding them that there are other matters going on in the world. If it’s been a particularly dark day, you may want to tone down your use of humour, but you can still be positive and inspiring.

Remember that being non-political is not the same as being politically neutral, which can end up being just as divisive, as clothing retailer Gap discovered with a clumsy tweet at the time of the US presidential election. Of course, some brands choose to align themselves with certain politics, but that’s a decision to be made when setting the company’s values and tone of voice, and is not something we would do for clients unless they clearly ask us to.

Aside from being positive, online marketing should remain factual and focused. Whatever else is happening in the world, people still need the services you can offer and there will be worthwhile points you can make about them. This why we like news articles at Engage Web – you never run out of news, and it can also tie in with what you sell. It’s generally not advisable to use your social channels to discuss politics, but almost all businesses are, in some way, affected by political events and decisions. Addressing this is a good way to show you’re not tone-deaf to what’s happening in the world, yet avoiding stoking political tensions.

If you’re finding online marketing tough in the current environment, speak to us at Engage Web. We want some normality to return as much as anyone, but we’ve also found all sorts of windows of opportunity amid COVID-19, not least the boom in internet browsing and retail.

John Murray

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