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We were all preoccupied with the news last week, weren’t we? Some were glued to TV Wednesday afternoon, riveted by the images of mayhem at the United States Capitol. Others relied on Twitter for updates. And some got firsthand reports from friends at the front, texting or calling from Washington D.C.
Then there was the follow-up on Thursday and Friday. Analysis of security failures—how did something like this happen in the nation’s capital? Exploration of the perpetrators—who are these people anyway? And speculation about political fall-out for the president and his pals in Congress.
It was all-consuming, and for most of us upsetting. I’d guess I’m not the only one who got caught up in the coverage and didn’t get much work done.
I’m also not alone in wondering. When we’re all engrossed in a huge national news event, does business go on as usual? Or do we just let everything else slide for a day or two or three?
At branding agency CultureCraft, founder Nick Richtsmeier came out for quiet with an early warning on LinkedIn.
“Businesses and social media managers: It is a day in America like no other in recent memory. Turn off your auto social posts and pause your email campaigns. Nearly anything you do right now is going to be counterproductive and tone deaf.”
A lot of us must have felt the same way. It was noticeably quiet on LinkedIn. People were preoccupied by the violence in Washington. They seemed to be skipping the usual marketing messages, inspirational posts, and videos.
Big companies, though, jumped right in with comments about the furor in Washington.
Apple CEO Tim Cook: “Today marks a sad and shameful chapter in our nation’s history. Those responsible for this insurrection should be held to account, and we must complete the transition to President-elect Biden’s administration. It’s especially when they are challenged that our ideals matter most.”
CEO of Citi, Michael Corbat: “I am disgusted by the actions of those who have stormed the U.S. Capitol in an effort to disrupt the certification of the Electoral College, a process mandated by our Constitution as part of our practice of peaceful transitions of power between presidents.”
General Motors CEO Mary Barra Tweeted: “The peaceful transition of power is a cornerstone of American democracy, and regardless of politics the violence at the U.S. Capitol does not reflect who we are as a nation. It’s imperative that we come together as a country and reinforce the values and ideals that unite us.”
There were many more along the same lines; most of them sounded pretty much the same.
Which raises the question. Do we need to know what a consulting firm or mobile phone company thinks about the assault on the U.S. Capitol?
And what about smaller businesses like, say, yours. Or mine? Could the outrageous events unfolding in Washington D.C. be, as Nick Richtsmeir suggested, a cue to be quiet?
He posted the day after the insurrection: “Some of you are thinking you need to put out your company statement about yesterday’s events. I promise you, you do not.”
An alternate point of view from Ragan’s PR Daily, where they say silence is no longer the “safe” play. Instead, these communication experts say businesses should speak up about what’s going on.
They say it’s a mistake to proceed as if nothing’s happened or wait until the heat dies down and hope that the news cycle moves along quickly.
“Employees, customers and others expect companies to have a point of view on the difficult and traumatic issues facing the nation.”
I have to say, my clients probably do expect me to have a point of view (about almost anything!) but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re interested in hearing it. So, it never occurred to me that I needed to put out a statement about the events.
At the same time, it didn’t feel right to ignore the news and post some unrelated information because social media is part of my marketing mix.
So, I acknowledged our situation in my day-after LinkedIn post. And posed a question:
“Inc. says business owners worry about the economic consequences of what’s gone on in Washington. The big concern: “Running a company at a time of massive uncertainty, which is only exacerbated by the nation’s democratic principles coming under fire.”
Businesses in Washington and some state capitals are bringing in extra security for fear of violence and vandalism … Beyond that, how do you see the turbulence affecting businesses like ours?”
There were responses about distraction, emotional reaction to the Washington chaos, and concern about future disruptions.
It was the sort of exchange people who work together in an office might have over coffee. And it seemed to find a middle ground between pontificating about social issues and ignoring what was right in front of us.
So I’m curious about you. When it comes to putting in your two cents’ worth about the big issues and events that capture so much attention, how do you respond? Are you a business-as-usual person? Do you let the world know what you’re thinking? Or do you keep quiet until it blows over?
Post a comment about your response to things like the summer protests against police or the aggression at the U.S. Capitol.