Tips On Social Media Engagement During A Crisis

Nov 18 2015

by Nancy McNulty

Originally, my column for this month was going to be appropriate ways for a brand to engage during the holidays; however, last week’s tragic events in Paris shifts the discussion toward more serious considerations.

By late Friday afternoon, the large-scale horror began to unfold throughout Paris. There have been so many tragic incidents over the past year but our strong alliance with France seems to have generated more public horror and outcry in this particular case than with the similar horrors of Kenya or Beirut.

We feel community when we unite in our thoughts for one cause or moment. In a world where we cannot agree on a presidential candidate or team in the Super Bowl, being united against evil is just one small way we can feel empowered and comforted. But as a brand, what steps do you take in your social media messaging during these periods of heightened engagement across all social media platforms?

First, a brand should immediately unschedule or pull any superfluous posts for at least the first 48 hours. When the world is reeling in horror of an atrocity, it is not the appropriate time for your blog on five tips for a festive anything. This behavior is tone deaf to your target audience and everybody is impacted by a world tragedy. And, your festive post showing up in a Twitter, Facebook or Instagram feed during the immediate hours following is simply in poor taste.

Second, engage in the conversation of concern if you have something constructive to offer. A good example to me was Grammy-winning BluesAmericana artist Keb’ Mo’. As they often do, he and his team chose to engage by simply sharing a song; this time, his cover of John Lennon’s song “Imagine” was posted. For non-musicians, using a song as a social media post can also be a very reflective and thoughtful contribution. Yes, “Imagine” is considered controversial by some, but, the intent of “imagine all the people living life in peace” is not lost in the moment.


Third, if you do engage during a crisis, be sure to monitor your page carefully. There is nothing worse than adding your thoughts to a huge story of national interest and then missing any feedback on which you should comment.

Fourth, use caution when jumping on any bandwagon as a brand. In this particular case, we shared National Geographic’s photo of the Eiffle Tower and our own messages of support; but, as Nashville area PR reps of home lifestyle brands, it didn’t make sense to use the Facebook profile photo generator of the French flag. Brands typically do not engage in a trend of the moment, unless they are Facebook. This is also certainly not a criticism and it would be interesting for debate if you posted below why you did or did not use the French flag Facebook post generator.


National Geographic Facebook page, The Southern C
Music and photos help resonate feelings of community during a crisis when chosen well. As a brand, National Geographic does such a great job of engaging during a crisis and posted this within hours after the Paris tragedy.

Moving away from brand conduct during a crisis, I did an informal survey regarding the Facebook French flag generator. Trending behavior in a crisis does fascinate me. Some responded they didn’t do it because they don’t like trends and fads and others responded “more than just France needs support and prayers.” One of my favorites was “I did it because it’s a visual representation of President Kennedy’s assertion that there is more that unites us than divides us.”

Facebook French Flag Generator, The Southern C
Although seen as too trendy by some, others felt comfort in the solidarity of showing support through the Facebook French flag generator. Let us know if you used this below in the comments and why.

Most importantly, whatever stance you take on behalf of a brand or yourself, it must be authentic without any hint of being exploitive or opportunistic.




Nancy McNulty View More Blog Posts from this Author

Cool, new and different is the mantra driving the public relations efforts of our company, Forest Home Media. Based outside Nashville in the historic Forest Home area, as a PR rep, I love working with a variety of home lifestyle companies including the 2014 Nashville HGTV Smart Home builder and served on the PR team for Southern Living Idea House at Fontanel. A long-time Tennessee girl with a communications degree from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, my career began as a newspaper reporter and a state agency spokesman. Connect with me at

Leave a Comment

2 responses on “Tips On Social Media Engagement During A Crisis

  1. Dana Tucker

    Great post! Loved the discussion on why people used the flag generator. I also thought FB did a great job of extending its platform by offering the flag profiles and the “safe check-in” feature. Once again, FB wins the day!

  2. Ruthann Ross

    Great article Nancy! We were curious about the bandwagon nature of the reaction to the Paris Attacks. I’ve seen only 2-3 posts about Kenya and have to wonder about that. I assume it’s because so many people have actually been to Paris and feel a connection and felt it a safe place whereas Kenya is likely the opposite of that for most people.
    Anyway, thanks for a thought provoking discussion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts