Following the passing of Her Majesty last week, organsiations including the FA have been criticised for cancelling all football. In contrast, the cricket went ahead with a “spell-binding” tribute and the ECB lauded. It seems people need a collective outlet to show their respect publicly.
With this in mind, many businesses have decided to close on the bank holiday so their staff can watch the funeral. This has caused a backlash from some customers, including those holidaying at Center Parcs, who were told to go home for a day, and people who love their McDonalds.
With so much uncertainty, what should brands do this week? And what are the comms rules for disaster, death and destruction?
Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules – only difficult judgement calls. Jumping to hair trigger, Covid-style cancellations which were previously the safest ways to operate isn’t always helpful. But brands can’t just carry on as ‘normal’.
Firstly, publicly recognise the situation. Not commenting can be seen as a comment in itself. This is a change in the comms landscape first experienced at the time of the Black Lives Matter campaign, when doing something and nothing were both risky routes.
Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, we saw logos turn black, accompanied by pronouncements of condolence. Acknowledgement of a changing situation is often required even if your brand or business is not directly involved or you do not have a robust policy to deal with the situation. But make it personal. If you or your employees can convey a personal connection to the news, it can help bring meaning to your comms at a time when there is not a lot to say. But be careful it doesn’t become about you.
And there are important judgement calls to be made. While you may have paused all usual comms, social and PR activity, there are some issues that are still essential to people lives, finances and wellbeing which can go ahead if handled sensitively, referencing the situation. For example, even on the day of the Queen’s death, energy companies and experts were rightly helping customers with price changes and the cost of living crisis.
On behalf of all of us here at The 10 Group, I offer our heartfelt condolences to the Royal Family. Our thoughts are with them at this very difficult time.