PR on the front line

During the six years that World War 2 took place, it is estimated that 60 million people were killed. A year after the war ended in 1945, former Pentagon employee Al Fleishman reached out to his writer friend and Navy veteran Bob Hillard and together they created FleishmanHillard that helped brands and businesses in general to communicate ideology and culture that spoke true to rebuilding a world in light of peace.

Fast forward 56 years later we find ourselves staring at screens dominated by negative newsfeeds and unfortunate global hashtags dictating loss and sorrow.

The question that needs to be answered now is how do brands, especially global and influential ones, navigate their messaging, content strategy, and paid plans to accommodate the news agenda? And a more important question is how do we accommodate grief? Should brands feel the need to adjust their strategies or turn off promotions every time there is an unfortunate event? Or should we rely on audience such as Twitter user Phil Lorigo to understand it’s just business.


This tweet was posted after the Dallas police shooting.

The answer (or at least a step in the right direction): let’s go back to 1945. As communication specialists it is our duty to guide influential brands online and offline to share a message that is greater than ourselves, the product or service being provided. More and more brands need to participate in conversations greater than this and apply positive messaging.

A key trend in marketing which can be immediately implemented is ‘humanisation’. Research shows to be more human really has a greater impact on the audience. And what better way to implement change is through action. Show rather than tell.

With regards to managing promoted content during times of crisis, is the brand voice and what is being promoted aligned to or carefully circumventing the context of the tragedy? Similarly when a brand tries to utilise a trend: Hanleigh Daniels explains this ‘authenticity gap’ in his latest piece, Dying to make a profitable social connection.

To give an example of brand-association crisis control: if a specific brand of car was used to drive into a kindergarten and detonate a bomb, that car brand should definitely adjust their messaging, remove all online paid campaigns and focus on showing condolence and respect.

Moving forward, is it fair to say communication agencies should feel the responsibility to be able to implement change for a ‘greater good’ through the power of the brands they represent? As 2017 content strategies are being planned may we embrace the spirit of Al and Bob, and create content which speaks in bold strides and share ideologies based on respect and peace.

Written By: Jeanne Lloyd, Account Manager, ContentWorks