Marketing during a “social dilemma”

Maybe you’ve seen it on Netflix: The Social Dilemma. The documentary uses the words and experiences of former tech employees to convey that their past employers are eroding the foundation of our very society and, more specifically, eroding the world’s democracies. It’s, well, apocalyptic.

If you live and work in a connected world as most of us do, the documentary is shocking, downright scary.

It is so 2020! As if a pandemic and social unrest weren’t enough, next came wildfires, floods and hurricanes making it feel like half of America is on fire with the other half under water. Add in a presidential election that is tearing at the very fabric of the American electorate and, I suppose, it makes perfect sense that it’s the tech giants that will finally do us in.

I am not so sure.

There will be life after the pandemic, but it may be different. Social justice protests (not unlawful looting and rioting) will make us a stronger and more equitable country. Fires will extinguish, floods will recede, our awareness of climate change will be heightened and our American experiment with democracy will survive and continue regardless of who is elected President.

I am more certain that before any or all of this gets better, even if noticeably different from before, how you decide to communicate with your mission-critical audiences during this historic tumult is not a task for the faint-of-heart.

COVID-19 communications seem to be constantly changing. Proper care and caution regarding this virus seem to differ with every news source. And, let’s not even get started on how politics seem to influence whether and how to take preventative measures.

Company marketing and communications, whether internal or external, feels to many like an ever-shifting minefield despite the best of intentions. Fires, floods and the ubiquity of tech-based communications just add to the confusion (assuming they aren’t indications of the imminent apocalypse).

When in doubt, simplify, be transparent and honest to the values of your company or product. Be prepared to apologize and restate — quickly. Do not get stuck in neutral. Lead, don’t follow.

Take a moment to read this blog post by my colleague Stacy Delk, our V.P. of Client Services, titled, “Communicating when there are no good options.” She offers these helpful tips:

  • Be prepared. Thoroughly understand how decisions will affect various audiences.
  • Be transparent. Don’t insulate yourself. Being open is virtuous.
  • Be honest. Speak full truths. Don’t spin.
  • Be available. Provide channels for quick dialogue.
  • Be empathetic. Extend thanks, request patience or flexibility, offer help.
  • Be there. When it’s hardest for them, be there.

It may seem like there are no good options, but not communicating or, worse yet, saying a lot without meaning anything, are the worst options of all.

By |2020-10-15T14:28:32-04:00September 28th, 2020|crisis communications, marketing strategy, vehr news and perspectives|Comments Off on Marketing during a “social dilemma”

About the Author:

Nick Vehr
If Nick ever needs a personal slogan, a good one would be, “I’m open!” Whether catching passes as a Notre Dame football player (including from Joe Montana) or tackling any personal or professional challenge with a “We can do this!” enthusiasm, he’s open. That game attitude informs every project he takes on – and he’s taken on countless complex ones, including serving as managing director for the massive World Choir Games and founding Cincinnati 2012, Inc. to pursue designation for Cincinnati as a “U.S. Olympic Bid City.” Thanks to his varied background, from his past as a Cincinnati City Council member to his present as chair of the Economics Center at the University of Cincinnati, Nick understands the tough issues. Which is why anytime things hit the fan for a company, organization or local influencer, they call Nick.