Yesterday’s events in our nation’s Capitol were ones we will not forget as Americans. While the world watched on, the seat of our democratic Republic was illegally breached, and our elected leaders, staffers, and other civil servants were forced to evacuate to safety. No matter which side of the political aisle you identify with, a nearly universal reaction among us all has been one of shock, sadness, and uncertainty about what this means for the future.
I’m writing to reiterate that, now and always, words matter. The Bible has a great deal to say about the power of our tongues, calling them both swords that can be sharpened and “aim cruel words like deadly arrows” but also uttering wisdom, proclaiming praises, and – where prudent – staying silent. On the very deliberate and carefully chosen words of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, our nation was created and has been sustained for 244 years.
As communications professionals, our team is committed to the highest level of professionalism at all times. In times such as these, we – and you as business owners and leaders – have a choice to make between connecting with our audiences using sales-and-marketing speak, per usual, or standing among them as a fellow human… someone who understands what we all feel right now: that what we witnessed together yesterday was difficult and has a left a mark not easily erased.
Think before speaking
During yesterday’s tumultuous events, I made the decision to pause flourish’s social media and other outgoing communications temporarily, and I recommend that you do the same. In place of pre-approved, planned content or announcements, I encourage you to seek out a different message more befitting of this moment in time. Last night I consulted with a consortium I belong to of senior public/media relations professionals and journalists from across the U.S., and it was unanimously agreed that the right thing to do right now is to refrain from sending any messaging that does not acknowledge what we’ve all just collectively experienced. In other words, a press release announcing a new hire, or a social media post touting your latest success would be not only ill-timed but carry the consequence of your business’ seeming tone deaf in a time when people want and need to hear words of assurance from those around them. They expect that from brands right now.
Okay, so what do I say?
The way you communicate right now doesn’t have to be devoid of your brand. In fact, I believe it would be more powerful and well received if you infuse your unique voice and brand values into whatever you choose to say. For example, those in the hospitality business could consider inviting those who need a space to process all of this into their welcoming environment. Those of you who create and sell products might opt to display those in warm, comfortable settings with messages of comfort, or conversely, take a product that’s made to last a lifetime and compare those attributes to the spirit of America. Those of us in professional services can recognize the service of all the many selfless helpers who transformed yesterday’s chaos into a calm that allowed our Congress to do the good work the Constitution requires for a peaceful transition of power. Please know that we are here to help you. Not all of us are gifted with writing. So, if you’re one of those folks, I would love to be able to come alongside you and help take what you want to say and turn it into something that will reflect admirably on you and your company.
When will this end?
How long does this departure from your marketing plan need to last? My peers and sources that I trust in my industry are saying that there’s no magic number of days, but the consensus is that it would be wise to embrace a different tone for up to a week. Naturally, we will see how things unfold in America as we approach President Elect Biden’s Inauguration on January 20. For now, the yesterday’s fires have been extinguished, and it’s up to our nation’s leaders – supported by business and clergy – to come together to rise from those ashes, and become the America that everyone needs right now.
Above all, remember…
In closing, I encourage you to adopt an empathetic posture while supporting America’s comeback. Step one is knowing what to say, when to say it, and to remember that your audience is watching.