9/11. No matter where you were in the world, people took a moment (or more) to reflect on the terrible events that took place 12 years ago. And when it came to social media, many brands decided to run their own relevant stories or ‘thoughts and prayers’ for all of those involved. Others decided to go “dark” and not post any content in honor and remembrance of the lives lost on that fateful day.
However, not everyone handled the situation with poise, including several large brands like AT&T and Esquire Magazine. Specifically speaking, the social media ‘fail’ that came from the popular men’s magazine, Esquire, was the apparent mistake of running a story of the infamous ‘falling man’ from 9/11 — next to copy that read “Make your morning commute more stylish: Look good on your way to work.”
Almost immediately, people took to Twitter to show their anger for the insensitivity of the magazine’s layout. Fortunately, the brand responded with an apology for the editorial mess-up. Unfortunately, the brand did so in a manner that enraged fans even more.
Although I’m only an opinion of one, I think this was a very inappropriate way to respond to those who were upset. By using the word relax, Esquire implied that the Twitter community was overreacting. Instead, I would’ve recommended genuinely owning up to the mistake, making sure to leave all “judgmental” statements to the side. Even though an apology was included in the tweet, the impact of it was lessened by the lead-in.
Sadly, this type of insincere communication happens all of the time on social media between brands and their communities. Whether it’s copy that could be easily misinterpreted or content that comes across too promotional in the wake of a tragedy, brands must be 100% aware of what reactions could come about from fans and what to appropriately say in the case that things do go awry.
As a former community manager for several major consumer brands, my team and I handled PR crises with much more sensitivity, as we knew how quickly brand loyalty could be washed away in a blink of an eye with one wrong or insensitive response. I hope that the community manager in charge of the tweet learned from this mistake and will do better in the future. I also hope that the team behind the magazine’s digital strategy will put in a better checks and balances strategy in times of high sensitivity, so a simple reactionary tweet like “Relax, everybody” will be reviewed before going live in the future.