The Dos and Don’ts of Brand Promotion During Negative News Cycles

Michelle Ashby
Nov 09, 2020

In today’s world, it’s important to find that delicate balance between brand promotion and showing empathy during such volatile times. Many companies are challenged with how to appropriately promote their services or products when 2020 has produced a constant flow of unprecedented events from a global pandemic to empowering social justice movements, celebrity scandals, and major natural disasters.

In the 24/7 news cycle, national to hyper-local syndicates are overflowing with high-impact stories every minute of the day. However, companies can’t just “go dark” when things hit the fan because keeping awareness high, especially in a crowded marketplace, is a critical component to any marketing communications strategy. Here’s a few tips and tricks for how, when, where and with whom to (and not to) share your brand’s story:

  • DO: Join Relevant Conversations- Newsjacking is an invaluable method to insert your brand or service in existing, timely conversations. If you can genuinely offer a solution to a problem, helpful guidance and thought leadership, or a useful service for those in need, a timely media topic is the ideal time to execute paid media campaigns or approach reporters.

    DON’T: Newsjack the Negative- While it’s easy to get excited when the headlines complement your area of expertise, it’s important to take a step back and consider if affiliating with the news at hand will positively impact your target audience and – in turn – your sales. If you don’t have a clear answer, it’s likely best to avoid piggybacking on a negative, newsy headline.

  • DO: Lead with the Point- Whether you’re sending a release or writing copy for a promoted social post, in times of global crises or breaking current events, it’s harder than ever to grab – and hold – the attention of reporters and consumers. Increase your odds of impact by keeping your copy short and leading with a call to action or attention-catching assets.

    DON’T: Resort to Click-Bait- Of course, you want to maximize the interest in your announcement as much as possible, but being misleading in your promotion, product or service description will not do you any favors when it comes to customer loyalty. For example, a number of vitamin and wellness brands have received backlash for using messaging implying their consumer goods were “COVID-19 resistant.” While a tactic like this might generate short-term “buzz,” it’s unethical and will likely lead to a brand-damaging reputational crisis.


  • DO: Use Social Media for Direct Engagement- For many brands, social media is a way to quickly engage directly with consumers in real time and in your brand’s voice. Brands that leverage relevant trending topics (when appropriate) on social platforms can be effective in increasing awareness for almost any business. During times of negative news, social media can be used to connect with your audience, thoughtfully engage in important conversations, or offer relevant resources.

    DON’T: Get Too Comfortable- While social media presents itself as a casual engagement tool, being too flippant online, especially about serious topics, can land a CEO, business leader or brand in hot water. Before you hit “post,” consider how followers and consumers will react and whether it’s worth the risk. You don’t have to comment/post as soon as news breaks, and sometimes it’s best to wait until the story fully develops so you can think about your next move strategically.
At the end of the day, all press isn’t good press, and hiring a partner agency can help you identify the right approach, said at the right moment, and delivered to the right audience. Remember, your plans may need adjusting as the media story continues to evolve. The more empathy, understanding, transparency and civility you demonstrate in your outward messaging, the more consumer respect you’ll generate.

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