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Why Companies Should Practice Good Taste in Times of Tragedy and Beyond

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, marketers drew a hard line in the sand as to whether or not "newsjacking" was an appropriate way to promote their companies. While the practice of redirecting the momentum from breaking news in your company’s favor is often lauded by marketers, in this case, the gravity of the devastation made it a highly debateable practice. Image

PR Pro Sally Falkow recently wrote a Social Media Today post on the phenomenon of newsjacking and Hurricane Sandy, but it looks like American Apparel’s Hurricane Sandy Sale and Gap’s promotional tweet went too far with a slew of Twitterati speaking out against the promotions.

Meanwhile, author of News Jacking David Meerman Scott spoke out against a recent post by inbound marketing company HubSpot entitled "5 Hurricane Sandy Newsjacks from Marketers". Although not meant to be offensive or exploitative, HubSpot apologized for the post title, revised the title as "Is Newsjacking Hurricane Sandy Right or Wrong?" and donated $5000 dollars to the Red Cross. While the company learned a hard lesson, their quickness to apologize respond was commendable.

As a study in word-of-mouth marketing, this was fascinating and cautionary to me. On October 30, my own company’s inPowered news embargo was set to lift and we’ve since decided to postpone our announcement to Monday November 5th. In sensitivity to those in our New York and Boston office, as well as to the many East Coast journalists we’ve already briefed, we realized that our launch in the earned advertising space was simply less important than the safety of our partners and friends. If our news had in some way been related to emergency safety, supplies or sustenance, I wonder if we’d have continued to launch.

Sears for example has a special page on portable generators and NY Eater put out a list of open restaurants in New York and Brooklyn. Because these promotions may be deemed as useful to those dealing with this natural disaster, is newsjacking in this case acceptable? Where do marketers draw the line? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. 

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  • SocialFly's picture
    Nov 5 Posted 2 years ago Abbey Huret

    One of the most flagrantly insensitive things I saw post-Sandy arrived in my email the very next day. Groupon's daily offering was promoting "Dinner In The Dark" at a midtown restaurant. I kid you not. Half our city was without power -- did anyone give this any consideration before sending it out? I'm certain there were other offers they could have substituted that day. It was like an airline offering discount tickets after a plane crash. Tasteless.

    More perplexing, comments on Twitter and Facebook were ignored, except for one tweet informing people of their relief efforts. That's nice, but how about taking some responsibility and addressing the faux pas?

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