When news of the Boston Marathon bombing broke Monday afternoon, many took to social media to share information and concern for those affected. At the same time, some marketers didn’t take appropriate steps to alter their messaging in light of the unfolding situation, causing embarrassment and unnecessarily adding noise to response efforts. While it should be important for any marketer to prevent negative publicity, it's more important to show respect when tragedy strikes. Follow this checklist to ensure your brand communicates appropriately through all online channels in the event of an emergency.

1) Immediately Disable Scheduled Tweets, Posts and Emails

Brands who schedule their posts in advance may cast themselves in a negative light when solicitous messages are broadcasted in the early stages of a breaking news event, especially ones involving injury and loss of life. Every marketing team should have someone responsible for immediately disabling all scheduled social media posts and emails when an event occurs.


2) Alert All Employees

If your employees are active on social media, it's important that they be alerted immediately to breaking news stories in case they also have posts scheduled. Employees who are unaware of a developing situation may inadvertently bring embarrassment to themselves and the brand through insensitive and oblivious comments.

3) Alert Your Followers With Appropriate Updates

For marketers who manage brands with brick and mortar establishments in affected areas, or for those who provide services that may have been impacted or can impact rescue efforts, it may be appropriate to alert your community with appropriate information, such as transportation closures, triage sites and donation efforts. Consider putting together a small task force that can prepare and deliver messaging in times of crisis.

4) Review Content Calendar

Once you're disseminating appropriate information, turn your attention back to your own upcoming marketing efforts. Check your scheduled content, both queued for publication and production, and remove any content that may be insensitive. One innocuous word in a blog post title may take on new meaning following a tragic event.

Optional - Send Condolences

For certain brands, it may be appropriate to post messages of condolence for victims and their families, but avoid pandering or grandstanding. In times of difficulty, however, silence may be the best option for brands.

Avoiding any social media faux pas can save your brand from potential embarrassment, but more importantly, show respect for those who have been impacted.