The news drives the day for many people, and it is both good and bad. Sometimes the news is about brands themselves, but even if a story isn’t of a direct PR concern, marketers and social media managers ought to care about them because their customers care about them. By engaging in broader conversations, brands become relatable, and therefore build positive equity with consumers.
In that sense, social media is like day-trading in attention. Content platforms provide positive and negative attention, and both present opportunities for brands.Positive attention would hypothetically include instances such as heartwarming stories, funny viral videos, lighthearted controversies, and other “fluff.” Negative attention includes outrageous stories, viral videos featuring injustice, political controversies, and the like.
How a brand handles a positive story isn’t the same as how it handles a negative one. Positive stories offer much more creative license, because the content is lighthearted. A silly, innocuous viral video like pizza rat presents opportunities for Pizza Hut, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or even the City of New York to acquire, use, and parody to their benefit.
A negative story requires a bit more of a deft hand. While dinosaur brands traditionally avoid anything having to do negative press or controversy, negative buzz around one’s own brand cannot be ignored, and the smartest brands strategically and intentionally engage with controversy.
Starbucks, for example, has built a successful reputation partly around activism, and not in spite of it. It was not a sacrifice but a boon when the company vowed to hire 10,000 refugees, demonstrating social engagement and generating free press for the brand. The decision was controversial, but overall company reps say the decision did not hurt the brand. And, as a result, more people may affiliate purchasing Starbucks products with helping others.
Positive social media buzz offers ongoing free content for brands. Negative or controversial stories create opportunities for brands that want to become leaders. Every day there are fresh opportunities to join broader conversations and position your brand as one engaged in culture.