Remembering 9/11

It’s been 12 years since that fateful day and although we all swore we would never forget, apparently that’s exactly what some people want. Because of the delicate nature of this tragic event, it is becoming more and more apparent that brands need to be more sensitive than ever to avoid damaging their reputation. Kevin Allen for PR Daily wrote a piece this week on this exact topic and how so many brands were either praised or criticized for their tributes.

The most notable “mistake” came from AT&T when they tweeted this:


At first glance, it may seem innocent enough. But the phone in question is the new Blackberry Z10 and their “tribute” came across as a full blown advertisement instead. An article by Dale Buss for Forbes put it into perspective.  “If Nike tweeted a photo making it seem as if the twin beams were holding up the latest basketball shoe, or an auto brand imagined the tribute lights as the piercing LED headlights of a swanky luxury car pointing heavenward, those images clearly would have been beyond the pale.”

AT&T took the photo down quickly and issued these apology tweets:


Other brands used similar tactics or images but without the shameless product placement. But if we think about it, isn’t any mention some form of self promotion? In articles from Mashable and Digiday, writers argued that “the most respectful thing a brand could do would be to not say anything at all.” This is especially true if your brand has no connection to the events of that day. Exceptions were made, however, for brands that played an important role in the events of 9/11 like the Red Cross.


Many brands just made use of the hashtag #neverforget but some of the favorites seem to be from brands like Sherwin Williams or Canon USA who chose to not tweet at all.


So what can we learn from this?

  1. Be sincere and authentic in whatever message you send. Keep it short and sweet or just let the image speak for itself.
  2. Don’t use this as a promotional opportunity. That means no brands, no products, and no self promotion.
  3. Check your reasons for posting. If you think you have to tweet or post to Facebook just because everyone else is, then you’ve already failed the test.
  4. Silence is golden. When in doubt, don’t say anything. The chances of backlash are much smaller if your brand stays quiet.

For a more in-depth look, check out this video on the twitter fails of the day:


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