Holidays can be your social-media calendar’s best friend, the free spaces on the Bingo card in the insatiable drive for online content.
When it comes to striking the proper tone with your organization’s public messaging, holidays can also be your worst enemy.
Take Pride Month, celebrated every June in the United States to recognize the historic contributions of members of the LGBTQ+ community. The journalist Sherina Poyyail recently wrote: “As the clock strikes midnight and we amble into June of every year, you can almost hear the sounds of disgruntled designers and social-media managers who have to create and upload the rainbow [colored] version of company’s logos for Pride Month.”
If your designers really are disgruntled, it’s a good idea to pause before hitting “send” on that Happy Pride Month post. Your organization should only feel confident about making any such statement if it aligns with your brand culture and is already an integral part of your social strategy. Think of your social-media vehicles as the messengers — a mode of communication — rather than the means to defining your organizational stance on a holiday.
That means it will be important to collaborate internally to decide your organization’s stance on a holiday and the people it is designed to celebrate, honor, or remember. Anticipate the tough questions before they arise. Never assume your employees, customers, and/or business clients will be in lockstep on the more-controversial holidays on the social-media calendar.
Here are three tips to consider before issuing any public organizational message in recognition of a holiday:
1. Categorize the holidays and observances on your social calendar by their risk factor, which will help you decide if they should be addressed on your social channels at all:
— Slam dunk: Christmas, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, New Year’s Eve
— Borderline: Flag Day, Valentine’s Day
— Proceed with caution: Juneteenth, Columbus Day, Earth Day, Pride Month
Knowing you’ll want to spend more time discussing the hot-button holidays, carefully decide how each event appeals to your audience and stakeholders. Identify the potential pitfalls, which will vary from organization to organization.
2. For each holiday, ask: is your position clearly verbalized internally to leadership and staff?
Methods of communication vary from organization to organization as well. It’s important for those in positions of leadership to know when and how individuals on staff like to be approached. When communicating with a larger group — internally or externally — use consistent language and tone across all mediums and/or forms of communication.
3. Be prepared to respond publicly to your stance and/or beliefs.
“We have to say something” is not a valid reason for issuing a social-media post to recognize the more controversial holidays and observances on the calendar. If your organization cannot respond to public criticism of a social-media post, it’s better not to issue the post at all.
Not every detail of your organization’s internal discussions will need to be shared externally — in fact, individuals should feel free to share their strongest thoughts and feelings in private. For the days, weeks, and months your staff is most passionate about, it’s OK to reflect that passion in your social-media messaging.
The last step is also the first step: listen. Some customers or clients will only share their feelings about your organization’s holiday message after it has been issued publicly. Take their compliments or criticisms as an opportunity to learn. It will help you understand who is reading, sharing, and commenting on your social posts — positively or negatively. Form a strategy for responding when appropriate.
And don’t forget to celebrate.
John Ferin leads the content strategy and development team at ddm marketing + communications, a marketing agency for complex and regulated industries, including health care, financial services, and global manufacturing.