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Social Sensitivity Scale: Memorial Day

author: Scott Covelli

Written by: Scott Covelli

Public Relations Supervisor


  • PR

Barbecues, the unofficial beginning of summer, a Monday off of work … there’s a lot of fun and positivity around Memorial Day, right? Well, yes, but that doesn’t tell the full story. In reality, Memorial Day is meant to be a solemn holiday. If you work in social media, you should use extreme caution.

Memorial Day registers at a “4” (out of 5) on our Social Sensitivity Scale, which means it carries a strong danger of creating a PR disaster based on a social media post or campaign. For more info on this series, check out the introduction blog post, and use this scale for reference.

Unlike Independence Day or even Veterans Day, Memorial Day is specifically meant to honor those who died in the line of duty serving our country. More than the other two, there’s a heavy undertone of reverence.

So if reverence is the key, you should probably post about remembering fallen soldiers, right? Not so fast.

A canned “let’s remember our fallen heroes” message is fine, but it can ring hollow. On a larger scale, managing a brand’s social media content means you should always having a reason for posting. Never post something just for the sake of posting it. If you’re a leading vacuum cleaner brand, your fans don’t need you to remind them that it’s Memorial Day. They have off of work. They slept in. They know what day it is.

There’s a term for this now: the buzz wedge. A buzz wedge happens when a brand sticks its nose (wedge) where it doesn’t belong in order to capitalize on a trending topic (buzz) on social media. It’s often used for marketing purposes, but brands also use it just to awkwardly contribute to the conversation. In reality, it usually just noise.

In this context, John Oliver wisely put it, “your silence will never be controversial.”

However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t post a reverent message about Memorial Day. It doesn’t even mean you can’t have fun with it. This is a “4”, not a “5”, after all. It does mean that you should know your audience and know what you’re trying to accomplish.

Continuing the vacuum cleaner brand example, if your company is partnering with an organization that donates household items to families who have lost a parent in the line of duty, please post about it. If you have a blog post about tips on cleaning up after a Memorial Day get-together or barbecue, that’s relevant, but just be careful of the true meaning of the day. If you have something of value for your fans or if you’re truly connected to the holiday or to a cause, this is a great way to show that your brand has depth.

The problems arise when you:

• Make light of an otherwise reverent or somber holiday
• Try too shamelessly to squeeze your products where they don’t belong
• Post just for the sake of posting

So we have four dangerous words for you: use your best judgment. The key is to know your audience and know your goals. When in doubt, just keep quiet. No one is going to be upset that their favorite vacuum cleaner brand didn’t “remind” them to honor fallen soldiers.

Work Hard and Be Nice to People


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