The Aurora theater shooting during The Dark Knight Rises premiere is devastating. The incident will, no doubt, spark bitter discussions of gun laws and emergency preparedness. Despite that, the immediate lesson has been a sober reminder of the delicate balance of using social media as a public relations tool.
I first heard about the shooting from NPR on my drive to work. The statement was short, devoid of details: “There was a shooting at the midnight premier of the new Batman movie in Colorado.” I shook my head, frustrated at the thought, then turned my car off and headed into the office.
I knew a bunch of my co-workers were planning on seeing Dark Knight at midnight so, as I sat at my desk, I formed a related tweet in my head: “I will not be taking off my Beats all day because if anyone ruins The Dark Knight Rises for me there will be blood.”
Before sending it, I searched for the most popular Dark Knight hashtag. Everything related to it was about the Aurora shooting and I immediately realized two things. First; I could in no way post the tweet I had planned. Second; this shooting was a way bigger deal than I first realized.
As I followed the incident on Twitter I came across the tweet that has since drawn a huge backlash: “@celebboutique: #Aurora is trending, clearly about our Kim K inspired #Aurora dress ;)”
No, really. That was my only response. Since then, the company has tweeted an apology stating its PR is not done in the US and the team was unaware of why Aurora was a trending topic. In the wise words of @AndyLevy, “It would’ve taken 5 seconds to check why Aurora was trending.”
In any client-facing role, but especially in public relations (social media, spokes person, press release, etc.), it is critical one understand the conversation he/she is joining. I think Celeb Boutique will survive this gaff because they are a clothing business, but other companies might not be so lucky.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Twitter also provided me with the link to a live streaming of the Aurora city press conference. The press conference was executed perfectly. I am not in Colorado, and I know my friends who do live in Aurora are safe, but I still felt comforted by the press conference. Those who stood in front of the camera were well-spoken, appropriately emotional and right-on with their messages. Everything, from the 24-hour free counseling to the details about the incident early this morning and its current continuation, were open, honest and appropriate.
I hope those in Colorado are able to find comfort in what the city is able to offer at this time and my thoughts and prayers continue for those involved in this situation. My hope is that we come together to support the victims and prevent these situations from occurring again.