Turning Tragedy into Goodwill: How Companies Can Influence Social Culture

Thoughts and prayers are wonderful. But they are never enough. And they do eventually begin to sound trite.

Tragedies, natural and manmade, are happening all too often in our world. Our first reaction is to share our good thoughts and for some, prayers, for those impacted, donations for those left with nothing. But there is something else we can do as well. There must be. We cannot stand by and think to ourselves, ‘what a shame. Not again.’

Leaders of companies, nonprofits and organizations alike must do our part to change the culture in which we work. When something heartbreaking happens, what CAN we do?

  • Every company should have a policy for social media posting in the event of natural disaster or violent incident. Some companies post a “thoughts and prayers” type post for every event of any kind; some categorize and post only after natural disasters, or only after loss of human life. Other companies post if their customer base or employees are directly affected. Others opt for radio silence.
  • Acknowledge human suffering; allow time for mourning when it needs to happen.
  • Model compassion and generosity. Be kind. Say ‘thank you’ and ‘please.’ Simple gestures and thoughtful words do make a difference in someone’s day.
  • Participate, as an organization, in the local community. Not just giving money or items, but spending time with neighbors outside the company and truly connecting with the issues that affect the area.
  • Hold employees accountable for contributing to hate and distress, even in very small ways. If a coworker shares something cruel or distasteful, let them know it’s unacceptable.
  • Recognize compassion and generosity in employees. Either publicly or privately, let them know how much their actions meant to you or your colleagues.

The recent hurricanes (Irma, Jose and Maria) left hundreds of thousands of people stranded, with nothing.  Our company surrendered the modest C-Suite (3 offices, kitchen and bathroom) to take in evacuees for several weeks. We all had to share desks and offices, and it got pretty cramped at times. But everyone contributed, and worked together. Clients who knew about the evacuees, inundated us with offers of food, clothing, and toys. We got a glimpse of  humanity at as its best.

We can’t always prevent tragic events from happening, but we CAN control and change the cultures within our companies. Companies have an incredible power to change the world for good, bring us back to our shared humanity.

Bridget Paverd is the Senior Partner of GillespieHall, a full-service marketing and public relations firm based in Hockessin, Del., with a recognized niche in crisis management, brand rejuvenation, and integrated digital communication. Visit www.gillespiehall.com to learn more.

GillespieHall Senior Partner ◆ Crisis Management & Business Reputation Specialist ◆ Digital Marketing & Branding Strategist.
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