Wednesday, September 11, 2019

How Will Your Brand Commemorate September 11?

Waves of Flags, Pepperdine University, Malibu, California
If you were alive on September 11, 2001, your life was forever changed by the events in New York City, at the Pentagon, and in rural Pennsylvania. Terrorism arrived in the United States - and the country would never be the same.

This September marks the 18th anniversary of that tragedy, and while war and terrorism still exist, we will always remember the people who perished on that September morning. And we will always celebrate the first responders who rushed into harm's way.

In those first few days after September 11, 2001, most brands added an American flag to their homepages with messages of condolences for the lives lost. Since social media did not exist, there were no Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram posts that gained hundreds of thousands of comments, likes, or retweets. But today is different. Social media has provided opportunities for everyone's voices to be heard.

On September 11, 2012, President Barack Obama proclaimed the date as Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance. While US government buildings fly their American flags at half-staff, Americans are urged to perform a day of service and make a positive difference in their communities.

2019 will mark the twelfth year that Malibu's Pepperdine University will showcase the annual Waves of Flags, a display of 2,977 full-size flags. There are 2,887 American flags for each American life lost and 90  international flags representing the home countries of those from abroad who died.

No one can forget Budweiser's ad featuring the iconic Clydesdales that aired only once (during the 2002 Super Bowl - here's the link: "The horses pay tribute to the memory of the fallen of September 11th with an unforgettable, breath-taking bow. Many have never forgotten the commercial that never aired again...[Budweiser] had to get approval from members of Congress, the ad community, and from New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani," reported Shirley Washington.

There are some inspiring ways for your brand to commemorate September 11, but you may also wish to remain silent. There are traditional marketing avenues, such as, email marketing, website messages, and advertising. And then there is social media. Your brand can combine efforts with competitors or aligned brands as well.

While some in the marketing arena think it best for brands to remain silent on September 11, the reality is that consumers look to brands to make an emotional connection. When a connection is made, often long-term loyalty happens. On this very important day in American history, people remember the brands that spoke out. So, how will your brand commemorate September 11?

Image Credits: Debbie Laskey Photography and Twitter.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Social Media: Brand Builder or Mission Distraction?

I read a blog post recently with an unusual perspective whose theme has remained with me. 

The title of the post was "Farewell, Twitter," and the writer was Bart Egnal, President and CEO of The Humphrey Group, a leadership and communications consulting company with offices in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, and Mexico City. 

Here's the link for the post:

According to Egnal:

On December 31, 2016, after 3 years on Twitter, The Humphrey Group sent its last tweet. And though we will keep our LinkedIn profile, we intend to invest little time or energy into our social media presence in the coming years.

This wasn’t a snap decision; we had spent 36 months increasing our commitment to, “have a conversation” with our clients, staff and industry voices. We had sent over 1700 tweets. Our Founder, Judith Humphrey, and I both wrote about leadership communication online for publications like Fast Company, the Globe & Mail, and Canadian Business, and shared that content through our social media channels. When my book, Leading Through Language, was published a year ago, I did extensive interviews and used social media to connect with listeners around the world.

But despite all these efforts, we decided that to really do right by Twitter would require us to invest substantial time and energy - and doing so would take our team away from the actual work we do with clients. The result was our decision to shutter the account and continue to focus on building client relationships the old fashioned way: one conversation, one course, one coaching session at a time.

I can’t say whether social media is for you or your company - but I am happy to take a moment to share the lessons we learned through our 3-year foray into social media. One caveat: the lessons we learned may not apply to you or your business. They reflect the fact that our company focuses on business-to-business relationships, does its work in person, and has grown almost exclusively through word-of-mouth. We don’t expect this Twitter shut down to have much impact. Clients can still reach us through email, or even that archaic device, the phone. Whatever method we do initially connect, it’s likely that we’ll end up talking in person. If the last three years on social media have reinforced anything to us, it’s that the ability to actually speak to people never gets old.

(1) Lesson One: If you launch it, they won’t come.

(2) Lesson Two: To be heard on Twitter you must create content - which may require you and your team to spend less time actually doing what you love.

(3) Lesson Three: You can’t outsource Twitter and expect it to be meaningful.

(4) Lesson Four: Meaningful connections are still best forged in person.

There are many reasons why businesses, translation, brands, develop a social media presence. Some do so because the President/CEO thinks it may be necessary. For the more forward-thinking brands, they develop a digital footprint because there is a strategic social media plan, an alignment with the overall marketing plan, that features content that consistently reflects the brand's voice, positioning, and mission. Brands must also have personnel to create quality content on a consistent basis. Without these elements, a Facebook page, a Twitter page, an Instagram page, a LinkedIn page, etc., are simply not possible.

However, to quote Erik Qualman (@equalman on Twitter): "We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it."

What do you think? Have you stopped using one or more social platforms? Please chime in.

Image Credit: Twitter.

My thanks to Bart Egnal for the inspiration for this post. Bart can be found on Twitter at @THG_Bart, on LinkedIn at, his Amazon author page at, and on his company's page at