The Need for Silence on Social Media

Guest Post by: Sydney Wilcox, student

The role of social media in today’s world is one that has truly defined a generation. The affect that social media has had on the way our culture communicates is truly fascinating. Not only has it shaped the way that individuals communicate, but it has also opened up a new stage for organizations to reach out to their consumers. In today’s world there is no such thing as strategic communication that does not include social media. That is just the reality. The questions and concerns that come along with this new form of two way communication are, is there ever a time when organizations need to silence their voices on social media out of respect for a community in pain?

It seems to me that social media has become such a necessary tool in strategic marketing that organizations will do or say just about anything to get a like, retweet, favorite, etc. This can lead to companies posting things on social media that are gravely disrespectful and insensitive.

NARSThis past week the United States came together for an annual day of grief to remember those who were lost on September 11th, 12 years ago. As a product of my generation the first thing I do each morning is scroll through my twitter feed. I usually awaken to the usual complaint about schoolwork, or classes, or the occasional funny anecdote that a peer of mine managed to skew down to 140 characters. My stomach dropped, however, when I noticed that not a single tweet was about anything but September 11th. I felt torn between the feelings of irritation and understanding. As Americans we are expected to, and should remember, this horrific day in our history. Though I acknowledge the importance of this remembrance, I found myself peeved by the fact that everyone had something to say, as if they all were personally connected. Individuals and organizations alike were trying to make this day about them. I was blown away by the tweets I found where organizations were shamelessly trying to create promotions out of 9/11 by bringing attention toward their companies. This is not an isolated event, companies using community crisis to connect with their consumers and bring attention to their company is becoming a reoccurring problem in our culture.

It led me to wonder, why on a day of such sadness is it no longer okay to reflect inward with silence? Instead, both individuals and organizations must prove that we remember. I believe that this need to be constantly heard is wrong, and there is, without a doubt, a time for silence on social media. A time where less is more, and creating a promotion out of a crisis is in bad taste.

Organizations NRAlinking themselves to crises in an attempt to receive attention or simply not being conscious of current events is a problem. This too often results in posting disrespectful texts, which have become a reoccurring theme in today’s media. That needs to be addressed.

CelebThese three companies used social media as a way to connect with their consumer base in a time of crisis, or simply out of ignorance posted inappropriate things on social media during these times. In today’s times it is a company’s social responsible to remain constantly informed and conscious of what they are saying to their publics. It is also essential for us, as individuals, and as organizations to act out of public interest, not self-interest. There are times where no words are needed, and a promotion is simply unacceptable.


Discerning Rolling Stone

Guest Post by: Miles Hendrick, student

Throughout its history, Rolling Stone Magazine has dealt with public discernment on multiple occasions, often due to controversial images and articles. These controversial images and articles that draw negative feedback from the public often involve ethical issues, such as a cover photo that may be seen as racy or insensitive or an article that contains graphic or even false information.

BomberOne of the more recent public controversies Rolling Stone has faced has come from the magazine’s August cover and article featuring one of the Boston Bombers. The controversy caused by the August Rolling Stone issue demonstrates some major ethical questions in American culture and journalism. By simply covering terrorists are journalists glorifying and encouraging attacks on America?  Should journalists investigate and report on the lives of terrorists? Should there only be one way to investigate and portray a terrorist in the media?

The August 2013 cover of Rolling Stone featured Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the men responsible for the attack on Boston this past April. The cover and the article caused a public uproar and some stores even refused to sell the magazine because some believed that the magazine was glorifying a terrorist by making him look like a rock-star rather than a monster. This uproar can be explained when viewing American culture and the country’s recent history with terrorist attacks. People in America often have a predetermined idea of what a terrorist should look like and how the terrorist should be portrayed. Americans have become used to seeing publications such as Time or Newsweek portraying people who threaten America, such as Saddam Hussein or Osama Bin Laden, as monsters that America must destroy. The cover of Dzhokhar Tzarnaev did not fit this portrayal.

This preconceived idea of how people who execute attacks on America should be portrayed in the media demonstrates the conflict between the Enlightenment view of truth and the pragmatists’ view of truth. The Enlightenment view of truth was based on a principle that facts were facts and the proper way to investigate stories was through the scientific method. In the case of Tzarnaev the facts were he was responsible for the deaths of three citizens and the injuries of hundreds. Some people just wanted these facts to be investigated and only wanted to hear one side of the story so that the American public could reason together and arrive at the shared truth that Tzarnaev was a monster. But the controversy arose when Rolling Stone decided that there was not just one method to investigating the story and therefore there was not just one side to the story. Rolling Stone decided to investigate Tzarnaev’s life before the bombing and explore how he was once a popular and promising student whose surroundings developed him into a danger to society.

I do not believe that Rolling Stone was wrong by investigating this side of Tzarnaev’s life. If the journalist discovered that Tzarnaev was once a young man filled with promise and popularity who eventually turned on society Rolling Stone should not be forced to focus only on his attack on society. I also believe that Rolling Stone had the right to use a personal photo of Tzarnaev because the article focused on Tzarnaev’s personal life, and not just his role in the bombing or the hunt leading to his to capture. Overall I feel Rolling Stone’s coverage of the issue was ethical and it did not deserve public scrutiny because the magazine was not glorifying Tzarnaev for his role in the Boston Marathon bombing, rather it was investigating a different side of the story.

Branding 9.11

Brands that try to leverage 9.11 generally do more damage than good. CBS58′s Bill Walsh did a nice exploration of the convergence of culture, commerce and national identity and I added commentary.

ATT tweet Never ForgetDid AT&T really think using 9.11 and rays of light where the twin towers once stood in their “never forget” tweet was patriotic? Consumers can see though this charade. They know full well AT&T is trying to sell them a new phone. Worse, consumers are insulted and the brand is tarnished – and when it’s a big brand consumers will “never forget.”

LakersDid the LA Lakers honestly believe Kobe Bryant had anything to do with 9.11? And Kobe Bryant of all choices! What were they thinking? Whatever their thoughts, they were delusional. Kobe Bryant and 9.11 are a pairing I’d prefer to forget.





Go Alabama and remember Bear Bryant on Facebook on 9.11. What? OK maybe it is the day Bryant was born. But what his hat has to do with commemoration of 9.11 I do not know. I suspect there are other anniversaries that can be used to promote the Alabama brand. Ouch!



Some poor schlep at a California Marriott franchise decided to give free mini-muffins, “in remembrance of those we lost.” Oh my! But then, the corporate apology – if one can call it that – added salt the wound. “We sincerely apologize for the perceived insensitivity.” Perceived! Really, spare us the “apology.”

WI golf


The topper – 9 holes of golf for $9.11. Shame on Tumble Down Trails and shame on The Wisconsin State Journal for taking the ad.

9.11 might best be remember without brands. And for brands who just have to make a statement – go dark. Silence is golden, in this case.