It’s happened again. A national tragedy leaves the nation reeling, and marketers are left wondering how to proceed and if they can do so sensitively. Every time there is a national or global crisis, there seem to be new questions about how to market in a time of crisis. Carry on as usual? Pull your ads? Change your social media strategy? Acknowledge the situation in your newsletter? 

In truth, the answer is different for every company and every situation. You don’t want to disturb your target audience who may be grieving and you also don’t want to stop your marketing efforts completely–the competition likely won’t. We’re in a time of near-instant communication and it is easy to make marketing mistakes when we don’t have a clear plan for handling difficult, unforeseen circumstances. 

Here are some general principles that can help you navigate difficult times with your marketing strategy. In this blog post, we’ll discuss what to do–and what not to do–when something terrible happens that affects the majority of your target audience like a pandemic.

Acknowledgement is (usually) the first step

You’ll want to tread lightly here but avoiding direct acknowledgement of the reality of the tragedy will become cumbersome for most businesses, especially if the industry as a whole is affected. A cheery ad that was appropriate before the event will fall flat or worse, come off as insensitive. Some businesses can get away without saying anything but since you’re marketing to people, keep in mind that the more human your business can relate to them the better in most cases. 

Acknowledgement can be short and done through a public statement on social media, an email blast to your customers or even a blog post on your website. Expressing sympathy for those affected by the tragedy will establish trust with your audience, and show that you understand the gravity of the situation.

Pause promoting temporarily

Unlike all other times, it is important to avoid being overly promotional in your statement if you choose to create one. Now is not the time to be overtly selling products or pushing new deals. Definitely avoid sandwiching your condolences between advertisements for your products. It’s best to stick with messages of empathy and support in times of collective despair. This will help you maintain your relationships with customers while showing respect for those affected by the tragedy. And this will, in the long run, provide a better outcome for your business’s overall health.

Check your content schedule and adjust if needed

It’s also important to remain sensitive when creating new content and evaluating what is pre-planned for the coming weeks. Avoid anything that could be insensitive or inappropriate in light of the current situation and make adjustments accordingly. It’s a good idea to check in with people who are directly impacted by the tragedy when possible before posting any pre-planned content–even if it doesn’t appear offensive at first glance.

Remember the human

Finally, if you do decide to pull ads or alter your social media strategy, make sure to communicate this clearly and succinctly. This will help ensure that your customers, who are human like you, know you are being respectful of the situation and show them that you care about more than just your bottomline. The people who buy your products are first and foremost human. So are the people on your teams who help run your business smoothly. We know it, but when wrapped up in creating effective strategies we can forget who is making our business profit. Speak directly to their human-ness during tragedy and don’t over complicate the message. The more unnecessary words, the more likely something in your statement or newsletter condolences can be constructed as insensitive.


Marketing in a time of national or global tragedy can be challenging and should be done with careful consideration, but following these guidelines can help you navigate the situation sensitively and respectfully. Remember to check in with your team and take interest in the well-being of your clients who may be affected. By doing so, you’ll be taking steps to build trust with your audience and internal staff during difficult times.