How to Keep Up with Today’s Speed of Information: What the Ukraine War Has Taught Us

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Ways Brands Should Prepare to React To Current World Events

By Adam Katz, Chief Revenue Officer and General Manager, Sightly

It’s not always clear for brands how to respond when world events heat up, such as what we are seeing now in Ukraine. How can brands prepare, react, and respond to world events in an always-on news cycle?

We see this happen all the time: brands that don’t have a plan in place are left scrambling to cover themselves in the wake of an unexpected controversy. There’s the recent case of Applebee’s and CNN, for example, which saw the brand pull all advertising off the network in response to harsh criticism following a split-screen advertisement alongside live bombings of Ukraine.

But perhaps this could have been avoided if Applebee’s had a centralized plan in place that clarified its perspective on this situation (and many others) so it could respond in real-time when such times of conflict or when any controversy occurs.

While we can’t anticipate exactly how events will unfold, it’s a sure bet there always will be some conflict or controversy to respond to and therefore, having a plan in place is mandatory.

Brands should not feel like their reputations or values are at risk when advertising their products and services. But because of the way existing tools and systems work, the knee-jerk reaction we’ve seen is that many brands are blanket banning search terms like “Ukraine” and “Russia” on all advertising platforms.

If you rely on a strictly reactive approach (vs. an anticipatory one), it’s only a matter of time before you find yourselves in the shoes of Applebee’s. Furthermore, this “block all content” approach does nothing to prepare your brand for how stories, events and trends inevitably develop. Blocking words and phrases entirely very well may block your brand from taking advantage of valuable opportunities that arise.

Developing a Plan as News Breaks Means You’re Already Too Late to the Conversation.

In the case of the Ukraine conflict, there is software out there that saw the beginnings of this moment nine months ago based on headlines and sentiment across the Internet. Even outside of political insider circles, we saw this coming.

And it doesn’t stop here. Today it’s Ukraine and Russia but what about tomorrow’s news? What is tomorrow’s crisis or controversy for which we can be prepared?

The answer? Do a deep dive into your brand’s mentality and prepare a comprehensive, granular profile that addresses the scenarios your brand is likely to face in the market. That way, you’ve already answered the questions and aren’t scrambling to put a POV and a late-to-the-game strategy in place.

So, what do you do if an influencer in one of your creatives comes out with a view of the war that doesn’t square with your brand’s values and perspective?  What will you do if war news comes out about an aspect that does align with your brand’s values and perspective? Having a plan for leaning into opportunities is just as important as having a plan in place for “bad news.”

Looking Forward

The questions presented above only scratch the surface of what a brand needs to prepare for in the modern age of constant communication and breaking news access. Brands should start to anticipate all the unexpected moments that their brand could either support or hinder their ability to connect with their audiences on shared values and goals and ultimately deliver all their desired outcomes.