What to Say When You Can’t Say Anything at All

Some would say that the events that have taken place in the first half of 2020 have been cataclysmic. Dramatic as the statement may be, there is no denying that events like Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement have uncovered, or even shifted public priorities quite significantly. 

While there have been businesses that have effortlessly voiced their allegiance to a cause, there are stories of others that have stumbled hard in the eyes of the public. In fact, a handful of businesses have found themselves a target of backlash when they have decidedly kept mum amidst these seismic events. So, the question is, how do businesses communicate during sensitive times? 

As all businesses are unique, there isn’t a cookie-cutter format for communicating to target audiences. However, there are aspects to consider when communicating during these times. Here are some things to remember as the world catches the momentum of a social reformation.

Silence can be heard

Modern consumers are discerning and they often view the products that they use as an extension of their identity. This is the power of market competition and conscientious branding. Many discerning consumers have access to a blinding variety of quality products like no other time before. The next step to this evolution is how these products measure up against social and ethical causes. With that, it is no surprise that social movements will reverberate through consumer attitudes and perceptions. 

Many companies have instinctively elected to remain tightlipped on opinions and their allegiance during sensitive times. While it is the right move for some, others not so much. A handful of businesses have recently discovered that their silence has been perceived as being complicit towards systematic prejudice. 

While it is wise to not react to every hashtag on social media, it is important to keep them in view. After all, businesses that tend to do well are the ones that serve the needs of the people. 

Stay true to facts and objectives

Business operations are often motivated by facts, figures and objectives. Communicating to the audience should not deviate too far from this either. While communication humanises your business, it is important for the messaging to jive with the core values of the business. 

When doing that, business leaders are able to navigate between their personal social stance  with what is important for the business, its employees and customers. One simple way to tackle this is to answer the three key questions before releasing any statement;

  1. How can my business be helpful in this situation? OR, What can I do to help improve this situation for my team and customers?
  2. What is the key message and why is this important?
  3. Does what I want to say measure up to my business objectives and values?

This provides a steer towards any statements that need to be made whilst communicating during a sensitive time. This brings us to the next statement.

Read the room

When the appropriate key message has been developed, it is important to recognise the impact of context and timing in relation to the message. 

Thanks to social media, we have real-time insight into public opinions and priorities like no other time before. It is important to pay heed to this as a poorly timed message can come across “tone deaf” to the audience. 

If you can’t have a stance, be an advocate for knowledge and conversation

Some companies may find it harder than others to firmly communicate their support towards certain social or ethical causes. That said, it does not change the fact that the world is evolving with its people. 

In order to adapt and future proof any communication initiatives, a company should consider investing in educating the staff and management. By opening the floor to respectful and educated conversation, a business can only improve with how in tune they are to the needs of their market in the long run. 

Struggling to navigate around communications right now? Reach out to one of our team members at Digital Glue. We are here to help and we would love to hear from you. 

Alternatively, head to our Insights page to learn more, or join our exclusive monthly mailing list, to get news, hints and tips direct to your inbox.

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