How to Give Hugs On Social Media: Responding to Tragedy

responding to tragedy on social media

The timing couldn’t be worse: You’re just about to hit Share to publish your latest blog post touting “Tips for Wellness” on social media when a notification interrupts you with breaking news of a mass tragedy. Responding to tragedy on social media was not in your public relations plan for this week.

What to do?

The options are:

1. Share anyway, because…life goes on and maybe no one will notice the timing.

2. Wait on it and do nothing

3. Craft a statement responding to the tragedy and post that on your page instead of, or in addition to, your blog post.

If you decide on option #3, how exactly would you respond to the tragedy on social media?

As a business, it’s probably a good idea to develop a policy or guiding principles to help you navigate how you present your public face with regard to world events. And this is an excellent time to revisit your core values, as well as your vision and mission.

These are the guiding principles I use. And I think it’s also important to share that I am constantly reviewing and refining these, as my comfort level changes with who I am, what my business is, what my role is in regard to the public, and who I am communicating with.

This will be a little theoretical, so if you’re in a hurry, here’s the take-away:

When deciding how to address world events publicly in your business, ask yourself these questions before you post what you’re thinking of posting: “Do I have something constructive to add that is consistent with my business values and the services I offer? What are the intended result(s) for my audience from reading this? Have I given my audience something constructive to take away?”

In Responding to Tragedy on Social Media, Client-Centered Is Still True North

Clients’ needs are still the right focal point for organizing your communications, even when the stress of current events calls you to drop your guard and show your humanity for the sake of creating more beauty, gentleness and peace in the world.

From this starting point, these are some ideas to consider when developing your own policy for responding to crisis events publicly.

Be the Town Square

After a tragedy, we crave connection sometimes to an intense degree.

I still remember the nurse who hugged me after telling me I was pregnant, and said, “It’s okay to cry or shout or something!” as I stood there in stunned, numbed silence.

How did she know to do that? She was just being herself. It’s okay to do that in our response to tragedy, too. By responding with warmth, by reaching out and encouraging others to express themselves, and by modeling compassion, we become a place where coming together can happen. That’s what those long comment threads on Facebook are, aren’t they? The social media equivalent of people pouring out of their houses and hugging in the town square.

Be Generous

In hard times, it’s useful to simply ask yourself, “What might my clients need right now?”

This might lead you to share strategies you yourself use to deal with stress and its fall-outs. You can offer your unique take, hopeful or redemptive story of overcoming or surviving, or simply model to your people the sensitivity and compassion that everyone craves during these times.

You may have to dig deep and ask yourself some hard questions. What business values are violated or challenged by world events, and what is your official response to them? What personal philosophy or beliefs help you cope when others are struggling? What beliefs, values or ideas do you see are causing others added pain that you can point out and help to heal or reframe? How is it possible for someone to go on living, learning, serving, caring for themselves and working toward their dreams in the face of such uncertainty and fear? Any answers you can give to these questions will at least serve to show your clients you are grappling with the same things they are.

Be Constructive

Everyone feels the need to do something constructive and helpful after a crisis but are often at a loss for ideas. This is where you lead by example and invite your clients to join you.

Brendon Burchard’s heartfelt response after the Las Vegas tragedy served as his personal reflections, encouragement and acknowledgement of his followers, and he used the occassion to inaugurate a yearlong practice of writing a Love Letter every Sunday. You can read the entire Love Letter #1 here. 

So, to all those who have remained positive, hopeful, and faithful despite it all, this is a love letter to you.

To those who remember to seek first to understand, this is a love letter to you.

To those who practice those simple but great acts of kindness, this is a love letter to you.

To those who care enough to hold your opinion until you have carefully studied, this is a love letter to you.

To the volunteers, the loving parents, the servant leaders, this is a love letter to you.

We appreciate you.

And we need you now more than ever.

To all, trust this:

The future holds good things for you, and you are stronger than you think.

Remember that most people are very good and kind and working hard for their families.

Take time to appreciate the positive, to speak the positive, to share hopeful dreams, to cheer on others, to embrace those you love, to be thankful.

Listen to that hope in your soul that is asking you to have reverence for life, and to be an even more thoughtful and loving human now.

We can choose to feel anger and perpetuate negativity and hate. Or we can choose to seek peace, to inspire others by remaining positive, to always live through love and service to a higher cause.

I leave Las Vegas inspired because I met so many hopeful fans in the airport. They said they know there is darkness. And so they want to be a light.

And so let us be luminous now, conscious now, tender now.

Be Human

You could think of vulnerability as the special sauce in the nurse’s decision to hug me. What happened in that brief moment is that she breached the professional divide to reach out, human to human. This willingness to be vulnerable and real is, I believe, the one thing that separates the generic from the truly masterful communication during stressful times.

SARK’s response to the Las Vegas shootings exemplifies this. For her followers it was exponentially more poignant, because they know that she recently was married and then widowed in the space of a few months.

“Whatever your expressions are, or aren’t, is okay. Just know that you can and do imagine, and that your imagination is a tremendous gift. It moves beyond thoughts and prayers and joins with the people experiencing whatever the thing is. Your imagination also connects you to action, and action creates new things.

If we all take new actions, we will cause change. It may not arrive soon enough to be satisfying, or even in our lifetime, but it will arrive. So let your prayers, thoughts and energy move you to do something you haven’t done before, and don’t assess that it’s “not enough.” The only not enough is no-thing.



We all live in a moving illusion that everything and everyone will stay the same, and be safe, all while we absolutely know that at some point that they will not.”

Brief is okay, too

It’s also okay to be brief and warm. On day 2 of the California wildfires, I simply posted, “My heart goes out to all those affected by the wildfires in California.”

Responding to Tragedy on Social Media Presents Us With an Opportunity to Lead

As owners of wellness-related businesses, we really should have a response to these tragic events. Our business–and our reason for being in business–is highly relevant to bringing healing and health to those who need it. Events like these create an opportunity for us to be leaders, as our customers and friends look for solace and meaning in the aftermath.

It’s never a wrong time to show kindness, be generous, reveal your sensitivity, and be a humanizing factor in your clients’ news feeds and inboxes, and you don’t have to wait for upsetting world events to start. You can do that now.



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