Did Comms Professionals React Correctly In The Aftermath Of The Queen’s Death?

This past week, the PR, marketing and comms world experienced something it never had before when the death of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II was announced on Thursday evening. Any industry pro knows if there’s something we’re good at, it’s adapting to change and thinking on our feet, especially in the PR agency world.

Many brands began frantically posting social media messages some of which came under scrutiny of the general public, with suggestions that the posts were ill judged or in poor taste.

A bizarre photograph from Clutch Points which pays tribute to Queen Elizabeth II


Crossfit UK’s tribute to Her Majesty was a WOD workout

As a nation, we didn’t know what to do on hearing the news. Whether you’re a royalist, want to abolish the monarchy or you just don’t care either way, this situation was new and unfamiliar, which was shown in some of the most Googled questions from last week:

Queen Elizabeth death what will happen

Queen Elizabeth death what happens next

Operation London Bridge

When is the Queens Funeral.

The government did release national mourning guidance, but that didn’t include much guidance, stating: There is no set way to mark the passing of Her Majesty on social media. Organisations may wish to review their planned content for the period.

So, can we blame social media managers and comms professionals for, in some instances, getting it so wrong? While there’s an element of common sense and ability to read the room lacking in some brand’s reactions (Ann Summers, anyone?!), I like to think that the majority of these brands genuinely wanted to pay some kind of tribute to the Queen. After all, the people behind the posts are just that: people. Some of whom may well have been struggling with the news themselves. On the other hand, there are some brands that may have been fearful of saying nothing at all – after all, would that have looked worse for the brand than posting something tone deaf? It depends how you look at it.

For me personally, I struggle with brands that have a lot to say about certain issues on social media but with no real substance behind the message. Want to change your logo to black out of respect but then have your team performing non-essential work come into the office on the bank holiday Monday of the funeral? That doesn’t sit right with me. Similarly to Pridewashing, changing your logo to the Pride rainbow flag but not actively supporting LGBTQA+ employees or recruiting fairly, is on a similar level to this for me. Unfortunately, there will always be a select few that post for clout and likes.

Nevertheless, on this occasion I think we need to give these brands a break, after all, the situation hasn’t been something any of us in the modern media profession have dealt with before, and perhaps it’s a learning curve for us all. At Source, we’d been monitoring the situation since learning the news that the Queen was unwell, and acted accordingly, cancelling both our Source and client social posts, as well as pausing any campaigns. Luckily enough all of our clients valued and understood our advice on the matter, I know some other agencies weren’t so lucky!

If we can help you with your social media strategy, then get in touch.