Social media strategies for taking a stance on social issues 

From letting your message speak for itself to supporting your people on the front lines, we have tips for handling public backlash from a vet who’s been there.

By Kristen Green Seymour

When Carrie Jurney, DVM Diplomate ACVIM (Neurology), saw the beautiful Pride ad her Remedy Veterinary Specialists business partner had created, which featured a man holding a rainbow flag and the tagline “Queer-Owned, Community Focused: All Pets and People Welcome, Always!” she didn’t think twice about sharing it far and wide. 

“I’m a queer woman, all my business partners are gay, and our practice is in a gay neighborhood in San Francisco,” she said. “Celebrating Pride is obvious.” 

Unfortunately, celebrating Pride was not obvious to everyone who saw the post. 

When the algorithm gets the audience wrong 

“I put it on Facebook, I boosted it, and I forgot to check the audience,” Jurney said. “The algorithm shared it to a not-so-friendly audience.”  

This led to a ton of engagement, much of which was negative—and came from people in other parts of the country who would never be a client at Remedy anyway. “And the more people engaged, the more the algorithm continued to share it with a homophobic audience,” she said. 

The post went live on Friday, and Jurney woke up Saturday to an onslaught of hateful comments. “People were telling me I was going to hell, that I should die,” she said. “I mean, for an ad that literally said we welcome everyone, that seemed like an over-the-top reaction.” 

As she dove into blocking people and hiding the negative comments, Jurney’s husband asked her if she was going to take the post down. 

“My immediate reaction was, ‘Hell no!’  

“Pride has come to feel celebratory, but the first Pride was a riot in search of equality,” she said. “I’m a person who lived through the AIDS epidemic. Our community still has those scars. And today, our airport terminal is named after Harvey Milk!” 

“This was my form of support for people who don’t live in a supportive environment like this,” she said. “It was my way of pushing back against people who think they can bully us.” 

Bold stances and boundaries 

Jurney is no stranger to being in the public eye, in large part due to her time as president and founding board member of Not One More Vet. “I’ve had the benefit of being in the spotlight on social media for a while,” she said, “and that gives me a toolkit most people haven’t had to build.”  

That experience has helped her gain a clear understanding of when it makes sense for her team to take a stand—and how to handle it if a situation like this one arises. 

Safety first. “You have to think about the safety of yourself and your employees first,” she said. Standing up for what you believe in is important, of course, but there are more ways than one to do that. If your practice is based in an area where making a public statement about a social justice issue could put you and your people in a situation that’s not safe, perhaps there’s a better way to make a difference. 

Be ready to stand up. “If you are going to post something controversial, make sure it’s something you’re going to stand behind,” Jurney said. For example, in the case of Remedy, posting about Pride aligns with their practice and their people in every way. Standing up for a cause to which you have a direct connection may make it easier for you to stand up for it if the reaction is less positive than you’d hoped. 

Plan ahead. “If you’re really going to be dealing with some public backlash, strategize how you’re going to handle that,” Jurney said. “Will you remove [the comments]? Will you respond to them? If so, what kind of professional response will you use? Commit to a couple days of doing that. This sort of thing is generally short-lived.” 

Let your message speak for itself. “People get in trouble when they get emotional and start lashing back,” she said. “I try to present the image that this is a sane, rational thing I’m sharing.” It might rile people up, of course, but in that event, she said, “I like the saying, ‘Don’t get in the mud to fight with a pig. You just get dirty and the pig likes it.’ I take that approach to social media.” 

Put the right people in place. “Cyberbullying’s biggest effect is on mental health,” Jurney said, “so it’s important to have people manage the account who can do so without it dragging them down.” Not everyone can take two straight days of being threatened and insulted. “Your people on the front lines need to be able to handle that—and they need to be able to tap out when needed.”   

At the end of the day, only you (and perhaps your business partners or social media managers) know which potentially controversial topics your business is prepared to stand up for. But, by keeping safety top of mind and strategizing how you want to share and support your messaging, you’ll find the right way to say what you want to say—whether everyone else agrees with you or not. 

 

Cover photo credit: Remedy Veterinary Specialists

 Disclaimer: The views expressed, and topics discussed, in any NEWStat column or article are intended to inform, educate, or entertain, and do not represent an official position by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) or its Board of Directors. 

Advertisement
Advertisement

Close

Subscribe to NEWStat