Referencing current events in your displays, ads and signs makes your brand relevant and timely. Done correctly, a news reference directly captures the attention of consumers. Approach this idea the wrong way, however, and you can easily find your company facing a wave of public resentment. Here’s what to consider when incorporating current events into your printed graphics and advertising campaigns:

Make your statements relatable

In a conversation with the American Marketing Association, Karen Zuckerman, president and cofounder of ad agency HZ, noted businesses like hers are shifting away from hard selling. Instead, advertisers are benefiting more by creating emotional connections with their customers, designing graphics, displays and campaigns shoppers easily relate to. Focusing on this idea is the key to designing a successful graphic that utilizes a current event.

In most cases, it’s best for brands to find neutral or common ground that everyone can identify with. For instance, as advertising consultant Phil Bernstein detailed, Sealy managed to incorporate former President Barack Obama into such an ad a mere week after the commander-in-chief’s inauguration. Capitalizing on the fact that pictures of the then-president showed him looking less than well rested, the mattress company designed an ad offering him a Sealy Posturepedic Better Six Mattress.

“This ad avoids controversy while creating an image anyone can relate to.”

This ad’s success lies in the fact that it avoids controversy while simultaneously creating an image anyone can relate to. People had severely contrasting opinions on Obama at the time, but Sealy avoided the political aspect and focused on something all consumers understood – the need for a good night’s sleep.

Your brand can approach current events in a similar way. Select a topic or subject well-known among consumers and find something identifiable despite any controversy or divided viewpoints.

Understand attitudes toward the person or event

Make sure to do market research before bringing current events into your advertising, however. Understanding how all consumers respond to a particular piece of news will prevent you from making a marketing gaffe. It is especially important to consider the opinions of consumers outside your target market, who are sometimes all-too-willing to launch an unofficial social media campaign against your brand if they find your graphic distasteful.

Consider what happened to the Kenneth Cole brand when it tried to capitalize on the revolution in Egypt for advertising purposes. According to Business Insider, Kenneth Cole himself sent a tweet that suggested the uprising was a result of his spring collection. The tweet was likely meant to be playful, but many observers found it incredibly insensitive.

It is arguably more devastating to a brand to make such a mistake in graphic form than on social media. Bad online marketing, though by no means a good thing, can easily be fixed with a quick tweet or Facebook post. Yet a bad endcap, poster or POP graphic takes a lot longer to rectify. Advertisers must contend with the time and money wasted printing the graphic, then contact all locations where it is displayed and request they remove it, and finally create a new campaign to replace the original – all in addition to apologizing on social media.

Therefore, it’s important to understand how people feel about the event before incorporating it into your images. Are customers amused or angry over what took place, and how will they react to the angle you take? Answer these questions quickly but accurately. References to news events are time sensitive, but approaching them the right way elevates your brand in the eyes of consumers.