Crises don’t happen only in the world of big business, and a crisis that makes a connection to consumers can devastate a small business just as quickly as a large business, and maybe to a greater extent since small businesses may not have the resources to get the help they need in those times. That doesn’t mean they can’t come out ahead though.
Start Before a Crisis Hits
Since crises requiring PR efforts are not planned events, the best way to deal with them is before they occur. There are a few readers who may be scratching their heads over this and asking “how do we plan for something we don’t know about?” Hey, if you live in Tornado Alley, you don’t start tornado season without some essential tools, knowledge, and preparation. Instead, homes are built with places of retreat; cellars probably have some staples including food, water, as well as flashlights, blankets, and a toy or two if there are children.
PR Crisis management is no different. Consider the business, what is sold, who are the consumers, and how broad is your reach, are just a few things to think about. In this world, don’t forget social media – as a friend AND a foe. When a crisis happens, your company better be one of the first to react … and in a positive way. The longer you wait to get your information out, the more time the unhappiness reactions of others can take root. “Get it right, get it fast, get it out, and get it over,” is the sage advice of Warren Buffet, and he’s right.
In all PR and crisis communication, be a good leader, tell it like it is quickly, show empathy and involvement with the people that are hurt as well as with fixing the problem, and make sure people feel like they can get to you and your company with their problems for quick relief.
But Before Those Things …
Remember the apology! Leaders take responsibility, even when they had no part of the problem, to begin with, and they especially take ownership when they did. They stand up and admit that something happened and then show true remorse and regret. Only then is the slate ready for new information to be added such as a plan of attack or how further information will be distilled. You have to have the slate wiped clean before people are ready to hear the plan.
If you get pulled over for a traffic violation, and you have a good reason, it’s always best to first apologize and recognize the fault, after that quickly explain the situation, the outcome could result in no ticket as well as a drive with a police escort to the hospital getting your loved-one to services faster and with less hazard. It’s the same with Crisis PR, get the apology out first making the rest of the journey easier.
Think about the services you render as well as:
- If you need goods supplied to you and that falls through?
- Does another business have a similar name?
- Does your product has a glitch or failure?
- What crises others in your niche have faced?
- Other things that could go wrong?
Now that should have created a list of things that could happen, start planning. Create templates for news releases and social media posts, talking points to cover, and how you can solve those problems so you can share that information early in the situation. Then don’t think you can rest on your laurels, look at the plan and other elements on a regular basis, make sure people are assigned to fill all the necessary steps AND that they are trained to do it the right way. Then run it by any professional such as legal counsel.