Prepare for a Crisis

Tips for business owners

by Laurie W. Anderson

Equifax and other companies have been in the news lately for security breaches. No business is too small or too big to be immune to a crisis.

Your business could be impacted by weather, hacking or a security breach, a defective product, employee service errors, an inappropriate social media post, improper conduct or relationships among staff and customers, or any of a wide variety of other issues. All these possible crises could pose a risk to your business’s reputation, financial well-being or business survival.

Is our Business Prepared to Respond in a Crisis?

The first step toward being prepared is to make a list of potential threats to your business. Ask yourself, “What could possibly go wrong with my business?” Then, prioritize those possibilities from those that are most likely to those that are least likely.

Develop a plan for those situations that may be most likely for your business. List all the individuals, entities and organizations that you would need to contact if a crisis occurs. Identify which individuals would be authorized to speak on behalf of the company.

You can prepare templates or written documents that can be filled in with details of the situation. These documents should outline what happened, who it affects, how it affects people, what is being done to remedy the situation, and when additional information may be provided.

Remember Seven Important Principles of Crisis Management:

  • Be prepared!
  • Deal with the crisis immediately, using a single spokesperson.
  • Always tell employees about the situation first.
  • Accept your various publics as partners.
  • Be open, frank and honest with all your publics.
  • Quickly develop plans to keep the crisis from occurring again.
  • Practice your plan at least once a year and change the scenario.

If the news media is involved with your crisis response, there are several dos and don’ts to keep in mind:

Dos when working with media

  • Have the facts, be direct and keep it simple.
  • Show, rather than tell, if possible.
  • Be credible and candid.
  • Avoid humor.
  • When asked questions, keep answers short — 15–20 seconds if possible.
  • Be careful; deliberate about what you say.
  • Rehearse your three key messages about the business’s response to the crisis. Practice answering tough questions that a reporter may ask.
  • Don’t use the phrase “no comment,” as it can imply guilt.
  • Take the advice of your corporate attorney on what you can say at the moment.
  • Treat media people openly and with respect.

Don’ts

  • Don’t overreact to a news story.
  • Don’t try to stop a story.
  • Don’t tell a reporter more than he/she wants (or needs) to know.
  • Don’t talk off the record.
  • Never lose your temper.
  • Don’t expect a media outlet to do you a favor because you have purchased advertising.

Social media is one of the fastest ways to get out information, so include it as part of your plan to immediately communicate with key audiences.

The way your business handles a crisis can increase your reputation in the eyes of your key publics. Any company can look good on a good day. A company that has good intentions and does a good job of handling a crisis will begin to rebuild trust immediately.

Laurie Anderson is the co-owner of Cactus Creative, LLC, offering digital and traditional marketing solutions, including media relations. For more information, contact Laurie at 303-758-1118 or Laurie@CactusCreative.net.

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