By Megan Friedman
When you think of a company having a crisis, you probably automatically think of the big ones, like Tylenol, Coca Cola (when it introduced “New Coke”), General Motors, Toyota, Asiana Airlines, BP. Those are all good examples of large companies who were faced with a very public crisis. But what about the smaller guys, the ones you may not have heard of, but who faced a crisis that represented a serious threat to, or maybe even the survival of, their company or organization.
- The community recreation center that couldn’t account for a child on a field trip
- The Med Spa whose patient nearly died during a procedure
- The restaurant whose patrons were sickened from food poisoning
- The software provider falsely accused of IP infringement
- The very successful, high value family business whose patriarch dies suddenly
- The telecom business whose CEO was arrested for DUI
These are not large corporations, they are businesses who never considered they would need a crisis response strategy. Yet, they all did and were caught unprepared, causing lost revenue, decreased trust from the public and a damaged reputation. In today’s world it can take just minutes to go from a “situation” to a crisis.
Being prepared with a carefully thought out response strategy will not guarantee that you will come away from a crisis unscathed, but it will allow for a more organized and thoughtful response which will minimize the damage from the crisis. This isn’t just ”spin,” it is a serious effort to minimize the impact a negative situation has on your business.
Here a few basic tips.
- Have a plan. Not an idea of a plan, but an actual plan, with scenarios, strategies, and talking points.
- Know who your crisis response team is and who will serve as your spokesperson.
- Train your team.
- Practice your response. Don’t put your plan in a drawer and leave it there until the crisis hits. Rehearse. Repeat.
- Face it head-on. Don’t stick your head in the sand. It won’t go away.
- Don’t lie.
- Assess and respond appropriately. Not everything is a crisis; some things might just be problems.
- It CAN happen to you. Be prepared.
Now more than ever, it’s critical for every business to have a crisis communications response plan.
The key is to honestly evaluate possible crisis scenarios. Many companies find that having an outside consultant develop the plan gives them a perspective and perhaps more “honest” view of potential threats and recommended responses than doing it internally. Either way, at least have someone on the “outside” review your plan and try to poke holes in it, then make adjustments where and when necessary.
Be careful out there.