Nobody likes to think about what would happen if they had to suddenly and unexpectedly deal with some kind of tragic event, answering questions from media outlets, employees and other stakeholders. But if you’re a business owner and you haven’t thought about how you would handle a crisis from a communications standpoint, you could be setting yourself up for irrevocable, long-term damage to your company’s value.
When the Carnival Dream experienced a burst pipe that flooded 50 rooms and a passenger posted it on social media, it quickly went viral, with national media outlets comparing it to the Titanic. The PR team quickly sprang into action by issuing a public statement confirming that the water leak was cleaned up and that no passengers were at risk at any time. All affected passengers were issued refunds and 50 percent off their next cruise. Had Carnival not been able to respond quickly and deliberately, the public response could have been much, much worse.
It’s naïve to think that crisis communications plans are only for large, publicly-traded companies like Target or Wells Fargo. Small to mid-sized businesses and even nonprofits are no less vulnerable. If there’s an active shooter or child abduction at a building you manage, you need to communicate with the public as quickly and effectively as you can. If you own an apartment complex and a balcony collapses, “no comment” is not an option if you want to protect your rent roll. In these scenarios, the cost of a crisis communications blind spot far outweighs the cost of developing even a basic plan in advance.
It’s human nature to avoid thinking about these scenarios, of course, but as you start to develop your crisis communications plan, here are a few basic questions:
- In the event of a crisis, who would be the primary contact within your organization that would advise the external PR team on a response plan?
- Would the external PR team be the primary crisis spokesperson for your company, or would it be a member of your team?
- Do you have a legal representative that should be consulted prior to issuing any statements during a crisis?
- Who would be responsible for distributing statements to internal audiences (employees, tenants)?
- How quickly can you/should you gather your message? Can you mobilize within an hour?
Of course, your crisis communications plan will need to be adapted depending on the crisis, but if you’re proactive about planning in advance, you’ll be able to respond more quickly and strategically.
Need help developing a crisis communications plan for your business? Give us a call at 704-271-9555 or email us!