Written by Grayson Kemper
If you’re running a small business, chances are you wear every cap under the sun. From accountant to sales person to marketer and beyond, it’s understandable that “make a crisis communications strategy” hasn’t made it to the top of your to-do list yet. But I’m here to make the case that it needs to be a high priority, especially if you value your brand’s reputation (you really, really do!).
A solid crisis communications strategy can save your brand by guiding your response to harsh negative or “fake” unwarranted reviews, data breaches (i.e. hacks to your email list, social accounts + more), PR crises (think faulty clothing, product allergies) and more. Here’s everything you need to lay the groundwork for a crisis communication strategy for your business.
A crisis comm. strategy is a documented plan that guides your team through a PR crisis, should one arise. Now I know you’re wondering why you need a crisis playbook for your team of six people, but the truth is that crises happen at the most inconvenient times (like when you’re taking your first vacation in five years and find yourself finally without cell service), that’s what makes them crises.
It’s important to have a plan in place so that every member of your team has a guidebook to follow in those trying moments when it can be hard to think. One small hiccup can completely displace a small business, making it almost more important for small businesses to have a crisis strategy than large corporations. For example, a crisis stemming from a data breach could ruin a small business reputation, where a large corp. is likely to have legal and PR teams in place to save the day. Fingers crossed your brand won’t have to face any crises- but if it does, you can significantly reduce the damage done by forming a plan of action ahead of time.
Prepping for a PR Nightmare
Part of creating a crisis communications strategy involves monitoring online comments, reviews, and sentiment related to your brand. Social monitoring allows your brand to discover issues and address them immediately. According to a report by Clutch, nearly 90% of small businesses monitor their online reputation at least quarterly, and two-thirds use social media to do it. Several online tools are available, though, for businesses that wish to conduct their own social monitoring. Keyhole, Hootsuite, and Sprout Social are all popular tools that help brands monitor their presence on social media.
Another way that brands prep for possible PR crises is to invest in corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. While CSR programs should not be created for PR reasons, they help build loyalty and respect for your brand, which are always positive if a crisis arises. More on that here. CSR programs can build goodwill with consumers, who are then more likely to give brands the benefit of the doubt during a PR crisis.
A communications strategy can go a long way toward averting disaster should your brand experience a crisis in the future. Negative reviews, data breaches, and viral crises are some of the situations you should prepare for.
Negative Reviews –Your staff should be fully prepared to respond to negative reviews in a way that both resolves the problem and makes the customer feel appreciated for sharing his/her opinion. It’s important to respond quickly and have a tone that genuinely conveys interest/remorse and a desire to rectify the situation. Everyone can see a generic copy-and-paste apology coming from a mile away, and you’ll lose major brownie points for doing this.
Data Breaches- If your company does experience a data breach, how will you communicate this to customers in a way that’s transparent and speedy? Have a plan in place to beef up your security, and ALWAYS be informed enough about your company’s digital security to tell customers exactly what may have been accessed and how you’ll improve for the future.
Viral Crises- A 2017 report states that nearly 20% of consumers may be hesitant to purchase high-cost items from brands that have experienced negative press that gained traction online. If your businesses’ worst moment becomes viral, how will you respond? Always take full responsibility and be clear about what has happened. Being vague rarely works in your favor- let people know exactly what happened, how it happened, and what you plan to do to prevent future occurrences.
Grayson Kemper is a Senior Marketing Analyst for Clutch, the leading resource for B2B reviews of public relations, marketing, development, and business services firms.