Updated: Aug 25, 2020
Something has gone wrong and people are going to hear about it, what now?
Having a crisis communications plan is a little like taking out insurance, everybody hopes they never need it but if you don't have it you could regret it.
Many small businesses consider putting a crisis communications plan in place but putting a basic one in place shouldn't take too long and will give you peace of mind. It's not a pleasant thought but things can go wrong. Maybe a disgruntled customer is ranting on social media or an ex-employee claims they have a story your local paper would love to get their hands on. Don't panic, here are some key things I would advise SME’s to have in place:
A spokesperson should a crisis occur. It is best to have only one of two people involved with this as everybody trying to comment could be a disaster.
Think about how you deal with complaints on social media. I would suggest, never delete the complaint, respond to the complaint you want followers to see that you are dealing with the issue, have a specific person who deals with online complaints and don’t get into arguments with the customer/client on social.
If the crisis looks like it is going to spread make sure you communicate with stakeholders and customers (where relevant)
Devise a media statement as soon as possible
Respond to any media enquiries in a timely fashion
Advise the team that any queries regarding the crisis must be directed straight to the spokesperson. What you don’t want to happen is the first staff hear about it is when the press call and they respond without thinking.
In advance and depending on your business think about key messages and how you would respond to any of the following incidents (where relevant)
accidents that injure employees or others
property damage to company facilities
liability associated injury to or damage sustained by others
production or service interruptions
chemical spills or releases with potential off-site consequences, including environmental
product quality issues
This is just a very brief overview and crisis communications can be a very in-depth and tricky area. If in doubt hire a professional.