Owning a business means buying lots of insurance: health insurance, business insurance, liability insurance, workers comp, and more. There is always a better way to spend the premium money, but insurance is necessary. If something unexpected happens, it can be a lifesaver.
But there’s one more ‘insurance’ you need that’s probably not in your current portfolio – a solid crisis communications plan. In today’s 24/7 digital world where everyone has an online megaphone and audience, you need to be ready with a plan that will contain and minimize the damage and control the message before someone else (or the crisis) controls it.
You’re thinking – “What crisis? Won’t we have warning to pull a plan together? We’re small, so what can happen to us?” The answers are: “I don’t know, no, and a lot.”
Crises aren’t always catastrophic. Often small issues demand crisis communications be activated at a moment’s notice. For example, a client recently faced a service outage of a few hours, just long enough for customers to become vocal on social media about their inconveniences. Another introduced a new product to less than rave reviews by an influential blogger, threatening the fledgling brand’s viability. All businesses face threats of data breaches, website hacks, identify theft, or employees or customers complaining on social media.
You must have a quick, decisive, and proactive response. Facts must be disseminated. Clients, customers, employees, and stakeholders must be reached, engaged, and reassured. Media provided with current and correct information. Social media followers calmed and their misinformation minimized. Delays of even a few hours can deeply harm businesses and reputations.
Solopreneurs are not exempt – you’ll be so busy (or overwhelmed) dealing with the crisis, pushing communications lower on your priority list during a time when timing is critical.
A ready-to-go crisis communications plan will allow you to respond immediately and effectively. It should:
- Identify every possible scenario that can impact your business negatively and have a written plan(s) to address them, including detailed (day and night) contact information, target audiences, written action plans for each crisis, and pre-written media statements and posts.
- Appoint a leader who will spearhead the communications plan and also decide when to pull the trigger. You may not be able to be the leader (due to the issue, illness, out of town travel, etc.), so designate a back-up, someone accessible 24/7 for the duration of the situation.
- Address contingencies to implement the plan despite obstacles, such as interruptions in power, technology, or unavailable executives.
Execution and timing are critical. Don’t pull the trigger if there’s just a bubbling of a problem, but don’t delay if there is one. Proper timing will help ensure you don’t create another problem by botching the handling of the first. Then, follow-through.
Remember to check and update your plan periodically, as your business, customer base, employees, and technology change. Hopefully, like other insurance, you’ll never need to tap the crisis plan. But, just in case, it can be a business saver.