How to manage PR in the light of a crisis to save your business.
As a business owner, you always have to expect the unexpected. Like in Monopoly, life can hit you with an unexpected pay-out from the bank or make you renovate all the properties and on all your streets. When the worst happens, getting on top of the narrative and communicating with your customers, investors, partners, and the community will make the difference between a well-managed crisis and one that could ruin your business.
Ohnosecond – that is the moment you realise that an irreversible problem will occur. It comes from computer science and usually refers to the moment someone presses the wrong key, but haven’t we all had at least one ‘ohnosecond’ in life? Fires, floods, hail, winds, break-ins, a truck crashing your front gate – anyone who has worked in the industry for a few years will have experienced at least one of them. When a catastrophe occurs, many things will demand your attention at once. Once you ensure that the people are safe and the property damage is contained, you can start thinking about your communication strategy.
Your customers should be among the first to find out. Maybe second only to the emergency service and your insurance. It’s best to have your most compassionate and empathetic team member have handle the customer communication. Especially if there is damage to a customer’s unit, it will take a delicate approach. Make sure to notify everyone and provide additional information as the situation develops.
Develop a clear message for different audiences with your team: General customers and customers whose units were damaged. Start with customers who were hit the hardest. It might be tempting just to send an email, but your customers will appreciate it if you take the time to reach out to them by phone and explain the situation in person. Leave them with contact information in case they have additional questions later. Some customers might need time to stomach the shock first. If you cannot reach a customer by phone even after repeated attempts, send them a notification by registered mail.
Your investors or financial institutions should be the next in line in your communication priority list. They will want prompt updates on the situation. More importantly, they will want to know about your action plan as they have a business interest in your self-storage.
Put a high-ranking member of your team in charge of communication. Create a standardised message with all the relevant information and send it to all stakeholders. No one should be left out or forgotten. Make sure to include an action plan in your communication to reassure investors if the damage is severe and the business might be disrupted.
Your vendor partners are key to bringing the operations back on track as quickly as possible. If a tornado damaged the roof or a flood damaged the foundations, your vendor partners will be among the first you should contact. The quicker they get involved in fixing the problems, the faster your business can return to normal.
Local media will likely reach out to you if the incident is larger. Their involvement could be crucial to secure support. If you do not have a dedicated media spokesperson, now is the time to select someone. Your goal is to get ahead of the narrative to manage and correct any possible negative views on the business. In a related matter, check our guide for managing and responding to negative reviews.
Your media messages should cover the following points:
Expressing sympathy to the community in case of larger disasters, such as a flood or mudslide
Your plan of action and planned support for affected customers
Appreciation to emergency services, volunteers, first responders, and others who offered their help
No one is insured against natural disasters or accidents. However, you can be ready for them. Your business has many stakeholders. All of them will be affected in one way or another. Employees, customers, partners, neighbours, insurance, banks, investors, partners must all be informed in a timely matter. By keeping the flow of information under control and everyone calm, you can get ahead of the narrative. Avoid confusion and frustration to save the reputation of your business. Anticipate the worst and have a contingency plan and a dedicated, trained spokesperson before the crisis happens.
Relative Article: Step-by-step formula for dealing with negative reviews online