“The secret of crisis management is not good vs. bad, it’s preventing the bad from getting worse.” – Andy Gilman
Bad things happen. Sometimes you see them coming, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes, you cause them. Your business — and all the others — is susceptible to crises. And in times of extreme danger or difficulty, communication is paramount to supporting your customer relationships. Here are some tips to help you put your (and your business’s) best foot forward during times of crisis.
Have. A. Plan. If COVID-19 has made anything clear, it’s that the unfathomable and unexpected can happen. Crisis in business is often associated with PR or reputation mishaps, but businesses need to be prepared for a spectrum of crises, such as this very global pandemic, natural disasters, terrorism, crime, economic collapse, etc. Having a policy and plan in place will help to protect your business and prepare you to respond effectively if the need should arise.
Prepared or not, timeliness is key. Your customers want to know what’s going on and what you’re doing about it — and they want to find this information immediately and easily. Depending on the crisis, there are a few alterations you can make ASAP:
- Your website: update your homepage to include information on what you’re doing in response to the crisis. This can be a temporary header, a content update or pop-up added to your homepage — the format isn’t as important as its front-and-center presence.
- Your social media: adjust your social media profiles as needed, and pin a post to your feed to ensure these important updates aren’t lost among other posts.
- Your business listings: if the crisis affects your business hours or locations, or how you are handling service, it’s important for your customers to know when you’re available. This is a much-needed and much-forgotten detail in today’s crisis.
- Your team: if interacting with customers — and even more importantly, the media — your team should be on the same page and be empowered to respond confidently and consistently. Create a plan and hold a training session.
Along with this, update, and update often. Information during difficult times is often rapidly changing, so timeliness extends through the entire lifespan of the crisis. Even without substantial changes, more frequent updates can help to assure your customers that the situation remains top-of-mind.
Among many other things, people want to feel connected, understood, and heard in times of uncertainty. Communicate and empathize with your customers. Speak to the victims or those directly affected. Acknowledge that you understand how they must feel, that you genuinely care, and explain how you are going to address it. Even if you have no control over the issue, that doesn’t diminish your customer’s concern.
Share factual information, and continue to report honestly about what you’re doing to resolve the issue. If you or your organization are at fault and are the cause of the crisis, accept responsibility — and do it fast. If you don’t tell the story, someone else will! It’s better to be forthcoming and get out in front of the issue before someone else shapes the story (likely inaccurately) for you.
Everything you do, say, and share is reflective of your business and has the potential to be available for public consumption. Even with the best intentions, anything you “put out there” can be misconstrued, misused, and misunderstood — both business and personal. On the other hand, your exposure also has the potential to have a positive effect. Every sound bite, every tweet, every post, every ‘gram will be scrutinized, so be thoughtful about how any and all publicity can be interpreted.
Closely monitor what’s being said regarding your business across all channels. Having insight into what people are saying online, what they’re asking your employees, and even what they’re searching for online is an opportunity to respond and provide useful information. This could take the form of creating blog posts or video content to answer common questions, addressing concerns on your website and social media, or even adjusting your team’s customer messaging.
To state the obvious in an obvious way, times of crisis suck. If you’re not prepared, these times can be extremely stressful, making it difficult to make good decisions and communicate appropriately for your business. If you don’t have the time or expertise to deal with crisis PR, find a partner who can help with your communications plan. There’s a reason the saying “the best offense is a good defense” is overused.
We understand what works, and what doesn’t so never hesitate to reach out to a member of our customer experience team by completing a contact form. We are here, we are open, we work with clients all over the US, and we’d be happy to have a conversation with you.