We’ve talked about the elements of planning in public relations. Critical to this is planning for a crisis, then hope you never need it. For the small business owner a crisis can be devastating. In my home town a small business owner faced a crisis when the driver of a truck had a medical emergency and rammed through his building. The immediate crisis dealt with the unfortunate driver, who didn’t survive the crash. Now this owner’s ongoing crisis is dealing with insurance and not being able to repair his building. I’m not sure you can ever plan for this kind of crisis, but certainly planning for some type of natural disaster and therefore thinking of an alternative location to set up business is necessary. The crisis continues when customers don’t hear from you and don’t know what’s going on–especially since so much of our business can be interstate or even international. Not everyone is in your home town or reading up on the news in town.
Put some plans in place: know your list of clients and have a back up system for contacting them, especially if your building is damaged. Be sure to communicate with them sooner rather than later. The suggestion is sooner, because you may need to wait a few days to assess some facts, such as whether your building is returned to you in a timely manner or not. You certainly don’t want to confuse people with information that has to be changed.
Draft some template emails and media releases for the top 5 likely crises that could happen: embezzlement, natural disaster, injury/illness (especially in a one person business), major weather delays, etc. You get the idea. Keep these templates with your contact list, so you can reach customers and the media, no matter what’s going on. And then hope you never need to use them.