By Gina F. Rubel, Esq.
It’s not a matter of if a crisis will happen, it’s a matter of when. Every company no matter how big or small, from local law firms and accounting businesses to family-owned restaurants and nonprofits, is vulnerable to a crisis.
A crisis can take many forms and may be dependent on your type of small business. It is anything that has the potential to threaten people or property, disrupt your business, damage your reputation, or hurt your bottom line.
Types of Small Business Crises
Crisis scenarios often depend on the type of business and where the business is located. Take, for example, the many storms of 2018 which have resulted in devastating flooding throughout Pennsylvania and in some areas of Chester, Montgomery and Delaware Counties.
For business located near creeks and rivers that have a history of flooding, dealing with natural disasters should be a priority in your small business crisis plan. Other types of incidents to consider include:
- Company financial woes such as layoffs and bankruptcy.
- Employee wronging such as sexual harassment claims.
- Natural disasters such as floods, fires and hurricanes.
- Violence such as active shooters, hostage situations, and terrorism.
- Forced closures due to an owner’s illness or death.
- Cybersecurity issues such as stolen data and a cyber breach.
- Community dissatisfaction such as protests.
- Reputation issues such as rumors, scandals, and threats.
Steps for Developing a Small Business Crisis Plan
When faced with a crisis, every second counts. A solid crisis response plan and knowing who is on your crisis response team is half the battle. You should ask yourself:
- What is the issue?
- How might it play out?
- What do you need to get across (if… then…)?
- What is your position (if… then…)?
- What are the legal issues / considerations?
- What can / can’t you say?
- How can your messages be manipulated?
- When is the right time to act?
A more detailed checklist of items that should be considered when putting together your small business crisis management plan (CMP) no matter what the scenario.
- Recognize and identify the issue.
- Mobilize your crisis response team – be sure to have cell and home phones, personal and business email addresses, and social media profile URLs in your plan.
- Conduct a crisis response team call or meeting.
- Contain: draft and post a holding statement (if necessary).
- Communicate to critical audiences.
- Provide all necessary tools for experts to eradicate the issue.
- Communicate about the issue with key audiences.
- Monitor and evaluate, keep an eye on social media sites.
- Implement your small business recovery plan.
- Draft a resolution statement.
- Use the resolution statement to alert audiences that issue has been addressed including through social media.
- Provide necessary information to important audiences (what happened, how it may have happened, what was done to rectify it, and what is being done moving forward).
- Follow up with affected parties directly.
- Conduct a post-mortem review.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of the crisis response team.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of your response tactics.
- Update your small business crisis scenarios and response tactics in the crisis management plan.
- Update your contact lists (crisis response team, media, etc.).
- Re-train the crisis response team.
All too often small businesses don’t have crisis management plans in place to handle the myriad of scenarios that can happen. Your reputation is your lifeline. Everything in your small business depends on it.
Gina Rubel is the professional that corporate and law firm leaders call upon for high-stakes public relations, media training, crisis planning, and incident-response support, including high profile litigation media relations. An attorney and public relations expert, Gina leads Furia Rubel Communications, Inc., an agency supporting business with their growth through integrated marketing, PR, reputation management, and content marketing. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or @GinaRubel.
Top photo credit: David J Price Caloundra Storm 1 via photopin (license)