Our Readers' Opinions
January 14, 2014
Public Relations disasters

Tue Jan 14, 2013

Business Buzz

by Candice Sealey

The aftermath of the recent Christmas Eve disaster highlights the importance of Public Relations and its place in disaster management planning. As a business, how do you respond to your customers in time of crisis? At the heart of any crisis is business continuity:{{more}}

¢ If your supermarket, bar or restaurant was affected by flooding, its physical condition may cause your customers to go elsewhere and do business. There’s no guarantee that when you are “back on your feet” that these same customers would return. Therefore you should have a plan of action that includes making your customers aware of what is being done to accommodate them; if your business has to be closed for a period of time, simple progress updates to customers via the press, social media and other channels can go a long way.

¢ On the other hand, if your business is open to the public, but the surrounding damage is affecting their shopping experience in a negative manner, take steps to ensure that your customers continue to patronize your establishment by making them feel comfortable and at ease.

How your business handles itself in a crisis is a far greater litmus test of what the brand stands for than any mission statement or marketing plan. You may not face a PR disaster on the scale of a sinking ship but at some point you may face a crisis e.g. a customer finding an insect in their meal/sandwich, an object being found in a bottle of beer or being found in a canned/bottled supermarket product, an offensive advert, a product malfunction, a senior official being accused of stealing or making inappropriate comments.

Here are some tips:

– Have a crisis management plan that includes crisis communications. Your Marketing/PR personnel or in a smaller business, the owner/manager should spend time thinking about how they would handle a crisis, large or small. Your marketing team can’t plan for everything that could go wrong, but they should establish ground rules and ensure that they have the right team in place; waiting until a crisis happens is too late.

– Resist just apologizing for the inconvenience. Say you are sorry as if you are truly apologizing to a friend. You may not be judged on the basis of your mistakes, but on the manner in which you own up to these mistakes. Brushing off the incident or saying nothing is never a good idea.

– Don’t appear to be confused. Your business will have a better chance of survival in the long term if you are not seen as floundering around in confusion about what should be done. Ensure that customers undergo little or no inconvenience as a result of the issue. By maintaining business continuity throughout a crisis, you can reassure customers, employees and the market – you may even pick up a few reputation points for being able to meet a challenge with a cool head

– Continuity is not only applicable to businesses, but also to our country as a whole. Destinations are vulnerable to public perceptions of health and safety; hence, if a tourism dependent country is hit by a disaster, this can affect tourist arrivals. The relevant authorities must be able to anticipate the next step, including being ready to promote the message that said country ‘is now open to business’ after the recovery; taking advantage of the media that was already covering the tragedy would be critical.

– Understand the power of social media and use it to your advantage. It is not just there to promote campaigns and products, but as we saw during this Christmas Eve disaster, it’s also a powerful tool in your toolbox when dealing with a crisis.

Candice Sealey is founder of Ignite! full service Marketing & PR Consultancy Company offering tailored services to help businesses succeed. Let Ignite! create new sparks and get better results for your business.

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