Archive for September, 2013

The Media Can Be The Positive Messenger For A Small Business Even When Disaster Strikes

September 22, 2013

Most small businesses get into the news just twice, when it opens and when it closes.
There is sometimes a third occasion: a fire, storm, robbery or other calamity.
When disaster does hit, the media wants to know. And in this 24/7 news cycle we live in, media members want the information instantaneously.
Consider also that people remember the first mention, not the correction made later.
Unfortunately, many small businesses are not equipped to manage emergencies involving the media.
Therefore, it is imperative that any small business know how and have a plan to handle the media in such situations.
A recent disastrous fire in Seaside Park, NJ demonstrates the problem and opportunity.
The blaze started near a locally famous boardwalk food concession.
As the fire still raged, its employees of a family-owned business told reporters about the nearby smoke, which signaled a fire that ultimately destroyed almost the entire iconic boardwalk.
In the opening hours of the conflagration the news media reported the fire was started at the family-owned concession when in fact nearby old wiring under the boardwalk damaged by Hurricane Sandy was the cause.
That clarifying fact was lost in the aftermath coverage and the concession suffered a blow to its reputation.
Like other small businesses, the concession owners did not have a plan for when they are hit with a crisis.
So what should a small business leader do when an incident happens?
The first rule is not to panic.
Instead, here are some management tactics that will help you get through
your firm’s crisis.
1. Have a strategic, coordinated and rehearsed social media plan. As soon as
the family-owned business, an original boardwalk vendor, learned about the
fire that started near their store (whether they were the cause of the fire
or not) they should have had ready a multi-prong plan to manage the crisis:
become the main source of information on the fire; provide a steady stream
of information; and own the conversation and the visuals.
2. Communicate within minutes of the fire starting and stay engaged while it
burned and afterwards. Speak first, speak clearly and speak often to
officials, other vendors, your customers and the media.
3. Communicate with a unified voice. Make sure everyone in the business, all
members of the multi-branch family is equally equipped to become an
ambassador.
4. Control the visuals. In addition to pictures of the fire damage, family-owned business could tweet photos of its owners assessing the damage with officials,
meeting with customers, sitting down with other boardwalk vendors. Major
media outlets will use these photos in their stories.
5. Put a human face for the company front and center. People speak louder
than logos.
Life often presents crisis at some point. How they are handled decides the life or death of a small business.
Prepare a plan now so as not to regret actions later.

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