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  • Cascade Communications

Why Planning for A Crisis Can Save Your Business

Most people think it's bad luck to consider the worst possible effect their service, product or business might have on a customer. But truth be told it's always best to plan for any potential crisis your business might experience. Most restaurants and major corporations have a plan and revise it annually, so why shouldn't a small business also plan ahead.

Over the years, looking at some of the worst PR crisis of our time I can tell you one thing: Lack of an

immediate response to consumers/customers/clients can result in an instant decline in referrals and faith in your business, resulting in lagging sales, pink slips and worse. To avoid this, plan for the potential of the future, even if it doesn't happen.

Think about it: Mattel's debacle with toys from China, China's (seemingly) never ending exportation of bad and unhealthy, even poisonous, products, political scandals and even Britney Spears need some expert help every now and again. And it goes beyond these examples. How will you deal with bad reviews online? That hits home to everyone.

Some key elements you should include in your business' crisis communications plan are:

Take Responsibility - in these situations a company is always guilty until proven innocent. Remember this is the court of opinion, not a court of law.

Communications Goals - What message will you have pre-crafted to immediately send to customers, clients and possibly press? Who will act as the company spokesperson, who will also be responsible for keeping an open line of communication with customers and the public? It's good to craft several messages to cover a variety of situations. Be prepared is the motto.

Research - Who will conduct research to look into the situation? How will you communicate that - by press release, email?

A Solution - You can determine this beforehand and customize it for the specific situation or it may completely change and be developed in a closed-door session with staff. Show the public and your customers what your company plans to do to keep this from happening again (i.e. new policies, new procedures, more staff - a new supervisor -, new product lines, better communication resources). Whatever makes the most sense to your business and will show customers and the public that you are actively committed to not letting anything bad happen in the future.

Now, I've simplified these to the basic steps but it isn't always easy, so having a plan and understanding your approach will, indeed, go a long way.

The key to planning for any potential crisis situation is to be prepared for anything to happen and be confident in how you will handle it. You may lose some business but you can ultimately save your brand, your business' reputation and even come out better on the other side if you plan well now, because once it happens it's too late to put a plan in place, the delay in communicating to customers could result in lost accounts and you may never be able to recover.

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