1. Think with a crisis mindset
The crisis mindset requires the ability to think of the worst-case scenario while simultaneously suggesting numerous solutions. Establish disaster drills, contingency plans and collaboration with first responders to prepare business leaders for an unanticipated event.
2. Define your core values
Creating and practicing core values reinforce your intention to run things ethically. If you are a respected community leader and something goes wrong, you will have trusted allies and constituents in place to support you. Core values reflect your beliefs while your organization’s mission (next up) defines who you are.
3. Write your mission statement
Knowing who you are and carving it in stone by displaying on your website’s home page) will support your messaging in response to a crisis. For example, if a reporter should call a food manufacturer, asking for a comment relating to a food-poisoning incident, a mission statement serves as the foundation for the company’s response. For example, the manufacturer can say, “We are committed to providing quality product with top-line inspection techniques to guarantee the delivery of healthy, fresh goods.” If a mission statement did not exist, the manufacturer would have to scramble for a response.
4. Anticipate questions and prepare the answers
When a crisis occurs, there will be questions and you should be well versed in how to answer. In some cases, you might not be able to elaborate because of pending litigation. It is better to say this upfront rather than avoiding the press and other constituents. A media coach can help with the development of “talking points” or SOCOS (Single Overriding Communication Adjectives). Nothing infuriates the media more than the lack of an immediate, honest response to a crisis. Reporters will go for the jugular if they sense dishonesty, a cover-up or anything less than complete transparency. That egregious mistake then becomes the story. Indeed, all other communications constituents–shareholders, clients, customers and the public–always react more favorably to an honest, immediate response regardless of how it might portray your enterprise or its people.
5. Know your audiences
Keep your lists categorized by constituent and up-to-date. In response to an emergency, you will be able to share pertinent information quickly while targeting the right groups with the relevant message. For example, a newspaper notice that you have filed for bankruptcy, is easily misunderstood. A memorandum to employees and other constituents explaining that you are not shutting down and that filing for bankruptcy will allow you to reorganize your business efficiently helps you avoid misinterpretation and negative repercussions.
6. Learn social media
There is no faster way to spread news or mitigate a crisis than through social media today. In particular, small business owners can easily manage their own reputations through digital communication. If someone is saying something bad about your business, you do not want to be the last person to know about it. Social media allows you to prepare and categorize your contact lists and increase the speed and efficiency of delivering your messages.