Emergency Public Relations!
Don’t forget how important it is to communicate when your business is experiencing an emergency.
When we say emergency we’re meaning the true nature of it like Fire, Crime, or a Storm. The rule still applies as it did in childhood –don’t cry wolf.
Do not leave all the information up to the police chief, or fire chief to report. You need to have your PR firm, or your on-staff PR team immediately appraised of the situation. Before you get in front of the camera’s, think through who all this affects from employees, to vendors, to customers, and make sure your story addresses all those people. In planning for an emergency designate a spokesperson well before the event. During a crisis is not the time to try to figure out who will be your corporate spokesperson. Keep in mind that this person will also need to handle the follow up, which could be time demanding, so make sure your management/leadership has designated the right public relations and the disaster recovery person.
What should you communicate, will be unique to your brand and the circumstances of the event. Remember in a true emergency, people want to help, if you just broadcast your disaster, but provide no coordination for volunteers or no communication about how they can help, then you might be frustrating those that want to do good, and who see your business/organization as vital to the community. It’s hard to think about their feelings in your time of distress, but when you go public with and Emergency, you need to think about what to do with the energy you create. Have a plan for directing communication and even funds if this is appropriate.
Provide a specific call to action that people can carry out, even if it is future related, like “help us get back on our feet, and place an order or make a reservation…..” Think about New Orleans and the post Hurricane Katrina work that needed to be done, part of which was to restart their economic engine, and so simply telling people to please come see you at “ABC” location can be a way for them to make a plan to contribute. And, you don’t need to list that call to action in the very first batch of news that is going out the door, but know that it needs to be in your next piece of news.
Below are 5 Basic Tips to share with the media.
1) What happened?
2) How has it impacted business as usual? Do you have temporary closure, different hours, a temporary location?
3) How soon do you expect to re-open or resume normal operations?
4) Who are your hero’s in this situation? (Police, Fire & Rescue, Employees, Neighbors, Volunteers, Vendors, Customers…)
5) What can the public/your customers/vendors do to help out?
Don’t forget to not only run this public relations information through your local media, but use your social media, and your website. It’s a lot of information to remember when your business or organization are in crisis, but it can help calm your nerves, buy you some grace time, restore confidence, and get you back moving in the right direction.
Finally, do not end your Public Relations Strategy, until you have had a splashy “We’re back on our feet” story. And never forget to honor the hero’s.