Damage Control for Small Businesses
By: Ashley Willard, Director of Marketing at Local Impact
When a crisis strikes, it is nearly impossible to know what the outcome could be for an individual, let alone a business. Right now, we live in an age fueled by fear of the unknown. Whether it’s a pandemic outside your door or an issue within the company, all businesses need to have a crisis communication strategy in place to calm uncertainties and ease the transition ahead.
Communicate with Your Employees
Your employees provide a face behind your brand. Communicating with them so they understand your strategy for your business during the time of crisis and allowing them to ask questions will allow for a better understanding among your staff and a sense of unity. If you have to close down your business temporarily, employees are going to have concerns about their paychecks and benefits, and rightfully so. If you plan on not closing down, but only having employees in your building and not allowing customers to visit, or if you plan on all employees working from home, be sure to come up with a plan before speaking with your employees so you remain calm and show the leadership that is needed.
You’ll also want to ensure that your employees know how to respond if a person were to ask why your business is taking such measures, especially if it is a crisis within your company. Ensuring that your company is not shed in a negative light on social media, as well as through word-of-mouth, is crucial for a company’s survival. The best way to handle this is to have the employees sign a document at the start of employment, but if you are unable to do so, there is no time like the present.
Take Advantage of the Technology Available
Social media has taken the Internet by storm. Everything available on the Web can be shared on your social media page. Use this to your advantage by keeping your followers and customers updated with what is going on and how you plan to keep them informed. If your business is temporarily closed, you can still keep your social media platforms current by creating posts about how excited you are to reopen, how you are brainstorming to come back better than ever, and even entertaining posts like TikTok videos, photos, or encouraging graphics. Use your phone and fun apps like Boomerang to make video updates or simple selfies of you working from home with a fun filter. Make sure to update your website if your business is closed or if your hours have changed, along with your business’ Google My Business account, and any statement that you would like your customers and future customers to be aware of by placing it on your website’s home page. The same goes for a crisis within the company, you’ll want to release a statement to the public, not claiming fault, but reminding people that the company is doing everything it can to get to the bottom of things, are cooperating with an investigation, are still here for your customers, and so on, depending on your situation.
Technology is not only beneficial to your customers, though. If you and your employees must work from home, utilize video conferencing services like Zoom or Google Hangouts. Download chat services like Skype or Slack to keep one another updated, and be sure to check in with each other at least a couple of times each day by video conferencing. Just because you are not in the same location does not mean that work cannot get done as a team.
Now that your team can reach you, make sure that your customers can reach you, too. Call-forwarding should be sent to the person who typically answers calls or even the business owner. You could also set up a directory system on phone apps like Grasshopper so each employee can have an extension, if need be.
Ask for Help
There’s nothing like a crisis to bring a community together. Ask your friends and neighbors to keep your business in mind and for their support. If you need further assistance, there are marketing agencies out there like Local Impact who work specifically on digital marketing efforts to promote businesses and manage their online reputations. If you need help with your overall business plan to accommodate the uncertainty of the future, business consultants like EPIC Mission are also extremely useful.
Don’t lose hope. Though it may seem like it is never going to get better, there are brighter days ahead. Stay strong and utilize the people and resources around you to lean on.
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