Note: This is a guest post by Bobby Zafarnia, President of Praecere Interactive, a Washington, D.C. PR firm. He’s a seasoned communications specialist and attorney who has counseled Fortune 100 companies, Members of Congress, heads of state, global nonprofits, and small businesses. We’re honored to have him on our blog.
As the head of a crisis PR firm, sometimes I ask myself, how many times can we repeat the following phrase to businesses of all sizes before they get it:
IT’S BETTER TO HAVE A CRISIS PR PLAN AND NOT NEED IT, THAN TO BE IN A CRISIS AND NOT HAVE A PLAN.
And then suddenly, I realized maybe even I’m not following my own advice. Here in downtown DC, we just felt the shake of a 5.8 earthquake whose epicenter was about 100 miles south of us.
I was walking through my office building lobby when the quake hit, and it shook so violently that first I thought I was hallucinating, and then my brain started to wander to that unwelcome territory that DC was experiencing another terrorist attack. It wasn’t until a few seconds later when hundreds of people were on the streets that I realized we’d had our second earthquake in the past year.
If I’m such a strong believer in crisis management, you’d think I would have anticipated this.
Did I bother to check with our building for an evacuation plan? What were my “next steps” in case a disaster happened in DC? Who would I contact? What would I say to ensure them I am OK? How do we reassess after the event and make sure we do things better? If I lost my office files and computer resources, how would I even continue running my business?
These are all the questions any business in its right mind must consider when it comes to crisis PR.
Small businesses who sell products might find themselves in the headlines when someone decides to, ahem, sue the pants off them. Mid-sized businesses might get raided and have their computer equipment, including all mobile phones, confiscated if an employee might be committing some sort of crime with office resources. Large businesses might experience client unease if their CEO suddenly hires a criminal defense lawyer.
The lesson here is that any business needs to anticipate:
- The crisis scenarios, from best to worse, that may impact their operations
- The holding statements that communicate what’s going on to customers, reporters, regulators, and law enforcement as appropriate
- Having the resources in place to broadcast their response messages
- Following up to ensure any aggrieved parties have been acknowledged and responded to
- Realizing that when things have cooled down, they’ve only just begun – business owners need to take the time to evaluate their preparedness and response to see how things can be done better
Next earthquake that strikes when I’m in the office? I’ve got a fully charged phone, water, food, and know not to run for the doors like a sprinter until the shaking stops. Businesses should learn to do the same when it comes to saving their bottom-line.
About the author
Bobby Zafarnia is president of Praecere, and a seasoned communications specialist and attorney who has counseled Fortune 100 companies, Members of Congress, heads of state, global nonprofits, and small businesses. He has advised clients in global telecommunications; international trade; international defense; corporate and finance; political elections; and advised on widely-known brand products/services. Praecere provides professional services in branding, social media, public relations, and crisis management. You may reach him at [email protected], and follow Praecere at twitter.com/praecere.