It’s a strange feeling, going from elation to horror in no time flat – your ears perk up when you hear your company name on prime time news… only to have your stomach drop in horror when you realize why. A huge problem has blown up and your company is right smack dab in the middle of it.
So what now? Do you just curl up and die? Throw in the towel and start over completely with a new business in another country? Despite what you’re feeling right now, you can actually survive this catastrophe. In fact, you can often make it through it just fine if you play your cards right.
Planning, Not Panicking
Nobody can thoroughly plan enough to prevent a catastrophe. You could spend hours going over plans on how to keep your mouthy CEO from saying anything ridiculous only to see it thwarted when he goes nuts at a gas station.
What’s arguably more important, then, is to plan well on how to recover if a scenario should arise. If you have plans in place for when your CEO says something crazy, you can put them into motion when he first calls you up and sheepishly tells you “we may have a problem.”
This way you don’t panic when the problem first comes up. This is where you see so many mistakes – an inexperienced PR person tries to deflect what’s going on with inappropriate humor or even just tries to ignore a serious situation. Meanwhile, the public is frothing at the mouth for them to at least apologize.
One of the major things to take into account is the scale of the catastrophe. Did your warehouse burn down right before you shipped products for Christmas presents? That’s pretty major, and could spell the end of your company if you’re not careful.
That’s on the other end of, say, a misunderstood quote from your CEO on live TV. One little slip and everyone is outraged – but with a little tact, apologies, and some time, everything will be fine. People will forget and you can move on.
A huge catastrophe like losing all your products before a major holiday is different than a simple misquote and on a much bigger scale. How you should handle the situation, though, isn’t that different. You just have to keep what’s happened in mind and how people’s lives have been affected.
While some of your customers may sympathize with you about your warehouse burning down, most just care about their present for Uncle Dan not coming in on time. Complaining that people just don’t understand how big of a deal the tragedy was doesn’t really help them see your position. To them, they’re having a terrible holiday season as well since Uncle Dan won’t get his present.
All you can do is try to make it up to them. Barring the sudden closing of your company entirely (a warehouse burning down is a pretty big deal, after all), see if they’ll take some form of fun IOU in lieu of the product. Most will understand and go along since you handled the rest of the catastrophe so well.
What’s the worst catastrophe you can think of happening to your company? Do you have a PR plan in place to handle it?