Rough House has teamed up with strategy and planning experts Oriel Marketing to provide a full crisis management service, designed to provide organisations with the tools to protect their reputation and minimise disruption to business operations at the most critical times.
We’re delighted that Philippa Varey from Oriel has written this article about the potential impact of a crisis on an SME.
As business owners, most of us are well aware of the need to plan for the future. There is no shortage of advice about sales, marketing, cashflow and managing staff.
But what is much more difficult is planning for the unlikely and the unpleasant. Every day there are news stories about businesses facing a crisis, and it is very clear which of them are well prepared, and which are not.
Large organisations devote time and money to making sure that any communications crisis is handled professionally, because the damage to their reputation and brand value can run into millions of pounds.
Companies such as British Airways are well known for their rigorous planning and crisis simulations, which have paid off whenever the company is in the news. Even so – some can get it wrong in spectacular style. Witness BP.
At the other end of the spectrum, our utilities companies should all have learnt an important lesson from the performance of Northern Ireland Water, who left 450,000 people without mains supply last Christmas.
In the SME sector, Crisis Communications comes much lower down the list of priorities, for a number of reasons. Many of the clients we speak to cling to the hope that they will not be of interest to the media because they are not a national name.
And they often believe that the cost of media training will outweigh the benefits. But what they all overlook is the catastrophic effect that negative publicity on a large scale can have on their business.
Take, for example, the food manufacturing sector. When one of the major supermarkets has a food scare, perhaps having sold contaminated seafood, the news value is tremendous. They cannot hope to cover it up, and indeed, trying to do so just fans the flames. But their experienced Crisis Communications team swings into a well rehearsed procedure and the crisis is contained. There is a financial cost, but it does not bring the company down.
Compare that with the effect of the same contamination on a small food producer supplying local farm shops and independent retailers. They would certainly generate substantial publicity in their local market, and doubtless would lose a number of key retail accounts as well as damaging their brand. The company could well go under.
The difference would be made worse by their inexperience in managing the media and lack of preparation for this eventuality. Journalists do not go easy on small companies.
Top tips for dealing with a crisis:
• Identify ten areas where your business is vulnerable. Which of these give you nightmares?
• Write down the key message you would need to get across in each of these scenarios.
• Select a company spokesman who would face the media in a crisis. Remember, you might be at the centre of the storm, so choose someone you trust.
• Make sure all your staff know what to do if the media contact them. Saying “no comment” is not helpful, but putting them in touch with your media spokesman is.
• Remember that a crisis can recur, if there is an inquest, an enquiry or a court case. Do not let your guard down.
• But most importantly, give your spokesmen the opportunity to rehearse. They will be protecting your company’s reputation and livelihood, so give them the tools for the job.
If you would like to know more about how Rough House and Oriel Marketing can help you provide a solid foundation for you to handle any crises, email Ann on firstname.lastname@example.org, or call on 020 8332 6200.