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Tips for Small Businesses on How to Handle a PR Crisis

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November 28,2012

By Dan Janal, Small Business PR Expert


The old saying goes, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

True or false?


If there’s a crisis at your small business and you don’t have a plan to deal with it, then all of the attention that comes as a result could be considered bad publicity, and it can bring your business to its knees.
Crisis communications might not be on the top of any small business person’s immediate list of to-do-items, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a plan. In fact, it is the crisis that you don’t plan for that can come back to haunt you.
Here are examples of crises that could wind up on the front pages of your local newspaper:
  • Your bookkeeper runs off with this week’s payroll to pay for her gambling addiction.
  • A key executive is arrested for drunk driving – again.
  • A customer complains about a product they didn’t like or a service they thought was sub par.
  • Your building catches fire and burns down.
  • Your company name happens to be the same as a multi-billion dollar, international company with the same name.
  • The company president dies.
  • The company becomes a takeover target.
  • A former employee comes to the office with a gun and starts shooting.
  • A negative review for one of your products appears online.
Don’t think these things don’t happen. They all did!
You need to have a plan to deal with any type of situation, and while it is impossible to think of all of the possible crises that can happen, there are a few rules of thumb to follow that will help steer you through the difficult times.
  1. Tell the truth.
  2. Don’t stonewall.
  3. Appoint one person as spokesperson.
  4. Let everyone at the company know that only the spokesperson can talk to the media, and that if they get a call from a reporter then they should refer the reporter to the spokesperson.
  5. Think visually. Have photos and logos ready for the media.
  6. Decide where you will hold a press conference. Your office? A company meeting room? Outside the company headquarters? Think of what you want the TV viewer to see while the spokesperson is being interviewed.
  7. Assemble a crisis management team that can meet on a moment’s notice to brainstorm and act.
  8. Do a dry run press conference.
  9. Media train your spokesperson.
  10. Get to know the reporters who cover your company or industry now. That way they’ll know and trust you if a crisis occurs.
There’s another old saying Hope for the best and plan for the worst.”  If you plan and prepare for a crisis you'll give yourself a much better chance of limiting the damage and staying in control of the situation.  If you do find yourself in the spotlight, albeit for the wrong reasons, take the opportunity to show your business in the best possible light under the circumstances.
Dan Janal, author of "Reporters Are Looking for YOU!" helps small businesses get publicity so they can sell more products. My clients get terrific results from my coaching, consulting, done-for-you services and do-it-yourself tools. For info, go to
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