Could it Happen to You?


Flood Fire Chemical Spill Computer Glitch Human Error Embezzlement Electrical Fault

Workplace Accident Sexual Harassment Death of a Director Share Market Slump Strike Fall

Vehicle Crash Explosion Computer Virus Environmental Disaster Food Poisoning


Many SME business owners have no idea how vulnerable their businesses are to the effects of even a minor crisis. A crisis or negative situation could mean irreparable damage to the image and reputation of you and your business.

A crisis is not simply something big that attracts the attention of the media. A crisis may also be a situation that leaves your business open to criticism or negative comments. No matter how innocent or unintentional the situation is. Insurance will not save the image and reputation of your business. You could have enough insurance to cover plant and products but insurance will never cover the goodwill you could lose. This is another key mistake that businesses make. They think insurance will cover any losses, but what is your reputation and integrity worth. It is priceless. The handling of a crisis is what will potentially SAVE the image integrity and reputation of your business. And that includes information that is IN the media and information that is KEPT OUT of the media. Even if the media doesn’t get involved every business has a series of key audiences with whom they must communicate. These include:






regulatory authorities


government departments

special interest groups

Whilst crises such as environmentally damaging chemical spills and workplace accidents may seem irrelevant to owners of seemingly safe office businesses crises such as embezzlement or sexual harassment or a computer glitch could severely affect a business.


Scenario planning with management and co-workers or if you have no employees with friends is the first step you can take to develop a simple plan for your business. Think of your specific business or industry. What types of crises could affect you. Think also of the other people with whom you do business such as suppliers and stake holders.

For example:

Contract drivers in trucks with your business name on them. What if they had an accident?

Or a disgruntled employee sabotaging your computer data

Or someone infecting food you produce

Or someone has an adverse reaction to one of your products such as food or skincare or aromatherapy

Or sexual harassment at your work or home-based business

Some will be INTERNAL and some will be EXTERNAL. What impact or effect do they have on your business. Are they potential crisis points?


Put together a team of trusted and capable people who can help you plan your crisis communication. These would also be people you will call on when a crisis occurs. The crisis team doesn’t meet regularly but only for planning and when required. Depending on the size of your business crisis team members may include staff and family members or people with specialist skills such as public relations.


Key audiences are those people that interact with your business. So depending on the type of business or industry you are in the effect of your crisis on your key audiences will be different. It is important to understand that not all crises will attract the attention of the media but there will be other groups to whom you must communicate. These include:







Potential Clients


Community Groups

Industry Associations

Regulatory Agencies




Special Interest


To adequately prepare for communicating with your key audiences you will need to work with material prepared in advance. Pre prepared communications such as statements and media releases and a telephone answering script will show you to be professional organized sympathetic and credible.


Prepared statements that can be read out presented faxed or e-mailed are very useful. Another form of prepared statement can be issued by the person answering the phone and other buffer people. Some useful prepared statements are:

We are preparing information and will give a media conference before 4.00pm. Please give me

your name and contact details and I’ll call and let you know when the conference will take


We are investigating and will release information when we know more.

Please give me your name and contact details and I will call you when we have more information.

Thank you for your enquiry. We are compiling information at this time and plan to have a media conference at 4.00 pm. Please give me your name and contact details and I will ring you back if anything is to be reported before that time.

Members of the media can be pushy and demanding especially if they think they have a scoop. Your key media spokesperson MUST retain control and run to YOUR agenda not that of the media. Even if you have your prepared statements under control some media will try to provoke a response. So practicing the following responses in order to retain control of the situation is highly recommended:

That information is not to hand but as soon as we have it we’ll let you know.

That’s an interesting question and I’ll respond to it in a minute, but the key issue is…

We are investigating that, but what you need to understand is…


Have a buffer person to answer phone calls and take messages

Return calls promptly

Have prepared statements

Practice prepared responses


I suggest you think about what types of tough questions you may be asked and practice answering them. Use a mirror to gauge your facial expressions and hand movements.


Every crisis requires someone with the ability and confidence to speak to the media.

Sometimes the CEO or business owner is not the right person for the job. It is important to

present someone to the media with a specific set of credentials and abilities. Some

qualities are:

Comfortable in front of cameras and microphones and journalists

Knowledgeable about the business and the crisis at hand

Able to establish credibility with the audience and project confidence

Sincere straightforward believable accessible

Skilled in handling the media and directing responses to another topic

Skilled in identifying the key points that your business wants to push

Available for internal staff and external stakeholders

A back-up spokesperson should also be identified.In addition to your key media spokesperson additional expert spokespeople or advisors may be required. These resources may encompass people such as a financial expert or risk assessor or health inspector or engineer or business leader or environmental authority or technical expert. Depending on your crisis remember that other parties may also be involved. Police Fire Department Local Government Health Officials Transport Authority and the like. They will also have their own spokespeople. It is important to know who are your co-spokespeople. Identify them and speak with them as early as possible so statements and contact with the media can be coordinated. It is in the interests of all organisations that collaboration and agreement is obvious.


Have a kit prepared that contains information that will make it easier for key audiences and the media to understand your business and your position to the crisis. Items to include in such a kit are a business card a company brochure a media release a short company history to gain credibility details on the owner or senior managers contact details for the media spokesperson diagrams that may help media and others to understand mechanical equipment or a manufacturing plant involved in a crisis photograph of the outside of the building or similar image company logo Ensure you have a copy of your crisis communication kit in a separate place not at your business because you may not have access if a crisis occurs.


Test your crisis communication vulnerability with a FREE online assessment tool. Through a simple tick box questionaire you will receive an instant crisis vulnerability rating. At the Underdog Marketing Challenge, a an easy to follow skills development course on Crisis Communication Management and Planning has been prepared by an expert and is available now.

Develop your own critically important Crisis Communication Plan with step-by-step guides and brainstorming help. Join now. Or purchase the UMC Crisis Communication Management & Planning

Workbook for just $39.95.