Companies must respond after an event occurs. Saying “no comment” is one of the worst statements they can make. No response is equally as bad. This suggests to the public that a company might be hiding something. In the absence of information, or the promise of information, the media, customers, and others fill the void with their own information, as they see it.
During and after a disaster or crisis, if your company is not providing status statements to the public, and is not operational or meeting public expectations in a reasonable amount of time, what are your customers likely to do? Go straight to your competitor.
In addition to the company losing business, your former customer may provide advertising in their own form for their new company. Word-of-mouth goes a long way on company reputations. Do you have an effective communications plan to divert and address bad press or bad media relations? If your corporate communications team is not already a major part of your disaster and crisis management plans, I suggest getting this team involved.
As a customer do you find out about a business thoroughly? Whenever I attend a conference I always look at the attendee list to see what companies are sending employees and supporting education in the business continuity industry. I also check Better Business Bureau reports on companies.
I want to do business with companies that are progressive and serving their customer base well. Whenever I search for a vendor for my business continuity needs, I always make sure the attorneys get in contract language that allows a review of the company’s business continuity/disaster recovery program and exercises. If there is not an opportunity to participate in a joint exercise then I want the right to at least request a copy of their results on a regular basis. I think we all know that a disaster at a supplier company can have a cascading effect on companies in the supply chain.
While business continuity professionals can’t fix company reputation situations, we can help them be better prepared through crisis communication mechanisms and a crisis communication plan. Be vigilant about what is being said after a crisis event. If no communication is being made then employees, the public, and the media will take whatever rumor or information they hear as fact. The best defense is a good offense – that offense is a crisis communications plan and good reputation management.
"Appeared in DRJ's Winter 2008 Issue"