It’s not something any business wants to think about, however any smart business is well prepared for a crisis. Depending on the nature of your business this can range from a major incident such as a chemical leak into a nearby stream to smaller incidents such as having to close the business due to power loss. No matter how large or small the incident, what is important is having an infrastructure in place to be able to publicly address the incident to the press, your employees, and most importantly your customers.
The BP Gulf Oil Spill:
We all remember a few years back when BP had that terrible oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Within days, BP had a website online to address the situation, offer updates, and publish press releases. They had live cameras in place showing the public the cleanup efforts underway. They had TV commercials running, press releases flying out the doors, and employees on the ground helping out residents.
Whether you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion on how BP handled this crisis, the bottom line is they had the infrastructure in place to handle a disaster of this magnitude and keep the public relatively informed.
Not every business is as large and has the resources as a company like BP, however on a smaller scale there are numerous things your company can do to plan for a crisis:
1: Determine Your Largest Risks:
Most businesses can list 1-3 of their largest risks that they face. For a chemical company, it would be a chemical leak, explosion, fire, or other similar incident. For a doctor’s office, it might be someone breaking in and stealing medical records or having some sort of widespread infection tied to their office. For a restaurant it would be an outbreak of some illness or food poisoning. Or if you’re an attorney maybe the risk is a crazy client making false accusations that get picked up by the media. No matter what the risk, we recommend companies have a plan in place to respond to the incident.
2: Determine How To Handle The Risk:
For many companies, it makes sense to build a dark site to be used for reputation management. This is extremely important in industries that have the following characteristics:
- Large Scale Incidents: If there is a possibility of having a large scale incident (an oil spill, chemical leak, etc.) then you would likely benefit greatly from having infrastructure in place to launch a dark site which could provide information about the incident and work to improve your public image.
- Life Altering Incidents: If there is a possibility of altering someone’s life (mass food poisoning, medical records being leaked, etc.) then you would also likely benefit greatly from having an infrastructure in place to launch a dark site, which again could provide information about the incident, who to contact if you were harmed by it, and work to improve your business’ image.
- A Crisis Is Common: In many industries, a minor crisis can occur monthly, quarterly, or annually, such as a severe injury at the workplace of a manufacturing company, a traffic accident for a trucking company, or other similar events. If this is the case, it would likely be beneficial to not only have a dark site, but possibly have a constantly live site addressing these issues, offering safety tips, and providing other important information about these incidents.
3: Internal Dark Sites:
Sometimes companies have internal issues which require communication and collaboration when their staff is in different offices, when their staff cannot come into the workplace, or other situations. In this case, it may make sense for your company to develop an internal dark site for use by employees. This would allow executives to post important information for employee use only, allowing for a seamless flow of information during some sort of internal crisis.
No matter what industry or what the situation, your company should consider a dark site for managing a crisis and for reputation management. We’ve seen businesses handle a crisis extremely well and others handle a crisis extremely poorly, and often times how the company handles the crisis determines if they will make it through the incident or if their company will face extreme struggles ahead.