Let’s face it: even the most successful small businesses can face adversity. Whether it is financial issues, a PR crisis, security breach or other sensitive matters, there may come a time that your small business needs to run damage control. By creating a business communication strategy, you’ll be better equipped to handle stressful situations. Although your business may not be able to prepare for every aspect of a negative event, forming a business crisis management plan can help you generally determine how you’ll move forward. Incorporate these six tips for dealing with disaster into your business crisis plan, and you’ll be able to salvage your company’s reputation. 1. Form a business communication strategy – If your business happens to end up in a negative situation, you’ll be relieved to know you already have a plan for how you’ll inform customers about the issue. Make sure you have an updated list of customers’ phone numbers and emails, so that you’ll be able to immediately contact them. In addition, you should designate someone to write a press release, should a disaster occur. If this person has experience and an outline of how you’ll respond to a potentially damaging issue, you won’t risk releasing an inadequate statement. 2. Utilize social media effectively – In a crisis, social media can be your best friend or your worst enemy. It is pivotal that anyone managing your small business’s social media accounts is fully aware of your business crisis plan. This will prevent any slip-ups from occurring during the execution of your business’s communication strategy. In addition, if the circumstances are still being resolved, you may want to consider posting real-time updates via Twitter. This will ensure that your customers are informed as soon as possible. 3. Focus on your messaging – Releasing a press release and sending a few tweets may not be enough to earn your customer’s forgiveness. When addressing a mistake your small business has made, your message should be consistent, without being scripted. Don’t just explain what happened; make sure you’re communicating how the issue is being resolved, and how you’re ensuring it won’t occur again in the future. 4. Offer flawless customer service – If the matter at hand adversely affected your customers, or compromised their information, you should be prepared to experience negative feedback. Your employees should all be trained to respond to inquiries about this matter, so that no additional damage is caused. 5. Be straightforward from the beginning – As nerve-wracking as it may be to address your customer base, don’t try to hide relevant information from them. It can be embarrassing to admit a mistake was made by your small business, but trying to sweep it under the rug could lead to additional negative publicity later on. Your customers will be more likely to forgive a mishap if it was explained to them honestly, than if it was covered up first and then admitted later. 6. Focus on next steps – Once the storm has cleared, the work doesn’t stop there. You’ll need to critically think about how you can earn back your customers’ trust, and move forward positively. As a small business, discuss how you can ensure this issue never occurs again. Mistakes happen, but repeat offenses could cause you to lose your valuable customer base. It can be upsetting to think about your small business facing a PR nightmare, but with a business crisis management plan in place, you’ll be able to move on and learn from your mistakes!