You wouldn’t believe it now with blue skies and 70ºF weather, but just one week ago, Texas was covered with snow and ice.
Not only did this arctic blast cause everything to freeze, it resulted in catastrophic power outages, frozen (and burst) water pipes, and less than stellar cell service.
All of our remote team either lost power for at least 24 hours and had very unreliable water. By Thursday, only 40% of our team had reliable Internet access – which is critical for our business.
We don’t state this for pity, but this type of event happens all the time around the world.
Now that we’ve defrosted, we’re here to share what we did (and wish we would have done) in regards to our small business crisis communications plan. You too can be prepared for the next crisis – whatever that might be!
Why You Need A Small Business Crisis Communications Plan
You can’t control the crisis – whether it’s a natural disaster, local emergency, or personal crisis. It may happen completely unexpectedly or you’ll have a couple days heads up. In our case, we had a couple days to prepare. While we prepped by acquiring enough food and water for a couple days, we didn’t anticipate losing power or cell service for several days.
Instead of thinking on the fly, read on to discover 4 reasons why you need a small business crisis communications plan.
It Shows You Are Proactive
Your clients want to know that you’re looking out for their best interests. That means seeing what is coming at them! They too may be stressed about the upcoming storm or emergency, or they may be oblivious to what’s going on in the world.
Give them one variable they can control by controlling it for them. Send communications to display your proactive approach. They’ll not only appreciate that, but they’ll begin to associate proactiveness with your brand.
It Communicates Why You’ve Ghosted Them
There’s nothing like losing power and not being able to get in contact with your clients or the people you were supposed to meet with that day. Instead of being in that position, give them an explanation ahead of time if you cannot attend the meeting. They are much more willing to be forgiving if they know what’s going on.
Don’t be the person that stands them up!
P.S. If you don’t have cell signal, you can say “no” on the calendar event and put a short note. That seemed to work when text or email wouldn’t. When you regain signal, then send them an email to reschedule and apologize for your absence.
It Preps Them For The Worst Case Scenario
Just in case your entire electrical grid shuts down, you’ve already done the work to prepare your clients on the worst case scenario – not being able to deliver or communicate with them.
It Helps You Identify Who You Need To Contact
When you have a plan, you are less likely to forget anyone you need to contact. Those individuals may include:
What You Need To Include In Your Small Business Crisis Communications Plan
So while there are some emergencies that you cannot anticipate (i.e. volcano eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc.), there are others that you absolutely know are coming. Days ahead of the winter storm Texas experienced last week, meteorologists tried their best to let everyone know it was coming.
We stocked up on food and water, wrapped our pipes, and got all our blankets out. While we thought we had prepared, we didn’t anticipate widespread power outages.
This is something that we personally failed to do with our clients before the storm rolled in (and something we’re mitigating for next time). But alert your clients of what to expect over the next couple of days. That may include what to expect, what you’re doing to be prepared, next steps, and well wishes.
If we were to do it all over again, we would have sent out the email below between Friday and Sunday – before the storms rolled in Sunday evening. This allows them to expect that our company is going dark during the crisis.
Dear Valued Clients,
Over the next few days, our remote team in Texas is hunkering down for the “winter storm of the century”. While we don’t know what that actually entails, we fully anticipate our response time will be delayed (due to us being frozen, of course). If the storm results in a worst case scenario – i.e. power outages – we will update you on your revised deliverable schedule.
If you do have an emergency or need to get in contact with me, please text me at (XXX) XXX-XXXX. Our connectivity may be limited with potential power outages. I will do my best to respond as I am able to.
Thank you for your understanding and patience during this storm.
Stay warm and safe out there!
If things aren’t as bad as the weather reports said it was going to be, then you can come in and surprise them!
AutoResponders To Personal Emails
The next thing you need to consider putting in your small business crisis communications plan is an autoresponder. Have your entire team set their out of office notifications to indicate the same message that was sent out to all of your client base.
Here is what I sent out:
Thank you so much for your email!
Due to the extreme weather in Houston and the rolling black-outs, our response time may be delayed. Thank you for your patience as we wait to get back online.
If you need immediate assistance, please text me at (XXX) XXX-XXXX. Otherwise, I will respond to your email as soon as possible.
After losing power and cell service for 22 hours, I got antsy. I knew we were fast approaching deadlines and I could do nothing about it. So the very next day when I got power back (at 3am), I rattled off several client emails warning them that this may happen again.
Dear Valued Clients,
You may have seen it on the news or be experiencing it for yourself, but the winter storm impacting Texas (and especially Houston) has greatly impacted our team’s ability to work on your deliverables and be in contact with you. Our entire team has either had no power or unreliable power over the last 48+ hours. We appreciate your understanding and patience as we navigate this unusual occurrence.
Once we are out of this storm, I’ll provide an update on your deliverables.
If you do have an emergency or need to get in contact with me, please text me at (XXX) XXX-XXXX. Our connectivity is limited, so I will do my best to respond as I am able to.
Stay warm and safe out there!
Start Preparing Your Small Business Communications Plan Today
While this is not an exhaustive list or may not address the crisis you anticipate undergoing, we do hope this was helpful to put into your communications arsenal. Send us a note if you have any questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time… Enjoy this beautiful weather!