Small Business, Big Crisis – What You Say Makes a Difference

“How to communicate in a crisis situation using the 3 R’s.”

It’s a common misconception that only large companies face situations that can have a negative impact on their reputation.  In fact, no business is really immune to the issues that surface in a time of crisis.  And the way in which a company decides how to handle their communication can greatly affect the outcome.

In crisis communication we refer to these as the 3 R’s.   Regret, Reason and Remedy are used to help formulate the key statements to be communicated to stakeholders during these difficult times.

For the sake of discussion, lets say a local restaurant gets shut down over a health inspection report.

The way the restaurant may put the 3 R’s into action might be something like this:

Regret – The business should start by showing regret over the issue itself and communicate their concern to their key stakeholders.  In some situations they may even apologize for the closure since it will likely have an impact on their customers.

“We regret to inform our customers and staff that the restaurant had to be closed due to some concerns brought to our attention by the health department.  We understand that this closure may be an inconvenience to our clients who continue to be our most loyal customers.”

Reason – Most people want to know “why” something has happened.  If a business can provide the reason, or at the very least, some type of explanation, it can help to avoid rumours from spreading, and help to build back trust.

“As a company we take full responsibility for the issues that have been presented to us by the health department.  We are working hard to determine how some of these key areas may have been missed.  We take these concerns very seriously.”

Remedy – Even the best explanation in the world, isn’t going to help restore reputation in a time of crisis.  But what a company chooses to do, and say, in order to rectify the situation can certainly have a huge impact.

“While we determine how these issues came to light in the first place, we intend on making some major changes in our operations to ensure this doesn’t happen again. First, we will be taking this time to initiate a massive store-wide cleaning and inspection.  We will also be providing quarterly staff training sessions to ensure every member of our team, new and old, abides by the health standards set out.”

The best part about the 3 R’s of crisis communication is that they can also be used to help manage customer complaints.  They often help to diffuse a situation, provide context and help to build customer loyalty.

Give them a try the next time you encounter a crisis, whether big or small!