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Crisis Communications Checklist for Retail Stores

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Has your business made a faux pas on social media? An employee, perhaps, has done something embarrassing, or maybe all your industry has bad press. The way your company communicates in a crisis can affect the entire organization, including profitability and sustainability.

In the case of an e-commerce or multichannel retail, a crisis can be anything that has a negative impact on a business or disrupts normal business activities.

Corporate Crises

The most difficult types of seizures are those involving injury or death.

In February and March 2018, firearms and gun control became national subjects. Retailers selling firearms are in crisis; they communicate how their practices will change. For example, many large retailers will no longer sell firearms to people aged 18, 19 or 20, even if the law allows it.

Think of the March 2018 announcements of Dick & # 39; s Sporting Goods, Walmart, Fred Meyer, REI and L.L. Bean. All of these chains changed their policies on firearms in response to industry pressure after the recent and horrible school in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018.

Less serious but always difficult are the crises that attach to your organization's reputation, sales or viability.

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Imagine a brick and click retail chain with a strong social media network. There is a chat problem in one of the physical locations of the business. Several cats, which the retailer 's employees regard as wild, urinate and otherwise destroy stocks stored in an outdoor shelter.

The store manager wants to treat cats with humanity. He starts calling a cat rescue, but one of the employees stops him. She safely trapped wildcats and gave them to a friend who helps to cure them. She volunteers to capture the cats behind the store in cages (live traps) and make sure they are safe.

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Unfortunately, trapping goes wrong. The employee's trap worked, but when she picked it up, the cat inside it scratched and she dropped the cage.

Even a Crisis of cat can severely interrupt the operations of a retailer, damage its reputation and reduce its sales.

A client sees the cage fall and interprets the scene differently. For this client, the employee did not drop a cage but rather "slamming" a cat trapped on the floor.

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Outraged, the client brings to Facebook the story of what she saw and perceived. In the space of an hour, hundreds of customers, once loyal, slam the retailer for cruelty to animals.

Checklist for Crisis Communication

Retail companies should plan crises without waiting for them to happen and try to find what to do next.

Anticipating crises. Start by listing the likely crises that your business might face, such as outrage on social networks or negative news from the industry.

Come with at least 10 possible crisis situations each year. This list should guide the balance of your company's crisis communication planning. In the end, have an emergency crisis communication plan, sometimes called a scenario plan, for each crisis.

Identify your crisis communication team. For each of the crisis scenarios, assemble a crisis communication team.

This team should include:

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  • Member or members of the executive management. For a major crisis, this leader may be the main spokesman for the company. In other cases, this person is on board for decision making.
  • Operational Chiefs or Department Heads. These are the people responsible for the affected areas of the business. In the example of trapping cats, it may be the person responsible for the physical storage operations.
  • Communicators. The marketing and communication group of your company will manage the message.
  • Outside support. Some crises may require outside support. For example, you can ask for a legal opinion.
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Consider the public and choose the channels of communication. For each potential crisis in your business, determine who your audience will be and what channels of communication will make the most sense.

If the crisis is affecting indignant customers on Facebook, your company may want to plan social media messages, e-mail communications, phone calls, and even face-to-face meetings with customers.

For the example of cat trapping, a retailer could post messages on Facebook, express concern and ask for the opportunity to communicate directly with the relevant customers.

If customers allow it, e-mails, phone calls and a meeting at the physical store could follow.

A more serious example, such as a firecrack debacle, could require a company to send emails to customers or publish press releases.

Plan crisis messages. Using your scenarios, start writing your company's crisis messages in advance. You probably will not use these messages word for word, but planning what might be said will be helpful.

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You could start with a template for a simple statement of expectation. Something like:

We are aware of this situation and are working with the client to solve it. We will post updates as we learn more.

In all your crisis communications:

  • Be as transparent and open as you are cautious.
  • Take responsibility for the actions of your company.
  • Position your company as a leader and source of information.
  • Act quickly; initial statements should arrive in time.

Include an operational strategy. Each crisis emergency plan should have an operational strategy.

For example, according to reports, several large brick and nail retailers carrying firearms shredded flyers and canceled pay-per-click campaigns including firearms after the Florida shooting.

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These companies recognized an industry crisis and took steps to avoid being insensitive as a result of a horrific tragedy.

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The cancellation of some marketing tactics may also be an element of your business's operational strategy.

Decide how to monitor communication problems. When a crisis occurs, how will your company know? Part of the management of crisis communications quickly becomes aware of it.

Using as a guide the list of potential crises in your business, set up monitoring and reporting systems. This can be as simple as subscribing to a social media monitoring service or as complex as developing emergency notification systems in every department or location of your business.

Analyze and learn from your response to a crisis. An effective crisis communication plan should include a method to analyze how your business has worked during a crisis, to learn. This is similar in concept to the analysis of a good marketing will do after running a campaign. Want to know what worked and how to improve.

Adapt your plans to real crises. The emergency crisis communication plan for your company will be a useful guide when and if a real crisis occurs.

While it is likely that your business needs to adapt its plans to the reality of the situation, your preparation should pay off with faster response, better resolution and less impact.

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