A lesson in B2B crisis communication from my yoga studio

Like much of the Northeastern US, we’ve had buckets of rain over the past month, with a lot of local flooding. My yoga studio was affected and I received early notification and subsequent updates from the owners about closings, class cancellations, class availability and make-ups. I was impressed and I saw the parallels of crisis communications in our industry – an art that some companies have done better than others…and some not at all.

The difference between chaos and clarity is the difference between loyalty and disaffection (or outright hostility and defection) among your stakeholders.

While the details of the yoga studio situation aren’t relevant, the outlines of their communication apply directly:

  • Here’s the situation… This means explaining as much as you can, as clearly as you can and as early as you can. It should be as soon as you become aware of the crisis, can articulate its impact and have begun to execute a response plan – no sooner and no later. You might be dealing with contacts who don’t know your technology (whether reporters or executives within the customer base) so avoid jargon or insider-speak.
  • Here’s how it affects “you”…Targeted to the concerns of each stakeholder: customers, business partners, employees, investors, prospects. While the facts are the same across the board, what they mean to each is different.
  • Here’s what we’re doing about it…Explain what you’ve done so far, what’s in process and what will happen next. If the crisis is ongoing, say so; if it’s over, indicate any necessary follow up. And if you don’t know everything yet, provide a general time frame of when you can communicate more (aligned with the urgency of the situation).
  • Here’s where to find more information and updates…There should be multiple ways to get notified, with a “record” of updates so people can follow the chronology and push notifications through tweets, email and/or text (which should be known by understanding the communication habits of your audiences).

So thanks, Twisters; you minimized frustration, built loyalty and encouraged empathy through clear communication that addressed my needs as a client.

In this case, the crisis was physical (flooding); in our business, the crises are likely virtual – a security breach, a flood of negative press, even a surprise competitive acquisition – anything that changes the game in an instant and affects your stakeholders directly. The secret is preparation. Crises happen quickly, and you can’t think – or act – your best in the midst of one. In part 2 of this post, I’ll talk about how to prepare.

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