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Crisis Management and Public Relations: A Guide for Self-Storage Operators

By Melissa Stiles Comments
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Has a break-in ever occurred at your self-storage property? Did a natural disaster cause damage to your buildings? Or did some other situation arise that may have resulted in bad press for your business? Being prepared in the event of a crisis with a media-relations plan can minimize the negative exposure for your operation.

To be proactive in a catastrophe, you need to a plan. A strategy will allow public perception of your facility to be controlled by you, not the media. Here are some guidelines to include in your crisis-management plan for better public relations.

Take Responsibility

Today, honesty and transparency are the best policy. The first step to handling public relations in a crisis is to own up to the situation. If you release the information on your own terms, you can direct the message. Hiding it and allowing the media to find out could be detrimental.

Admitting what happened gains trust with customers, prospects and the community. They’ll appreciate your willingness to acknowledge the event, rather than ignoring it and allowing the press to discover and air your “dirty laundry.”

Communicate the Plan

Being proactive and communicating the crisis on your terms means you can address how you plan to fix the problem. For example, if there was a theft on the property, release your plan to install more security cameras or a new gate-keypad system. How you convey your plan to rectify the issue will be more telling than the crisis itself. Customers will appreciate that you already have a course of action so the situation won’t happen again.

Speak to Your Customers

Your customers want to hear directly from you about the crisis. Before you alert the media to the occurrence and your plan of action, send an e-mail or letter to your tenants explaining what happened. Communicate what happened honestly, and explain the next steps to resolving the issue. Your tenants want the information directly from you, not the media.

Handle the Media

Before a crisis happens, everyone who’s employed by your company should know who’s going to handle public relations. There should be one person who deals with all media requests and communicates with tenants. The spokesperson should be knowledgeable and have access to pertinent information. Any questions by internal and external sources should be directed to this person exclusively. Having one point of contact avoids confusion and ensures messaging is accurate and consistent.

Identify Channels

Your public-relations plan should include a list of all local and industry media contacts, and all social media platforms your storage business uses as well as the log-in information. The identified spokesperson should be able to communicate the relevant messaging as the branded user on these channels. Issuing a media release through these platforms will be key in directing the conversation about your company and assist in getting the message out faster.

Answer Negative Reviews Honestly

If a crisis occurs and tenants are effected, your business might receive some negative reviews. Monitor your online profiles and respond to each negative post. When answering, stay on the same message that was sent to tenants and the media. Never stray. Taking out the emotions and sticking with the facts is the best practice for damage control.

Make or Break

How a company handles a crisis publicly can make or break the business. With a plan in place, your storage operation can deal with any situation that requires public relations.

Acknowledging the situation and communicating your plan are the first steps when formulating a response. Having an appointed point of contact for the media, communicating to customers directly, and establishing which avenues to use for sending your message are important parts that should be identified before a crisis occurs. Planning to be proactive rather than reactive in your crisis management can help turn a negative situation into a positive one!

Melissa Stiles, marketing manager for Storage Asset Management, is responsible for the direction of marketing and sales functions of the company’s 90-plus managed self-storage facilities as well as its corporate marketing. Her previous experience includes traditional and digital marketing, specifically social media and search engine optimization in the nonprofit and manufacturing sectors. For more information, call 717.779.0044; e-mail mstiles@storageasset.com; visit www.storageassetmanagement.com.

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