|The Inside Scoop|
Self-Storage Media Coverage in 2012: Make a Resolution to Be Proactive and Transparent
Once up on a time, it was unusual to see mentions of self-storage facilities in mass-media outlets such as newspapers and TV news broadcasts. When self-storage was mentioned, the penetration was limited to a small, defined market area. Then news outlets began pushing out their stories online. This increased the audience; but even still, a person would have to be searching for self-storage information to find it, and his access might be restricted due to an online subscription gate.
Now we see self-storage news and information flying about the Web like a mass infiltration of digital trapeze acts. If you're set up to receive keyword notifications through Google, Yahoo or some other aggregation service, then you receive multiple industry-specific announcements daily, even hourly in some cases.
This is great news for those of you promoting your self-storage business in a positive way: a community event, a special promotion, a donation to a charitable cause. It's horrible for those of you who may have suffered an incident such as a fire, leak, flood or break-in. In all cases, the information zings across the Web at lightning speed, reaching your customers, potential customers, ownership entities and others. It can be a PR nightmare.
In 2012, as part of your comprehensive media plan, resolve to be proactive and transparent with your self-storage audience. It's the best way to manage potentially negative coverage and demonstrate to customers that you care about their level of comfort and support.
Here's an example of what I mean: On Dec. 11, StorageMart experienced a break-in at its Kansas City location. Rather than hunker down to ride out the storm or pray the problem would just go away, the company issued a press release to address the issue head on. It explained what occurred—the locks were cut off of several units—and how the company responded:
- The manager moved quickly to notify authorities and reach out to the victims.
- The police collected evidence, and StorageMart provided them with access to its security video.
- Chief marketing officer Tron Jordheim issued a statement.
- StorageMart provided a list of suggestions to help self-storage tenants protect themselves from theft.
This is a positive approach to a negative occurrence that demonstrates company strength, compassion and candor, not only to its customers but to the public at large. Most self-storage operators would fear harmful repercussions from an incident such as a unit theft—loss of business, a poor public image and the potential for future victimization. StorageMart staunched the flow of troubling press and took the opportunity to educate readers. In its proactivity, the company may even have converted some readers to prospects or customers, as it built trust and communication with its audience.
Think about this approach in the year ahead. I see dozens of tragic stories regarding self-storage every month, and I almost never see a positive reaction from the operator. In fact, some operators may not even be aware that their facility is being publicized in such a way.
Are all of your customers subscribed to "self storage" searches via the large search engines, watching for every piece of information about your facility and our industry at large? Of course not. But it only takes one customer to read about your business in a local newspaper before information can be disseminated to the Web in the form of a tweet or Facebook post. Let's not forget the simple power of word-of-mouth.
They say prevention is the best medicine, but where prevention cannot be had, proaction is the next best remedy. Any self-storage facility in Anytown, USA, can be hit with a disaster at any time. The important thing is to have a plan in place to react quickly and appropriately, with honesty and positivity. Want a few pointers on building such a plan? Read these helpful articles regarding emergency response:
- After the Incident: 10 Rules for Dealing With the Media
- What to Do When Police Arrive
- An Operator's Guide for Dealing With Self-Storage Fire: Prevent, Plan, Protect
Have you ever managed to turn negative press into a positive for your self-storage facility? If so, how did you do it? Have any pointers for dealing with the public after an incident such as a fire, flood or break-in? Please share in your comments to the blog. If you're a facility manager, I'd love to know if your owner or management company has provided you with a detailed media-response plan. How would you proceed if you walked into work tomorrow to find several units compromised? Food for thought.