By Amy Daniels
Do you ever feel like your self-storage facility’s reputation is out of your control? Maybe it seems like your public image is always in someone else’s hands, whether it’s customers leaving online reviews or journalists publishing stories about your business. Perhaps you think the only time you get public attention is when you have a crisis or host a community event.
Chances are your facility has neither a phenomenal nor a terrible reputation. You’re probably somewhere in the middle, not getting as much media coverage as you’d like and wondering how you can change that.
By taking a proactive approach to public relations (PR) and handling crisis situations gracefully, you can keep good favor in the eyes of the public and your target market, no matter what’s going on in your community. Here’s how to do it.
The first step to handling a crisis is to be proactive about your reputation before one ever occurs. When a catastrophe hits your community, many businesses may try to make it a PR event by making grandiose donations and hosting charity drives. You don’t want that kind of behavior to be your crutch, for two main reasons: First, your voice will drown in a sea of voices from other businesses that are doing the same thing. Second (and more important), your efforts may be seen as insincere if you’re them to boost your facility’s public image.
The solution? Manage your reputation year-round, through good times and bad. Establish a good standing for your business and show your community everything you do well. Then, if a crisis hits, you can focus more on lending a helping hand than chasing the news coverage. Here are a few key ways to manage your business reputation at all times:
- Build relationships with local journalists. Write or contribute to press releases covering your facility events, new services or technology.
- Show off your brand’s personality and values through social media platforms. To do this, post and interact with your followers regularly.
- Read your facility’s online reviews. Respond to all of them—good and bad—with a positive and kind attitude.
- Provide a spectacular customer-service experience every time someone interacts with your facility, whether it’s in person, over the phone or online.
Remember that managing your reputation is about more than portraying a good image. If you regularly receive negative reviews for having a dirty facility or your social media followers scoff at the overly promotional posts you write, allow these perspectives to help you identify problem areas in which your business can improve. Sometimes it takes a second eye to pinpoint areas we can work on; and listening to this feedback can help your operation become even better over time.
Look for Ways to Help
Hopefully, your community will never have to deal with a natural or man-made disaster, or other sudden emergency. But if you look around, there are probably smaller crises with which your business could help. A few examples include:
- A local resident facing terminal illness or recovery after an accident
- A family dealing with the loss of a parent or child
- A school or youth program with inadequate funding
- A high unemployment rate or a large homeless population
All around America, families are struggling to bring home enough money; people are finding out they have incurable diseases; and kids are failing to exercise and build social skills. It doesn’t take an epic disaster to require (or provide) assistance.
Look around your community, meet with local charities and find ways to offer support. It could be as simple as donating a few dozen boxes for a canned-food drive or offering a discount on a storage unit to families in housing-transition programs. Nonprofit organizations are always seeking volunteers as well. There are many ways you can help your community; you just need to do some research and make connections.
Find Power in Numbers
If a crisis does occur in your community, some businesses will exploit the situation to get press coverage. This is unfortunate because even though they may be donating money or services, their efforts could be better spent by focusing exclusively on the calamity rather than having a “two-for-one” mentality.
Sometimes you can do the most good by partnering with other committees, organizations and nonprofits who have ideas and resources. Instead of focusing on how you can do something impactful to get your business in the news, spend your time and energy getting involved with established programs. Maybe you can play a lead role by rallying local businesses to volunteer at a food pantry; or take up a collection for canned goods, clothing or monetary donations at your facility and make a large contribution to the cause.
Whatever the specifics may look like, remember that a crisis isn’t your time to shine—it’s your time to help. Understanding this allows you to provide meaningful contributions to any situation.
Reputation management is a critical part of operating a self-storage facility. If you don’t get involved, you leave the fate of your character in the hands of others. Instead, be intentional about your business reputation at all times and with every interaction. When a crisis comes, you can let your good standing speak for itself. Roll your sleeves up and do your part to help your community move forward.
Amy Daniels is the content manager at storEDGE, which offers a comprehensive suite of technology solutions designed specifically for the self-storage industry. She combines self-storage industry research, Web-marketing strategies and small-business experience to cultivate the growth of facilities nationwide. For more information, call 913.954.4110; visit www.storedge.com.