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Managing the Message: Public Relations After a Crisis Occurs at Your Self-Storage Property

A crisis can occur at your self-storage property at any time, and there will be many safety and logistical issues to manage. What’s also critical is how you handle information and public relations around the incident. Here are some tips on controlling the narrative to customers, investors, the community and others.

Cassie Dodgen

March 16, 2022

5 Min Read
Public Relations After a Crisis Occurs at Your Self-Storage Property

The future is unknown, but it pays to be prepared. Self-storage properties are vulnerable to natural disasters and other kinds of crises. If you’ve worked in the industry for any length of time, you’ve probably already experienced a fire, flood, hurricane, break-in, car crashing into a building or gate, or some other incident.

When a catastrophe occurs, there’s a lot to manage, from ensuring the safety of people to minimizing property damage to documenting everything as it occurs. Among the most critical things you need to do, however, is control the information going out to your customers, investors, community and others. Public relations is a key contributor to how well your business survives the ordeal.

Whatever you do, don’t ignore the situation. Never put your head in the sand, which will almost certainly result in angry tenants, business partners and neighbors. Instead, keep everyone calm and informed with the right messaging delivered in a timely fashion via multiple methods. Here’s advice for controlling your narrative and smoothing the way to recovery.

Customers

When a crisis happens, you and your team will need to spring into action. Among the first things you’ll need to do is communicate with your self-storage customers. To find the best person to lead this charge, look within your company for someone who can be informative but also compassionate.

Once your communication person or team has been selected, you need to craft the right messaging. It should clearly explain the situation and be tailored to two different audiences: customers who were directly affected by the incident (i.e., their unit was damaged) and those who rent at the facility but weren’t directly impacted. Everyone should be notified. Initially, you may have limited information. As you gather more insight about what’s happened and how things will move forward, send out updates.

When contacting tenants who suffered a loss, begin with those who have been hit the hardest. Try to reach each person by phone. Make the call short and informative. Script it out to ensure everyone receives the same message. If warranted and appropriate, this call should also include an invitation for the customer to visit the property—but only if the environment is safe to do so. Also, schedule an appointment so you can control traffic flow.

All communication, including unsuccessful attempts, should be noted. Any physical notices should be sent via Certified Mail. If you need to leave a voicemail, ask the customer to call back, so you can relay the information to them personally. Depending on the incident, connecting with everyone may be difficult, but continue trying until all are reached.

Investors/Lenders

It’s recommended that you communicate with your self-storage investors and financial institutions promptly to keep them up to date with accurate information. They’ll want to know about the situation and the plan of action as it relates to their business interests. This messaging may be relayed in phases as information unfolds.

Appoint a specific, high-ranking individual in your organization for this task. The communication can be in the form of a phone call or an email. In either case, everyone should receive the same message, so no important details are missed.

Depending on the severity of an incident, there may be a large disruption to the business. This should be highlighted and addressed by the plan of action to minimize any turmoil. In the event a vote or high-level approval is needed for a decision or action, make sure the appointed company representative can coordinate with the appropriate parties.

The Community and Media

Depending on the incident, you may be contacted by local media or need to get them involved. If you’re looking for community support in the moment, you need to get in front of the public narrative and correct any negative views toward your self-storage business. The media can help or hurt in this regard, so it’s important to be proactive, communicative and honest.

Selecting a public spokesperson for your company ahead of time will allow you to prepare a confident message. It should express compassion for the community, especially if this is a wide-reaching disaster such as a hurricane or tornado. Communicate your plan of action and how you plan to support affected parties. Finally, if the police, fire department or emergency medical services are involved in mitigating the crisis, express your appreciation for their help.

Vendor Partners

One of your first calls should be to your vendor partners and any other companies that can help get your self-storage operation back on track. For example, if a tornado has taken the roof off a building, it’s critical to implement a temporary solution to avoid additional damage. If there’s been a fire, security and safety measures need to be implemented to keep visitors safe and tenants’ goods secure.

Be Ready

The information your self-storage company shares with various parties after a crisis will be largely dictated by how the incident pertains to them. Every operation has many stakeholders including employees, customers, investors and lenders, insurance agents, vendor partners, and neighbors. Each has a right to be informed, though perhaps at a different level.

No matter the audience, it’s important to be prepared and get in front of the narrative. Guide the flow of information to keep everyone calm and in the know. A crisis can strike at a self-storage facility at any time, and you never know what form it might take. Don’t do things on the fly. This can lead to confusion and frustration and damage your business reputation. By anticipating the worst, designating a communication person or team, and controlling the messaging, you can save your self-storage operation valuable time, money and headaches.

Cassie Dodgen is president of operations for Pinnacle Storage Managers, the third-party management division of Pinnacle Storage Properties. Her 10 years of industry experience includes acquisitions, development, operations, multi-store leadership and maintaining excellent company culture. Her career has included manning a single site to running several multi-million-dollar businesses. For more information, email [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Cassie Dodgen

Owner and Operator, Monarch Republic LLC

Cassie Dodgen is owner and operator of Monarch Republic LLC, where her responsibilities include strategic leadership, facility operation, accounting, human resources and marketing. She also implements new projects and ideas to stay competitive with self-storage industry standards. For more information, email [email protected].

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