Home Court Advantages: Tap Into Your Community’s Goodwill During a Crisis

Many physical resources—including money and manpower—are missing when a crisis of receivership hits a small to medium-size company in a close-knit community. However, there is often a sense of ownership of and investment in the affected business that is felt by the community. Here are some of the best tactics to use that inherent goodwill.

  • Reach out to the community early on in the crisis with as much of the truth as can be told, as quickly as possible, while being careful not to react hastily or reveal anything that could compromise long-term outcome. 

  • Use the residual goodwill that members, customers and employees feel for the business by enlisting their help in telling the business’s story to the community.

  • Don’t hide from local media, but offer to give them the human side of the story. Without taking a defensive attitude, focus on lessons learned and finding a way forward to save the business.

  • Don’t underestimate the motivation that local government officials have to help the business recover. In hard economic times, a sizeable business is a vitally important employer in a small town. 

  • Small business owners, employees and adversaries are embedded in a small community in ways that large companies in large cities are not. The banker that holds the mortgage may sing in the church choir with the company comptroller. Human networking can build bridges when more formal processes turn adversarial. 

  • Keep up appearances. The company should remain highly visible and involved in its community. This illustrates the value the company has and the void that would be left if it failed.

Wendy Turrell is director of marketing and public relations for LifeCenter Plus Health & Fitness Center in Hudson, OH. She has held the same position at the Akron Symphony and Ohio Ballet and has worked as a public relations specialist and copywriter for advertising agencies. She can be reached at wendy137@frontier.com.

This article was adapted from PR News' Crisis Management Guidebook, Vol. 5. This and other guidebooks can be ordered at the PR News Press online store.