Insurance · 27 April 2017

New crisis management service seeks to end small business PR disasters

PR disasters
United Airlines responded to a high profile PR disaster with an overhaul of its customer service policy

PR disasters could be a thing of the past for small UK business owners, as a new crisis management service is launched to protect firms from reputational damage.

In collaboration with insurance provider Abbey Protection Group and PR agency RMS, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) announced that FSB Business Essentials members will have access to a range of new services to manage potential PR disasters.

The specialist support network will offer advice, practical DIY guides and a telephone helpline. For “business-critical” issues, 24-hour crisis management is available to prevent PR disasters.

If United Airlines’ passenger removal incident taught anything, it was the speed at which PR disasters can travel in the world of social media, online reviews and viral videos, and not something small businesses are immune from. In fact, reputational damage is considered by owners as the greatest risk to their company.

According to Dave Stallon, FSB commercial director, the service was the logical response to how quickly a story can travel in 2017.

Stallon said: “New technology communications means potential reputational issues have the ability to escalate dramatically and very swiftly. It’s crucial that all businesses have effective means of dealing with this.”

As part of the package, Abbey Protection Group is providing insurance cover in the event of the most extreme PR disasters.

In a statement, Richard Candy, the insurer’s managing director, said the crisis management service would meet the “evolving needs of business in the 21st century”.

“It made perfect sense to develop this new cover which allows our policy holders direct access to practical help and advice,” Candy added.

FSB stated that members seeking PR advice had grown “hugely” in the past year, and it hoped the new offering would be of benefit to the majority of small business owners who don’t have the resources to approach external PR agencies.

“A total disaster that damaged my reputation”

To find out more about the PR disasters affecting Britain’s small business owners, we spoke to art and photography entrepreneur Gary Nicholls who used an external PR company to boost exposure for his book after seeing sales tail off after a busy Christmas.

Highlighting a number of difficulties in dealing with such firms, from high starting prices to a lack of research in the client, Nicholls explained that the mid-range PR firm he opted made several promises it couldn’t keep.

“The company sent out 338 emails, of which 129 were follow ups and to what I can only describe as ‘random’ publications. The Palm Beach Post and the Hawaii Catholic Herald, to name a few. The majority were to obscure oversees publications that when I checked showed up as totally irrelevant to my work,” Nicholls told Business Advice.

“Only ten emails were to publications in this country, but even those were to things like the letters page at The Sun.”

The contract had guaranteed access to “genre-specific” reviewers and bloggers for Nicholls’ book, but the promise of extensive targeted coverage failed to materialise.

“A picture tells a thousand words, and it did not include one. Given that is what my work is all about, that was poor.”

“All in all it was a total disaster that damaged my reputation and did nothing for my book sales. The company actually did nothing the contract promised. Sadly, it seems to be quite the norm with book PR, taking advantage of the authors desperation for media coverage,” he said.

Nicholls added that it took him two months to receive a refund, and is now trying his hand at his own PR.

Take a lesson in PR crisis management from David and Victoria Beckham

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Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.