When Bad Things Happen to Good Businesses: A Reputation Management Primer by Karen Galanaugh, APR, MSM

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Your company’s reputation is its most valuable asset. Your actions and outside forces can put its reputation at risk and the consequences could be fatal to your business. Just ask the dentist with the big game hunting hobby or the restaurant owner who responded with insults to a diner who posted a bad review online. These actions resulted in media attention and up swell of negative public opinion resulting in business cessation and significant negative impact on revenue.

It’s said that 95% of crisis are caused by what YOU do—operationally, personally, employees, investors, etc. The other five percent of crisis are caused by non-operational factors, such as, crime on your property– think of the movie theater owners where the horrible shootings took place.   Another example, you sponsor a little league team and the coach is charged with dealing in child porn — “Galanaugh’s All Stars” is bundled in an unsavory topic and legal story line reported by the news over months.

Most small and mid-sized businesses started with a business plan and grew using a plan for marketing, but it is unlikely that they made plans for the day that could ruin their reputation and negatively impact the bottom line.

On that dark day when trouble strikes, you and your staff may be overwhelmed with fear, confusion, anger, and maybe the urge to hide. Having a crisis plan, or what I call, a “Readiness Plan,” could be the difference between closing shop and coming out okay, especially since speed to proactively communicate to your stakeholders is the fundamental survival imperative. Second to that, is communicating the most appropriate messages.

Preparation will advance your survival because you can plan on a clear day for that stormy day when action is urgent.

Being prepared is a key action to reduce damage and preserve your company’s value when bad things happen to your good business. Here are some action steps a business can undergo on its own now.


VULNERABILITY ASSESSMENT: Identify probable scenarios that could affect your business. Identify and use specific criteria to gauge the severity of a crisis.

MAKE A TALENT ASSESSMENT: Identify internal and external resources you have. Identify: the leader during the crisis; spokesperson; social media manager; customer and vendor relations (letter/calls); webmaster, IT security, employee communications. If you have a franchise, are there resources available to you from headquarters? Identify your legal support and your public relations professional. Does your corporate office need to be in on developing communications?

AUTHORITY AND APPROVAL TREE: Create a process of approval for: messages to the media, stakeholder communications and other actions. (This should trigger you to examine your policy about employees talking with the media, as well as define your social media guidelines and policy.) Does your corporate office require sign-off on statements to the media?

PLAN OF ACTION: Develop a step-by-step, who does what, action plan for each scenario. Prepare a contact list for everybody on the communications team.   

PREPARE COMMUNICATIONS: As necessary for each scenario, prepare: public/media statements and messages for all stakeholders relevant to the scenario (letters, emails, Tweets, ads, Facebook, LinkedIn messages, website messages, etc.).

MAKE CONTACT LISTS: For each scenario, list the internal and external stakeholders that must hear from you. Since speed is necessary, be sure to have email and telephone numbers for all:  employees, investors, customers, legislators, police, schools, health board, vendors, etc. Create a media contact list for reporters in a defined area—business reporters, health, crime, community, industry, etc.


  • Work on all the above aspects of developing readiness plans, and engage a professional public relations expert, such as myself, to refine it and craft the messages to the media and other stakeholders, and provide counsel in the planning, practice and execution. What you communicate, who communicates, how you say it, and when you say it are critical to your business survival.
  • Pick advisers to strengthen the readiness plans. For instance, as part of the planning process, have your legal counsel review the media and stakeholder statements and provide specific counsel as to any legal exposures the hypothetical scenario may present. This way, you will already be aware of potholes, and have an adviser that is familiar with the scenario.


Imagine doing all these fundamental activities listed above on a day when all hell breaks loose; when the media is at the door waiting for your statement; and when clients and customers are calling-in for information.

Do this planning now and you will be ahead when bad things happen to your good business.

End of post.

Original article written by Karen Galanaugh, APR, MSM ©2015 Galanaugh & Company LLC

Look for future posts on this topic:

  1. 10 Biggest Mistakes in Crisis Communications
  2. How to Reduce Your Odds for Crisis
  3. Fundamentals for Statements for the Media in Crisis Situations

About the Author: Karen Galanaugh, APR, MSM is accredited by the Public Relations Society of America, a distinction that marks a professional that has a proven history in PR and a wide breadth of knowledge, as well as a commitment to ethical performance. Karen is well-known in the crisis and issues management specialty fields of public relations. Karen has managed reputation issues, such as: protesters at the door, boycotts, asset theft by competitor; leadership embezzlement, and many other scenarios. She has her Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership and is the owner of Galanaugh & Company LLC, a marketing public relations agency. In operation for more than 25-years, Galanaugh has produced goal-reaching, award-winning work for global and main street companies. Galanaugh & Company LLC is based in Wellington, Florida, USA. Email at info@galanaugh.com or connect on LinkedIn and Twitter: @KarenGalanaugh.