(Photo by Flickr user Andrew Turner, used under a Creative Commons license)
It happens to even the very best startups among us — your CEO says something unwise, a poorly-worded tweet goes viral or the company data gets hacked. But then what? What’s the recovery plan? Does your startup have one?
Arika Pierce, a principal at the boutique public affairs firm Gide, says that, too often, startups don’t. But never fear — she’s here to help.
D.C.-based Gide (pronounced “guide”) helps startups in highly regulated industries like healthcare or drones or fintech with all kinds of public and government affairs needs — PR, branding, advocacy and more. But recently, Pierce told Technical.ly, the team has been focusing more and more on crisis communication. Gide helps startups be prepared with a protocol for the eventuality (as they see it) in which something goes wrong and the company can either sit back and hope for the best or “own the narrative.” No surprise, Pierce advises the latter.
So why aren’t startups prepared for a crisis? Pierce points to a few reasons ranging from the company size (generally very small at first, so there might not be much attention devoted to what is not an immediate issue), to the fact that startups are normally focused on other things like fundraising or growing a client base, to the relative inexperience of many founders. “They don’t really think about it until you sit down and start to talk about it,” Pierce said.
Please Vote for Gide's session at SXSW 2017! How to Kardashian Your Way Out of a Crisis. https://t.co/yQYXYEKfBb
— Gide (@gidellc) August 16, 2016
But the truth of the matter is that your business is on the line — most startups can’t afford (financially or reputation-wise) to take the Uber-honed route of “do it now, apologize later.”
So here’s what Gide recommends — a solid, well thought-through plan. The firm helps clients with this process by doing four to five hour “crisis communication” classes in-office. During these hours the company learns about crisis situations at other companies and how they’ve been handled, brainstorms about possible things that could go wrong and the likelihood of each happening, does role-play of media situations and sets up a crisis response protocol.
The main piece of feedback she gets, Pierce said, is always “wow, I never thought of all the things that could go wrong.” Comforting. But in the words of Pierce — “everything is manageable.” If you’ve got the right plan in place, that is.
For Pierce, who comes from a background in more corporate work, helping startups is engaging and exciting. “I love helping companies that are coming up with new and innovative technologies,” she said.