The past several weeks has been filled with numerous natural disasters and some man-made ones as well. While I had planned to write how CEO’s can no longer delegate cybersecurity oversight, I awoke Monday to news of the horror in Las Vegas. In the face of these tragic, unplanned events we as leaders have a choice in how we respond and our response dictates our brand perception.

This week Uber, Lyft, and Allegiant Air responded quickly to offer free and discounted transportation. Meanwhile Google’s algorithms were spreading fake news. Here in Texas, H-E-B Grocery’s response to Hurricane Harvey solidified an already rock-solid consumer base when they rolled in their mobile kitchens and disaster response teams. Another regional company, Whataburger, created a special hotline to assist their affected employees.

While your crisis may not be one of this magnitude, there are still lessons you can use when other crises arise such as when someone complains about your service, a key employee resigns, or a worldwide malware attack occurs.

  1. Be A Scout – “Be prepared” is not just for Boy Scouts. If you are an IT company, you know there is a clock somewhere counting down the time to the next critical patch installation. If you are Chipotle or Bell Bell Ice Cream, you better have a thorough plan to address a contamination scare whether its legitimate or not. There are some crises that happened in the past and will happen again in the future. Draw up a simple response plan and make sure your team is aware.
  2. Own Your Part – If the crisis is self-inflicted, then own it. One of my clients received a nasty-gram from a prospect after she had a terrible experience on his website. Her gift informing him of a defect in his business deserves reciprocity. I advised him to send some form of thank you. We now refer to her as the “cupcake lady” after he sent her cupcakes and revived a dead lead.
  3. Seek Critical Feedback – Know in advance who you are going to call for advice whether that is a peer, mentor, or trusted advisor. Have a designated digital forensics team or cybersecurity firm in the event of a network hack. Months before Equifax’s data breach, four cyber risk analysis companies rated them poorly. Someone on the executive team should have been alarmed and taken swift corrective action.

What are the crises that your business is likely to face in the near future? Put together a simple response plan covering the basics of who, what, when and how. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Then specifically decide what you can do to differentiate your response and create a loyal following.