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6-12-homespun-hurricaneRISMEDIA, June 12, 2009-It’s hurricane season, and you might have all the essentials to protect your business if a storm is coming – plywood, tarps, portable generators. But do you have the tools to protect your company’s reputation?

If your business is shut down for days, or even weeks, how will you keep your customers while you get your business up and running again?

“When a hurricane hits, public relations is probably the last thing on the mind of most business people,” says Nicole Gustin, director of crisis communications at Loomis Group, an integrated marketing agency. “Everyone is busy dealing with the aftermath of the storm. But a company’s reputation can quickly take a hit if you aren’t prepared. That’s why you should have a solid crisis communications plan that you can quickly execute in times of disaster.”

Here are some key crisis communications tips for hurricane season:

Develop a crisis communications plan. It is critical for all businesses to have a public relations strategy in times of disaster, so you are not scrambling in the moment. Executing the right plan can protect your company’s reputation, and even make it stronger, if your community is affected by a storm.
Talk to your customers. Know how to reach your customers to tell them if you are open for business, or when you will re-open. In today’s world of social media and blogs, the public expects to receive information instantly. If your competitors are luring people with offers on Twitter, and you are still figuring out how to boot up your computer, you could be losing customers.
Publicize “good Samaritan” efforts. If you are donating supplies or aid to others in need, show your community that you are a good corporate citizen. Such good will efforts may be remembered for many months to come.
Prepare now. Don’t wait until a storm is coming, when you are concerned with the physical safety of your building and employees and will have little time to devote to public relations.

Make sure your business is prepared not just for the torrents of a hurricane, but for the rapidly changing wind of public opinion. A little effort and communications planning up front can protect you long after the storm has passed.