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Small Business Crisis Communications, Part 1

There are two types of companies in the world – those that have had a crisis and those that will. No industry is immune.

Crises come in all shapes and sizes, from natural disasters that could bring your operation to a screeching halt to criminal acts to workplace violence to data breaches. Bankruptcies, major lawsuits and other incidents may also potentially destroy your reputation or cripple your small business.

“A crisis is not just bad news. Every brand will face bad news. A crisis is when something occurs that keeps you from handling your regular business in a normal fashion,” says Vince McMorrow, vice president of public relations for RMD Advertising in New Albany, Ohio. “A crisis is an event that has the potential to cause great harm to your organization.”

Of course, PR pros say you can’t wait until there is a fire to get your fire hose ready. Just as you plan for future growth, you should also plan for a crisis. That’s because making decisions in chaos could lead to rushed judgments, a public perception that your company is hiding from the truth, or executives who appear inept at handling corporate affairs.

“In the midst of a crisis, a crisis communications plan is invaluable,” says Denyse Dabrowski, vice president of The Marcus Group, Inc. a Secaucus, N.J.-based public relations firm. “When I say ‘plan’ I do not mean a 30-page book your company puts together about its crisis response, because, quite frankly, that’s out of date before it hits the shelf. I’m talking about the plan as far as who is part of the crisis team and what everyone’s duties are.”

PR pros agree that while not every crisis can be avoided, increased knowledge, preparation and proper training can help a company put the events that do occur under immediate control, and keep them under control as the issue is addressed.

Stay tuned for practical tips in part two in this series.
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Verizon Wireless Launches Domestic Violence Entrepreneurship Grants

Verizon Wireless just launched a program we should all applaud. It’s called the Domestic Violence Entrepreneurship Program. Verizon Wireless is offering grants from $1,000 to $5,000 per applicant, and awarding $45,000 in all.

The goal is to provide funding to entrepreneurs who have escaped the cycle of domestic violence and are ready to put their skills to work to get a home or small business sup and running.

As Verizon sees it, there is a strong likelihood that many domestic survivors are especially well-positioned to benefit from self-sufficiency programs that focus on entrepreneurship models over traditional job-training options. That’s because domestic violence survivors have developed strong coping and problem-solving skills. What’s more, many were employed before the violence and they all have a strong incentive to be self-sufficient and violence-free.

Verizon is betting that the successful development of a home or small business can offer these women more control over their working lives, create important financial and social opportunities for them, and help ensure their long-term safety and stability.

How can domestic violence survivors use the funds? Some examples include making a down payment on a work space, purchasing a computer or other office equipment, purchasing initial product inventory, as collateral to support the receipt of a small business loan, or to help pay the costs of attending an entrepreneurship program or business course.

Want more information? Call 585-321-7264.
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Why Your Small Business Should Tap Facebook Page Designs

Earlier this week, we looked at how small businesses are using social media marketing to raise awareness of their products and services. Now, let’s take a look at one strategic method of driving more fans to your Facebook page: Facebook page design.

By creating landing pages—pages that new fans land on when they first call up your Facebook fan page—you have the opportunity to encourage visitors to sign up for your newsletters, buy your books, or take some other call to action.

“Internet users spend hours on Facebook to view their friends’ news feeds. By having Entrepreneur Package, business entrepreneurs can give an attractive look to their Facebook pages created for business purposes. A custom Facebook page design will allow them to get engaged with the visitors for long time thereby receiving higher traffic for their business,” says the owner of My Facebook Page Design.

My Facebook Page Design is one of a growing number of companies out there that offer packages for your small business. Those packages may include designing a welcome page with customized layout, designing options to upload video or flash movie, customizing a profile image or banner to put on your Facebook wall or other interactive tweeks to make the Facebook user experience more productive and covert more visitors to fans.

Also, check out this video on Facebook Page design tips:

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Tips for Small Business Owners Who Need a Vacation

A vacation? What’s that? Many small business owners don’t get a vacation, but more are beginning to take some time off. So says a new study from American Express’ OPEN Small Business Network.

Sixty-six percent of business owners are planning summer vacations that are at least a week this year. That’s an increase of 15 percent over 2002. But it seems that it’s not all fun and no work. About 30% of small business owners say they try to link vacations with business trips to save time and money. What’s more, 73 percent expect to grapple with business worries while they travel.

What exactly are they going to worry about?

  • 24% worry important clients/customers won’t be well-served

  • 18% worry about who will manage the business

  • 18% worry about missed opportunities to land new business

  • 15% worry about staff judgment calls

  • 12% worry about equipment or operational breakdowns

  • 8% worry about security at their business


"Business owners are often reluctant to take vacations because they fear the company will suffer if they are not minding it. The irony is that vacations can be a long-term investment in the success of the business by helping owners re-charge and return to work invigorated," says Alice Bredin, Small Business Advisor for OPEN. "Since business owners don't always have the luxury of time, it is important for them to do some careful planning to ensure they can create the time they need to get away."

Bredin offers some tips for planning summer vacations:


  • Schedule a vacation well ahead of time. Especially important for those who think there is never a "right time" to get away, putting a vacation on the calendar early will enable you to appropriately prepare for it. This includes preparing your staff to cover while you're away.

  • Consider using a professional to handle your travel plans. Working with a travel counselor to book your trip can save you time and money and make planning a vacation easier. Travel professionals can find good values and can also help if plans go awry.

  • Schedule breaks during business downtimes. Consider planning some time away this summer when your business may be slowest—or the least hectic. If your business is seasonal, consider vacationing during the off-season.

  • Commit yourself financially to your vacation. Consider putting a deposit on a rental house or a trip. Committing to take that time off and setting up financial consequences if you back out (lost deposits, cancellation penalties, etc), can help ensure you actually take the vacation.

  • Budget your workload. Once you decide how long you'll be away, figure out exactly what needs to be done before you leave and build in this extra work into the days or weeks leading up to your vacation. By leaving with a "clean plate," you can reduce your anxiety about leaving the office and give yourself a greater chance of relaxing.

  • If you must work on vacation, do it in brief spurts. Ideally, you don't want to take work with you on vacation, although working on vacation is better than no vacation at all. If you must work, do it in short spurts, perhaps in the early morning, so you can quickly get back to the business of relaxing.

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Small Businesses Lean on Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is officially a top contending small business marketing tool. A whopping 73 percent of small businesses are using social media to market their business—and usage is trending upwards. So says a new study from Constant Contact.

What’s up with the 27 percent of small businesses that aren’t using social media to market their businesses? Well, they are beginning to open their eyes to these tools as well. Specifically, 62 percent expect to start using social media marketing in the coming year. What’s more, 81 percent of small businesses that are already using social media marketing plan to use it even more this year than they did last year.

"The value proposition that social media marketing offers to small business makes it a no brainer for time- and resource-starved small businesses. They simply need coaching and know-how to use those tools in the best way possible," says Gail Goodman, CEO of Constant Contact. "Our assessment of this data is that more education will only improve small businesses' results with social media marketing."

Facebook Reigns Supreme
Of the small businesses that are engaged in social media marketing, 80 percent have used the tools more in the past year. And, not surprisingly, Facebook is the most popular way to get their message out. Ninety-five percent of small businesses that use social media marketing are using Facebook compared to 63 percent a year ago. Eighty-two percent find it effective today compared to 51 percent a year ago.

While Facebook rules, though Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Vimeo are getting some action from small business marketers. But how effective is it? Forty-seven percent of small businesses using Twitter and LinkedIn find it effective while 73 percent of small businesses that use YouTube and Vimeo found these video options effective.

Mixing E-mail and Social Media
OK, so where does e-mail fit into this picture? Small businesses still turn to e-mail, Web sites and event marketing. Indeed, the Constant Contact survey results reveal that social media marketing complements rather than replaces other marketing activities. Despite the growth of social media, other marketing tools aren’t seeing any usage decline:

  • 91% of small businesses use e-mail marketing

  • 95% use Web site marketing

  • 77% use print advertising

  • 69% use online advertising

  • 53% use event marketing


In fact, respondents also reported that e-mail is the first—and most frequent—tool that small businesses turn to when trying to connect with current and prospective customers. Eighty-three percent report that e-mail is the first tool they check when going online for their business each day and 72 percent check their e-mail six or more times a day. By comparison, 13 percent check Facebook, 6 percent check news sites, and 4 percent check Twitter more than six times per day.

"We've seen our small business customers improve their results by integrating tools, such as e-mail marketing with social media marketing," says Goodman. "Email is still the most obvious choice to make sure your message gets out, and social media puts that message in front of a wider audience. We like to say that email lights the fire, while social media fans the flames."

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