As you’ve probably read in the last couple of weeks, the FBI is taking Apple to court to make them create code that breaks their own security enhancements to retrieve possible data from a terrorist’s phone. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook recently wrote an open letter in response to the case in which he said that the company thinks it’s a dangerous slope to go down and essentially denied the request of the government. Whether you agree with Apple or not, there are some things that your small business can learn from Apple’s predicament. While it is unlikely that most businesses will have a public showdown with the government, there are some principles that can be applied in a general sense to when your business, company, or brand is in crisis.

Stay True to Your Brand

Apple has a very specific point of view, and your company should, too. When facing obstacles, whether a lawsuit or a bad review on Yelp, know how you’re going to respond. Will it be with a public and professional letter or with a sarcastic note in the comment section? Know your voice, your public perception, and your catastrophe plan.

Stay True to Your Audience

If you have a clear understanding of who you are as a business, your customers, followers, and clients will know who you are, too. And more than likely they’ll have the same views and perspectives as you do. So when a crisis appears, whether building over time or out of the blue, understand how that will affect those who have committed to buying your product, using your service, or partnering with you in business.

Let Your Employees Know

If a major event happens that puts your business and brand at risk or in the spotlight in a major way, it’s important to let your employees know first. When telling employees, you should at least relate the most vital information and then decide what else to add on: what the company is doing to remedy the situation, how employees should respond to customer and media queries, and a timeline for when to expect the issue to be resolved. Your employees are most often going to be your first and best line of defense and will be able to speak directly with customers and clients.

Let Your Customers Know

Likewise, you should then notify your customer base and, if necessary, the general public. Obviously if your crisis is one bad Yelp review, you don’t need to send out a press release letting the world know you responded—a quick response to the appropriate user usually will suffice. But if you’re revamping based on comments from many consumers, it is important to let them know that their voice is heard and that you’re working to correct the issue. In any other time-sensitive situation, publish an easily-accessible letter on your site addressing what the issue is and what is being done to remedy or correct it. The more transparent you can be as a company, the more your followers will feel like they can trust what you’re saying.

Pick Your Battles

Know when to stand unwavering in the face of adversary and know when to come to the table with some compromises. While Apple doesn’t agree it should make the software to hack its own devices, Cook does outline some options for how Apple, other tech companies, and the government can work together to fight terrorism. In a similar way, look at the broader picture of the situation and see how your actions could result in different outcomes.

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