It’s difficult to describe being a small business owner. We often start out working alone and although it’s empowering and exciting, it can also be terrifying. What happens when something goes horribly wrong, for example?

Everything is F**ked: Where Do We Go from Here?

The truth is, sometimes the tiniest lapse in judgment can have a detrimental effect, and some things are just completely beyond our control. There are many things that can pose a threat to an online business, but carrying out a risk assessment, and proper contingency planning can really soften the blow.

Let’s look first at some of the things that could go wrong in our business, and then the actions we can take to lessen the negative impact.

Client information leaks:
Publishing or sharing sensitive information can lead to various issues for a business, and may even be detrimental. If found to be in breach of GDPR for example, you may be fined up to £17.5 million or 4% of your annual global turnover – whichever is greater. These kind of leaks can also lead to negative press, complaints and even legal action.

If you become aware of an incident like this, you should immediately remove as much offending information as possible, and inform all parties involved. (I’m sure you’ve all seen a data breach notification email at some point.) You may also need to seek legal advice here.

Copyright infringements:
Using Copyrighted information without necessary permissions can massively tarnish a company’s reputation, and may even lead to legal action. We all make mistakes, and there may be times where this happens without your knowledge (for example, a team member publishing a copyrighted image on one of your platforms).

If you find yourself in this kind of situation, it’s important to immediately remove the offending content and issue an apology directly to affected parties. To protect your business’ reputation, a public apology may also be appropriate. You may also need to seek legal advice here.

Violation of platform terms of use:
If you suddenly lost access to a social media platform, would you still have a way to contact your tribe? Violation of terms could result in suspension or even complete removal from a site, meaning vital contact with clients and other connections may be lost.

While loss of access to any platform can be inconvenient, it doesn’t need to be a disaster. You should always ensure you have a secondary way to reach your community. You don’t own any information on social media platforms. If you don’t already have one, you should start building an email list which you can use to contact people if you ever lose access to other methods.

Insensitive post(s) published:
It’s difficult to find any space online where someone isn’t offended by content these days, but that doesn’t mean we should care less about what we post. There is a fine line where some topics are concerned, and it’s easy to find insensitive content being published, which can result in any business being given a bad reputation.

If you find yourself in a situation where you or a member of your team have published content like this, you should immediately remove it and issue a public apology. You may also need to contact individuals directly to offer a personal apology.

Accidental posting:
There could be many effects of accidental posting on a business, depending on the nature of the content involved. Perhaps the most common would be damage to a company’s reputation.

Offending content should be removed immediately and, depending on its nature, a public apology may need to be issued. If content relates to anyone personally, they should also be contacted to be made aware and offered a personal apology. You may also need to seek legal advice here.

Platform outages:
While the effects of this are generally temporary, platform outages can cause vital communication channels to be lost. As before, it’s therefore vital to have a secondary means of connecting with clients, such as a mailing list.

Negative press and public complaints:
There are varying levels of damage that can be done to a business due to negative press and complaints. These may be minor and require an apology from a member of the social media team for example, or could cause legal ramifications, where external advice must be sought. It is important therefore to have contact information available for external experts in case of emergency.

The best thing we can do is be prepared for issues like the above. Of course, prevention would be ideal, but it’s not always realistic. Careful planning and preparation mean we can leap into action and prevent permanent damage being done to the business. It is incredibly easy to tarnish a business’ reputation, but not always easy to recover from. Perhaps one of the biggest things we should be prepared for is reputation recovery – if something bad happens that brings your name or your business name into disrepute, do you have a plan to help you come back from it?

While a simple apology can go a long way, actions speak louder than words, as they say. Proper contingency planning should outline the steps you’ll need to take to repair damage done in any situations like those above. What will you do for third parties involved? How will you handle your employees who may have caused these issues?

You might never have considered what you’d do when things go wrong, but it really could save you a lot of trouble. Do you have contingency plans in place?