You Need a Crisis Communications Plan. Right Now.

Imagine that you’re a small but growing manufacturer of women’s activewear.

Customers love your products, and tweet your praises. Fans—nearly as avid as Apple fanatics—flock to your stores for yoga classes. Your brand stands toe to toe with giants like Nike and topples them.

So why in the world would you need a crisis communications plan?

Lululemon Athletica is discovering the answer to that question the hard way. Twelve days ago, the brand made the kind of headlines no one wants: Two young female employees at its store in Bethesda, Maryland, were reportedly beaten and sexually assaulted by masked assailants; one of the young women was brutally murdered.

A week later, a bizarre twist: The surviving employee is now charged with murdering her coworker, and for making the whole story up. (It’s been reported that the coworker had caught her alleged murder with stolen merchandise from the store.)

Through it all, Lululemon has made only one, brief public statement (which is hard to find on its website), while continuing to broadcast chirpy tweets like: “Need some more colour in your life? You can now shop by Unicorn Tears, Violaceous, and Iris.”

Meanwhile, the story continues to spin—and the truth is being shaped by others. A recent news report quoted a former Lululemon employee who blames the company for not firing the accused murder earlier. (Allegedly, it wasn’t the first time she had been accused of stealing merchandise.)

I’m sure Lululemon is working fervently to get its crisis communications in order. But there is no worse time to do so than when you’re in the midst of a crisis.

Don’t make the same mistake. Whatever business you’re in, you need a crisis communications plan—right now. Start today.

Good luck, Lululemon. Believe in your own manifesto: “Life is full of setbacks. Success is determined by how you handle setbacks.”