You have taken out a PPP loan. Now get ready to talk about it


EDITOR’S NOTE: On the morning of Monday, July 6, the SBA released a database with the names and information of all entities that have received a P3 loan of $ 150,000 or more. You can download this list here. At this time, it is not known if and when the names of entities that have received less than $ 150,000 will be released.

The evolving rules for Paycheck Protection Program loans continue to evolve. And this now seems to be the wisest advice: if your business has taken out a loan, imagine it will go public. And plan what you’re going to say if asked.

Latest rule changes include release borrower information who received over $ 150,000 and, just a few days ago, the new that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin had agreed to give congressional committees full access to all loan data, including borrower names and loan amounts “with the understanding that personally identifiable and commercially identifiable non-public business information sensitive will be treated confidentially ”.

How much information will actually be made public and how easy will it be to find this information? It is also still evolving.

The Small Business Administrations (SBA) has announced plans to disclose the names, addresses, postal codes, demographics and industry codes of borrowers who have received at least $ 150,000. The SBA says it will not disclose specific loan amounts, as loans are grouped into one of five categories: $ 150,000 to $ 350,000; $ 350,000 to $ 1 million; $ 1 to $ 2 million; $ 2-5 million and $ 5-10 million.

Three-quarters of the dollars loaned under the program fall into these five categories. “For PPP loans under $ 150,000, the totals will be published, aggregated by zip code, industry, business type and various demographic categories,” according to tweets sent by SBA administrator Jovita Carranza.

A basic rule of crisis communications is that the more people who know about a fact, the more that fact will be made public.

A lot of people will know about your loan.

We have no problem with this disclosure. The SBA regularly releases information about dollars loaned to small businesses, so why would the PPP dollars, disbursed by the US Treasury Department, be any different?

What is different this time is the scale of the PPP program and the fact that an extraordinary number of companies have received these ‘forgivable loans’, in some cases worth millions, as well as a wide variety of schools and other organizations with large endowments. .

According to the Wall Street Journal, last week 4.6 million PPP loans totaling $ 513 billion were approved.

While there are many reasons – all 100% legal, moral and ethical – why a business or organization may have taken out a PPP loan, experienced crisis management specialists know that sometimes the optics overshadow the facts.

And you can tell the proverbial bank that the media and social media activists will highlight the important businesses and organizations in the community that received the dollars – with a direct or implied request for justification.

The SBA will certainly make a searchable database available and this database will be easily accessible to the public through media and social media.

Even if your business has applied for the PPP in good faith, you should be prepared to defend the loan if questioned by the media or other stakeholders, without looking defensive.

As our good friend Richard Levick has said over and over again: “Use peacetime wisely”. Levick recently suggested making sure you’re prepared to answer questions like:

• Did you easily follow the PPP guidelines or did you have to manipulate the rules to adapt them?

• How was the money used exactly?

• Did you have access to other funds?

• Specifically for schools, what has been your historical commitment to scholarships, diversity and economically disadvantaged students? What would the absence of PPP money mean for the future of these programs?

• How do you currently support your community and the small businesses that make it up?

Levick further suggested that companies and organizations that are sympathetic to this equation will more easily deflect criticism than those that appear to have benefited from this stimulus package.

Now is the time to think about that lens, how your employees, customers, clients, friends and neighbors – and the local media – will think when they find out how much you have received.

We’re not talking about spin. We’re talking about creating clear, succinct, and direct messages and talking points that answer the questions most likely to be asked and the likelihood that once those questions are asked you will likely only have a few minutes to provide. a response to reporters who are on the deadline or social media speculation will increase by then.

Bruce Hennes is CEO of Hennes Communications, a firm exclusively dedicated to crisis management and crisis communication.

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