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Crisis communications play a pivotal role in crisis management and are vital to preserving an organization’s operations and reputation. Crises can take many forms. The most obvious and dramatic crisis is an accident, terrorist attack or natural disaster, but investigative reporting, high-profile litigation, labor issues, hostile work environment claims, data breaches, death or serious injury to an employee are just some of the many other crises that can beset even the most well established and respected government agencies, companies or organizations.
Crises threaten to disrupt or destroy normal operations and to permanently tarnish in an instant the long and hard-earned reputation of any organization. As such, they must be planned for (as much as possible), prepared against, and, when they arise, dealt with swiftly, decisively and efficiently. EKA provides strategic counsel to clients on a range of issues, with a particular focus on reputation and crisis management, litigation support and financial communications.
We have provided crisis counsel and prepared crisis communications plans for clients across a broad spectrum of business, including food and beverage, transportation, healthcare (including hospital management and biotech), consumer products and heavy industries. We managed crises ranging from acts of terrorism, environmental disasters and product recalls to proxy battles, federal investigations, investigative media reports and board disputes.
EKA not only assists in managing crises; our work often starts long before that. We develop well-constructed plans that game out all angles and aspects in play before a crisis hits: from creating statements and holding them for potential situations to audience matrices that define the communications platforms to response and management procedures we refine down to the smallest practical detail. Our plans are always user-friendly. We encourage and help clients keep preparedness plans alive through regular updating training and simulation sessions.
EKA’s Reputation Management service covers the full spectrum of CEO and corporate reputation issues— from creating and maintaining an enduring reputation to recovering a reputation following a crisis. In an age of rising ethical standards and transparency expectations, our offering has become an increasingly vital part of an organization’s communications strategy.
Our CEO Reputation Management services are shaped by a deep understanding of the most critical drivers of CEO and company reputation and by the sophisticated strategies for improving both.
Protecting reputation is not necessarily about the crisis, but about how the crisis is handled and the actions taken to restore trust. Data breaches are the worst type of modern corporate crisis because they financially and emotionally impact masses of individual customers. When consumers are personally threatened, or affected by a breach, they can become powerful influencers of public perception the minute their stories are amplified across social networks. When millions are individually threatened, their reaction can severely damage an entire business, regardless of size. Rose has worked on several cases in the healthcare industry, helping national healthcare companies institute comprehensive response programs to both repair damage and restore customer trust after a data breach.
When student who died in a fraternity hazing incident, a major university hired EKA to help the university deal with crisis communication and crisis management immediately. EKA assisted the university immediately after the incident, during the formal investigation and through the conclusion of the incident which attracted national attention.
Rose has assisted several major brands with food product recalls. In one case, Rose received a call from an international food company after they received reports, from various places in the United States, that customers reported illness resulting from consuming their product. The biggest initial challenge was to determine the scope of the recall in the face of incomplete information. Rose worked with the company CEO, legal counsel and sales team to assess the facts, substantiate the accuracy of information and subsequently relay that information in a concise and transparent to the public and other stakeholders. Rose drafted scripts for the company’s reference when assisting customers and drafted releases addressing both wholesale and consumer recalls. In the end, a full recall was avoided. An escalating crisis was halted within five days of the initial call.
When a national university discovered that a member of the faculty had committed academic fraud involving multiple college athletes, the school hired EKA to assist with formally notifying the NCAA of the violations, developing an approach to get everything out in the open and creating a process for rehabilitation of the sports program. EKA strategy began with the premise, if the school does not tell its story on their terms, someone else will tell it for them. The university leadership did not want to “conceal and cover up” what occurred and they did not want to mislead the public. EKA developed a “reveal and reform” strategy which resulted in the NCAA accepting the university’s self-imposed sanctions.
We applied the same philosophy and principals of proactive media management and scrupulous honesty when clients came to us as sexual harassment allegations and stories broke across the nation.
- A highly respected television producer who had been honored multiple times for his leadership on women’s issues learned that a prominent lawyer was going public to accuse him of sexual harassment. EKA preemptively issued a statement for our client and publicly exposed the situation, which resulted in the media casting doubt on veracity of the claims.
- When a legendary entertainment executive was faced with assault charges, EKA assisted in crafting his unequivocal denial regarding the allegations to the media. We also assisted the entrepreneur in shaping the announcement that he would be stepping down from his various businesses in order to protect hundreds of employees. He also committed himself to continuing his personal growth, spiritual learning and listening.
- When The New York Times contacted a famed director about a notorious movie mogul’s alleged sexual assault of the director’s former girlfriend, EKA helped the director get ahead of the issue by detailing his account of how he confronted the executive over the casting of his next movie, and describing what he hopes the entertainment industry will do to reform itself in the wake of an ongoing harassment and abuse scandal. The headlines that followed all portrayed our client in a positive light and focused on the abuses of the executive and the industry in general.
National Railroad Company
From 2008 to present, EKA has worked with a large national railroad company to manage the communications involving a highly controversial $900 million-dollar expansion project. EKA works closely with the company’s general counsel and prepares messages for a variety of internal and external audiences—including employees, customers, vendors, and the financial and investment communities. EKA also monitors traditional media, blogs and websites, and trains company spokespeople in effective communication response.
Title IX issue
When a California School District began hearing complaints from a large group of parents and a Legal Aid Law Center alleging significant Title IX issues – the federal law that requires schools to provide equal access to academic and athletic opportunities for all students, regardless of gender – at the high school as related to male and female locker rooms, the Superintendent retained the services of EKA. The firm was hired to design a communication program to address the issues and avoid potentially costly litigation. EKA advised the Superintendent to personally inspect the facilities, with a few parents, to assess the needs and viability for upgrades. The EKA communication plan included and overview and outline of changes the school would make to achieve Title IX compliance. In addition, EKA worked with the District to publicly announce the new women’s locker room makeover as well as to highlight four new girls’ sports at the school which included water polo, golf, tennis, and soccer. The plan to proactively inform the community that all the students had equal access to facilities and an equal opportunity to participate in sports demonstrated that the District was committed to Title IX. The plan worked and costly litigation was avoided.
Class Action Lawsuit
When a major utility overcharged customers over $70 million, following the rollout of a flawed billing system, EKA provided strategic communication services to the out of state law firm that brought a class action lawsuit asserting claims for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and violations of the California Legal Remedies Act and California Unfair Competition Law. EKA worked with the law firm, prior to and post settlement, to ensure that customers and the media understood the settlement provisions which included the return of every penny owed to customers. The settlement also required that the utility implement specific customer service performance metrics and submit to court oversight even after all funds were repaid to the customers.
Threatened Environmental Litigation
When an exclusive private school discovered potentially carcinogenic materials had contaminated their campus, school officials were deeply concerned that misinformation would incite panic and decimate enrollment. Highly visible environmental mitigation work, including drilling and restricted access, made it imperative that parents, students, teachers and staff were informed of the situation in a way that made them feel confident, comfortable and safe. Rose set up a social media monitoring effort and worked closely with the school’s legal and technical experts to develop and implement a series of meetings and outreach activities to communicate the facts and address parent fears and concerns. The environmental mitigation program was successfully completed and school enrollment was not affected. Through proactive efforts, the school was able to avoid any mention of the issue in both traditional and social media outlets.
Product Defect Case
When a Japanese multinational engineering, electrical equipment, and electronics company was sued by a large California utility for $7.6 billion for delivering equipment that ultimately led to the permanent closure of a plant, EKA was retained by the Japanese company to develop a comprehensive communications plan. Three years after the case was filed, our client scored a major victory when the plaintiffs were awarded only $125 million, less than the liability limit under the contract. EKA worked very closely with the company’s lawyers and in house public relations team and approached the challenge from three perspectives: public relations, government relations and legal. EKA identified the most probable scenarios likely to play out in order of probability, from highest to lowest, and then developed a detailed plan to deal with messaging for each scenario. When the award was announced, the story was picked up by over 250 newspapers and trades worldwide and our clients stocked soared.
Unfair Competition Lawsuit
After losing a large fraction of market share to a competitor who misrepresented his product to the public, Rose’s client brought suit in federal court seeking damages and an injunction against false advertising. Rose mobilized public opinion by coordinating public interest groups which adversely affected individual consumers, public health specialists and regulatory agencies in support of our client’s position. He successfully placed news stories nationwide questioning the honesty of the competitor’s advertising and raising legitimate concerns about the safety of the competitor’s product. The competitor agreed to settle out of court following a public hearing by an influential legislative committee. Settlement terms are confidential but the competitor changed his advertising practices to eliminate the false claims that were at the heart of Rose’s client’s lawsuit.
The Invisible Plume
In October of 2015, a massive gas leak was discovered adjacent to the residential community of Porter Ranch. Thousands of the communities 30,000 residents had to relocate after suffering illnesses caused by the natural gas leak. The media interest in the issue was sparse because the single worst man-made gas accident in history was not visible to the human eye. Rose was retained by several law firms to make the issue a front-page story. He convinced the clients to obtain infrared footage of the leak—which made the invisible gas visible. Immediately upon releasing the video, the story gained worldwide attention. Headlines described the situation with words like “catastrophe” and “disaster,” and the lawyers who released the video were highly sought after by news organizations around the world.
Personal Injury Litigation Appeal
Rose managed litigation communications following a horrific traffic accident involving a publicly traded transportation company. The incident involved nearly 50 vehicles and resulted in multiple fatalities. Rose’s work focused on directing traditional and social media attention to the primary cause of the accident (faulty road design and management) and reducing speculation concerning the client’s involvement. His research on the history of road-construction errors, errors in setting speed limits, and errors in maintaining required safety warnings enabled him to persuade the media to reverse their initial conclusions and to withhold judgment on the ultimate cause of the accident.
September 11 Terrorist Attacks
In the hours after the tragedy of September 11th, Rose led the external proactive media outreach efforts for a major US airline and airport. Rose led the account team that provided strategic counseling and crisis communications to a major US airport during the September 11th terrorist attacks. His work included crisis and public relations support, offline and online media monitoring, and research. Additionally, Rose implemented pre-approved crisis-related media materials and messages and developed new messages for the airport staff and the Los Angeles Mayor. The success of the effort resulted in the City of Los Angeles retaining Rose to develop and coordinate a massive post-September 11th event for the airport.
California Proposition 65 Lawsuit
When an environmental organization brought a California Proposition 65 (which requires the state to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects) case against most major manufacturers of chocolate products, Rose helped ensure that the announcement was a ‘one-day wonder’ that gained no media traction. Before the announcement, he prepared key documents, selected and secured third-party advocates, hired media-trained spokespeople, and produced B-roll. Rose conducted extensive opinion research to test the messages and to evaluate which spokespeople would be most credible among key audiences. At the plaintiff’s press conference, he distributed the client’s statement, subsequently providing B-roll and, to select media, a spokesperson. The plaintiff’s case was successfully characterized as a sham. There was almost no media follow-up, the minimal settlement went unreported and chocolate sales were unaffected.
Following the drug overdose death of a teenager attending a rave, Rose was hired to assist the national company that hosted the event with a reputation building and repositioning campaign. The campaign’s purpose was to deflate and deflect negative misconceptions tied to the company’s festivals and events—namely the perceived connection to illegal drug use. Critical to the success of Rose’s efforts was ensuring that the campaign worked across multiple platforms: traditional media, social media, and in-person communications. The campaign was a success and the company was able to not only maintain their leadership position in the industry, but they were also able to grow.
Rose was hired by a family who owned hotels and an NBA basketball team to handle the negative attention they were receiving in both mainstream and local media. Rose created and implemented a strategy for the family that allowed them to maintain fan loyalty and win respect from their business partners while they sold the team for a record profit.