Public Affairs / Reputation Management / Issues & Crisis Management is a “legacy part” of SW&A, and a favorite part of principal Sam Waltz’ personal opportunities to help Clients, drawing on his 4 decades of experience in Journalism, Human Behavior, Civic & Government Affairs, Corporate Life, and Leadership.
He’s widely acknowledged as a leader in this work, the only professional in his region with this focus who not only is Accredited by his Professional Society PRSA, but elected a Fellow of it, who also has served as its elected Global and National President and Chair, Board of Directors, akin to a local Attorney who might head the ABA nationally. In his Corporate career, with the DuPont Company External Affairs, he worked for DuPont’s Corporate General Counsel in leading corporate responses to such issues. With BS and MS degrees from the University of Illinois, he also is a Vietnam-era Veteran of US Army CounterIntelligence.
Client Confidentiality is an important part of how SW&A works, even when (1) Cases are in the news, and (2) Sam Waltz is publicly identified as a spokesman for the Client interests. Prospective Clients often are interested in examples, so identifying data in the following examples has been stripped from the general reference, although individuals bringing some knowledge to the fore may guess or feel they recognize the case history. Projects have ranged from providing Strategic Public Affairs Strategy, Leadership, Counsel & Advocacy — including Media Relations — on such issues as…
Ø Abuse of Trust in Predatory Clergy & Teacher Sexual Abuse of Children cases;
Ø Abuse of Trust by a Physician involving Patient Safety Issues, a widely-regarded MD in the region’s largest practice which he founded, groping some of his female patients;
Ø Abuse of Trust by a leading CPA in the theft of $ million(s) managed under his discretion;
Ø Abuse of Trust by a senior executive over time in the theft of nearly $600,000 from the clients of his commercial real estate firm employer;
Ø Abuse of Trust with Defamatory Intent in damaging a not-for-profit organization and its volunteer board upon the arrest of its former executive director who stole a significant amount of funds;
Ø Defamatory Intent in damaging a former employer by a frustrated supervisor who abandoned his job and attempted to extort money from his employer before filing US Civil Rights charges;
Ø Defamatory Intent to extort a significant amount of funds from a not-for-profit by threatening reputational damage;
Ø Litigation PR in Chancery Court action to recover $40 million of dissipated wealth from one of the region’s major wealth management institutions, including strategy to hold together “family interests” in the Plaintiff’s litigation against the family-founded bank;
Ø Litigation PR in Chancery Court action for the abrogation of a high-end business deal between two highly visible entrepreneurs that created an “impossible hill” for the defense to climb;
Ø Coordination of Response in the first-ever suicide in a residential mental health facility;
Ø Coordination of Response in major Environmental Issues (Air & Water) at an aging chemical plant, including Regulatory Affairs;
Ø Reputation Management Counsel, with “triangulation” of response(s), to hostile journalistic agendas against major employers / institutions and their C-level executives;
Ø Media Relations / Reputation Management in the explosion of a manufacturing facility that essentially evaporated four long-service employees;
Ø And these are just a handful of “case histories.”
SW&A’s approach is characterized by being proactive…
Need for Proactive Reputation Management
Leadership has no pressing Reputation Management / Issues & Crisis Management situation at present to which it needs to react. However, it is well aware that such issues occur regularly. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is the old phrase, and leadership is aware that it seems prudent to anticipate and prepare for the likelihood if not inevitability that it will have to confront such an issue(s) one day. SW&A is the only Delaware professional services provider with its PRSA credentials working in this space.
Problem-Solving Deliverables by SW&A in Issues & Crisis Management
We explain in our presentations important conceptual frameworks, as well as a variety of (undisclosed clients’) issues which we recently have handled. We make the points that…
Four Sources of a Crisis:
Ø Mission Failure
Ø Leadership / Management Failure
Ø Human Failure
Ø Acts of God (and others)
Issues / Crisis Management Process:
Ø “Put out the fire” or “Stop the bleeding”
Ø Strategy Development
Ø Rehabilitation / Repair
Prevention and/or Mitigation of Issues becoming Crises:
Ø Audit Exposure
Ø Plan & Rehearse
Ø Ongoing Management Focus, incl “banking a reservoir of good will” via proactive attention
Finally, at SW&A, depending on the client needs and interests, and based on the interests, time, priorities and budget of our client, we develop what we describe as a “good – better – best” approach.
Plan A: In Crisis
Client already is in crisis, already in interruption of normal business, or facing that, and / or facing reputational issues from the kinds of crises described. SW&A has a normal business process designed to restore calm and routine normal business as quickly as possible. Each one is unique to the crisis, as it must be.
Plan B: Basic
Client is not yet in crisis, but it is aware that Reputational Management issues always are afoot, and that they can plague the organization at any moment. This approach does not anticipate any proactive strategic development, but relies on “building intimate familiarity” with the Client as an asset to be utilized in Public Affairs / Reputation Management / Issues & Crisis Management.
Plan C: Comprehensive with Exposure Audit Function
This approach builds on Plan B, but its objectives are to disarm and prevent, by auditing exposure, remediating where possible, and providing some modest level of training for recognition of causation factors and handling so that an event does not escalate to a crisis.