Occasionally our clients find themselves up against the wall with a crisis involving media, government, or some other external force. These are times that it’s important to take a breath, think about what’s really going on, what, if any, culpability the client actually has in the issue, and then deal with it very honestly, but also strategically. One should never respond to a crisis without a plan. We work to know everything there is to know about the crisis, what caused it, what’s right or wrong about the situation and then we very carefully, to selected audiences, communicate with the highest level of integrity about the issue. The normal response in many crises is to pull in, hide out and not say anything. Sometimes that’s the right thing to do, but frequently it’s not. Often the client would be better served being straight forward and forthcoming and dealing with the crisis to the level the circumstances suggest. We don’t wish a crisis for any client, but we believe there’s no one better to deal with one than us.
GENERAL CORPORATE STRATEGY
Most businesses are managed by specialists who know their industry very well. From time to time, they encounter opportunities that allow them to look at their business or industry differently or to look at an extension of their business into a new area. Other times, they encounter problems generated by the media, community, customer, or government. In both of these instances, we come to the table as generalists to help them navigate new ventures or overcome obstacles. We’re able to do this successfully because we have media and government backgrounds where we’re accustomed to dealing with a wide variety of issues, sorting through them quickly, asking the right questions, synthesizing our thoughts, and developing strategies and tactics to either maximize the opportunity or solve the problem.
A lot of our business in Washington and a significant portion of our business in Nashville lands under the banner of government relations. We define our government relations practice as helping businesses navigate the world of government. Since many of us come from that world and understand its processes and its people, we can demystify it for our clients. It’s not complicated, but it’s important to do it the right way. In our experience, we’ve known a lot of good government relations professionals and a lot of bad ones. Most of the bad ones are bad because they build their practices on “who they know” rather than what they really know about government and how it works. We certainly have our share of relationships, but we don’t trade on them or oversell them. We believe strongly in our knowledge of how government operates, our ability to identify the key players (and they change frequently), and our knack for preparing clients to deal effectively themselves with government. First, we work to understand the client’s priorities and goals and to create a very clear message about those goals. Then, we decide who to deliver message to, how to deliver that message and when to deliver it. In government, the key is to say the right thing to the right person at the right time. In addition to our Government Relations practice, we have years of experience and knowledge in forming, managing, and strengthening Political Action Committees (PACs) for our clients.
We call it communications strategy instead of public relations intentionally. Certainly, traditional public relations activities are a tactic to employ when you’re talking about communications, but that’s not the only approach. When we meet a client with a communications need, we first want to understand what’s at the core of their issue. Who is the audience relevant to their issue? What communications delivery system is most effective for getting a well-crafted message to that audience? This could be anything from a direct mail piece to a social event to a phone call from the CEO. It could be a brochure or a more traditional public relations approach with a press release. At the end of the day, we choose the vehicle most effective for our client’s unique needs. We believe our messaging ability rivals anyone in the business, and we pride ourselves on helping our clients see how communications fits into the larger picture.
We’ve been fortunate over the years to be able to work with several incredible elected officials in their campaigns and in their elected offices. It’s a high profile, but small portion of our business and because of that we’re able to pick and choose candidates and office holders that we believe in and want to work with. We’ve represented Mayors, U.S. Senators, Governors and Presidential candidates. We’ve represented Republicans and Democrats. Our interest is not in one party. Rather, our interest is in the person best equipped to serve their constituents. We’re familiar with every aspect of campaigning from money to messaging to politics. The most important component of every campaign is to begin with a plan and then follow that plan to victory.