Situation: A nationally recognized school with more than 1,500 students experienced a horrific deadly shooting incident. We were retained by the school’s insurance provider within two hours of the shooting to work with the school leadership to ensure there were appropriate internal and external responses to the incident.
Our Response: Four members of our Rapid Response team immediately met offsite with the school and district officials, as well as its legal counsel. Our prioritized actions were to assess the situation and develop an emergency response plan, determine what the initial communication to families and media looked like, and to create a checklist to guide our efforts. The plan included developing internal and external messaging and media statements, facilitating communication regarding crisis and grief counseling, monitoring and reacting to social media, establishing communications channels with students and parents, and triaging media requests from national and international media outlets.
Result: The school navigated the deadly shooting in the best possible manner. It retained the support of students, families and the community at large, and it has grown to serve more than 1,700 students in the 2020/2021 school year. Our work helped protect the school’s reputation, and prevented its traumatized staff members from inadvertently taking steps that would create additional legal exposure that might jeopardize its future existence.
Situation: An energy producer experienced a tragic job-site incident that resulted in a fatality of an employee. The incident occurred in the field, far from emergency services and where communications were limited.
Our Response: Our crisis communication and reputation management experts, upon notification of the incident, gathered key information and used the company’s existing crisis communication plan as a guide for our recommended response. The plan, which we had previously developed with the company’s executive team, detailed incident protocols, including notification, assignments, media and social media monitoring, communications and messaging, and media and social media statements.
Result: Key company officials were able to calmly and quickly manage the incident, following the checklists that had been built into the crisis communication plan. Stakeholders were immediately notified of the key facts and provided with regular updates. The media was able to get relevant information quickly, and their reporting was based on available facts rather than on social media conversations or rumors.
Racial/Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Issues
Situation: A Denver-based business with a national footprint was accused of displaying a racially insensitive symbol at one of its workplaces. The incident was then leveraged by community activists to gain media attention as part of an attempt to negotiate a large financial settlement from the business.
Our Response: As part of the response, our team worked with several of our culturally competent marketing partners to put together a proactive, sensitive strategy that included working with the local media on background, crafting a media statement and developing company-wide messaging. Instead of denying or covering up the issue, we worked with the business’ executive team to address it head on. We investigated the incident, and provided the company with a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) trainer that it used to train its entire 2,000-person workforce. We also reached out to the outraged community activists and met with them face to face to collaboratively discuss the issue.
Situation: As the crisis communication and reputation management agency-of-record for a national senior retirement living communities operator, our team worked with the executive team, on-site staff and outside legal counsel to provide strategic communication recommendations for an issue of alleged abuse.
Our Response: Our team, including digital experts from our sister agency, CenterTable, worked extensively with legal counsel to uncover the details of the incident. With the facts confirmed, we created a response plan that included segmenting key audiences, generating traditional and non-traditional messaging, instituting communication triggers, developing media statements and monitoring social media channels.
Result: The issue was quietly and effectively resolved, and the company reinitiated its safety protocols to ensure this type of incident doesn’t occur again.
Situation: A fire department based in the Rocky Mountain region was engaged in collective-bargaining negotiations with the union representing its firefighters and EMS technicians. The union playbook was intended to exert as much public pressure as possible on the board and the fire chief to soften them up and achieve a better contract. Our team was retained by the fire department’s law firm to provide communications counsel that helped mitigate the impact of the attacks, and to develop a proactive campaign to maintain the public confidence in the fire department’s leadership.
Our Response: We developed a two-prong communications plan: The first area of focus was reactive, and designed to respond to union attacks in real-time. The second involved leveraging community support for the fire department and its mission. Our recommended tactics included social media, digital marketing, media relations, community meetings, coalition-building, employee communications, town halls and events. We were careful not to villainize the firefighters and EMS technicians, but made it clear that management was the loudest champion for them and would do everything–within reason–for them.
Result: The campaign was successful by all measures. We created the perception that the union had overplayed its hand, and that resulted in its rank-and-file members to push their representatives to strike an agreement. That dynamic completely shifted the negotiations, and a fair deal was reached.
Situation: A national provider of equipment and services to more than a quarter of the Fortune 500 companies was the victim of a ransomware hack that exposed personal information, such as the names, addresses and social security numbers of its employees. The data breach also included some confidential customer information. We were retained by the company’s law firm to protect the company’s reputation and provide counsel on how to best go about notifying impacted individuals.
Our Response: Our team quickly developed a stakeholder matrix to segment the audiences who would need to be notified, and devised strategies to tactfully approach them. The matrix allowed us to customize our messaging, sharing exactly the right information in exactly the right tone, based on the stakeholder’s situation. We also initiated social media monitoring to ensure that we knew immediately if the issue became public, so we could adjust our notification timeline, if necessary.
Result: The company used our custom crisis-response playbook and messaging to notify impacted employees and customers, and the backlash was minimal. Proactively notifying customers in the manner we recommended demonstrated transparency and integrity, and actually earned goodwill with a number of them. Today, the company has moved well past the issue and continues to thrive.
Situation: The board of a well-known and respected nonprofit organization planned to terminate its equally well-known and respected CEO following the results of investigation into the CEO’s leadership style and its impact on the organization’s culture. The board feared that any negative publicity related to the dismissal would result in harm to the nonprofit’s ability to fulfill its mission.
Our Response: The board retained our team to provide high-level strategy to position the dismissal in a way where it didn’t cause the organization harm, as well as to develop the related materials (communications plan, messaging guide, timeline, key stakeholders, etc.). We met with the CEO and negotiated a communications strategy that involved positioning the dismissal as a voluntary resignation, which aligned with the reputational interests of both the CEO and the nonprofit. The assignment did involve some interesting challenges, such as threading the needle to balance the need to publicly honor the CEO, while not alienating staff members who demanded the CEO’s removal.
Result: Our communications plan worked exactly as planned. We created just enough attention as to not be suspicious, while avoiding raising so much attention as to create an issue. As a result, the media coverage of the CEO’s departure was overall positive. The nonprofit implemented its succession plan without negatively impacting its ability to achieve its mission, and brought us back on board to handle the transition communication plan.
Situation: A high-profile healthcare system experienced a significant data breach that compromised the protected health information of thousands of patients. Our team was retained by the healthcare system’s law firm to help protect the system’s reputation and provide counsel on meeting the federally mandated HIPAA disclosure requirements.
Our Response: Working in lockstep with the attorneys, we created an integrated response plan that guided our communications to patients and the larger community. Our Rapid Response team also developed the messaging and timeline for the required disclosure in an effort to minimize alarm among those whose protected health information was breached.
Result: Due to our work, the reaction from patients and the community to the data breach was minimal. The toll-free telephone number established for those with questions or concerns received only a handful of calls, and media coverage was negligible.
State Legislature Advocacy
Situation: A beverage producer brought on GroundFloor Media and CenterTable to manage a divisive issue that was before the state legislature. Businesses were divided on the issue, and there were community advocates on both sides of the fence.
Our Response: Our crisis and reputation management team created a plan to educate the community about the issue, with a focus on key legislators. We trained key spokespeople on the issue and set up meetings with stakeholders. The action plan also involved developing supportive materials, such as fact sheets, a Q&A and a campaign website. Additionally, we initiated online advocacy action tools, including auto-generated letters to legislators.
Lawsuit, Federal Investigation Support
Situation: Over the course of five years, our crisis and reputation management team worked with a private, for-profit education provider facing federal investigations and a class-action lawsuit. The issue played out in the media and on social media, and dramatically impacted the organization’s business.
Our Response: Our team developed a comprehensive and integrated plan for getting the company’s side of the story out to its priority audiences, including students, community leaders, regulators and the media. We did this by sharing verifiable information, putting forth authentic spokespeople and implementing an aggressive media response strategy. We understood that the industry was under fire, but our client had a better story and stood out as a “good actor.”
Situation: We were retained by a consortium of local and national non-profit organizations to promote a public awareness campaign designed to help pass a “soda tax” ballot initiative in Boulder, Colorado. A group of large and well-financed companies in the beverage industry—working through a sophisticated trade organization—opposed the ballot initiative.
Our Response: Our crisis and reputation management team worked with our partners to create a branded campaign that covered all platforms, from community relations to media relations to digital marketing. We served as the campaign manager, planning and executing a campaign to increase visibility that would build awareness and educate community members about the benefits of voting favorably on this issue.
Result: Ultimately, the integrated public awareness campaign was successful and the initiative passed. Two years later, the partners called on us again to address an additional component of the initiative that ended up passing with an even wider margin than the first measure.
Situation: Our crisis communication and reputation management experts worked with a medical facility to prepare and implement a response plan designed to address a negative patient outcome that resulted from a routine medical procedure.
Our Response: Our team helped identify key audiences, both internal and external, and we worked directly with legal counsel and within HIPAA guidelines to create an honest, empathetic response. This included sharing as much information as we could about the incident, as well as specifying protocols that would ensure this type of incident wouldn’t reoccur. We developed a Q&A, talking points and a framework for a landing page that addressed the issue, in the event it publicly gained steam.
Result: Through our media and social media monitoring from our sister agency CenterTable, we were able to identify related comments and provide strategy on responding to them. The medical facility was able to navigate media and social media attention and guide the narrative with key audiences.
Situation: Businesses across a number of industries turned to our crisis and reputation management team to help with their strategy and communication management amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our Response: Building on effective and established communication tools for the companies, GroundFloor Media and our sister agency CenterTable worked to provide immediate, clear, flexible, thoughtful communications to key audiences—whether internal or external—and across communication channels. This plan included working with our clients and legal counsel to keep abreast of the changing rules and regulations, instituting best practices and creating individualized plans that worked for each client. We established communication response plans for companies that experienced outbreaks and unfortunate deaths as a result of the pandemic.
Result: Our clients were able to create open lines of communication with their audiences at a moment’s notice, despite the devastating pandemic, and enhance their communication and response tools as circumstances evolved.