In May, we officially announced the creation of CrisisResponsePro, which is designed to facilitate effective public response during crisis, legal, regulatory and other “sensitive” reputational situations. Since then, I've been asked this question a lot: "Why would a lawyer/author/PR guy start a software company? You're no twenty-something techie!"
So I thought I might give you a little background on how I came up with the idea and the value I think the software brings to organizations of all sizes, as well as their outside advisors (including PR firms, law firms and others who are often thrust into the role of "Chief Crisis Officer" during times of crisis).
About two-and-a-half years ago, my wife and I were taking the family on a vacation in the Adirondacks, about a seven-hour drive from my home. I had just loaded the kids and opened the driver’s side door to the minivan when a call came in: it was one of my clients, a "green" company in New York. It was a crisis to be sure, but not involving my client. Rather, the company in trouble was a much smaller, but fast-growing, environmental service provider based in New England – a “partner” firm to my client. The New England company had a big problem: an anonymous party was sending emails to regulators, media, law enforcement and others in the industry, suggesting that my client’s partner was violating a host of environmental laws. If the rumors and attacks weren’t dealt with immediately, they might do irreparable harm to the New England outfit – an inarguably “green” company whose reputation up to this point was unsullied. Could we help?
Thankfully, my wife knows the drill by now, so we switched seats and I worked via cellphone and WiFi from the passenger seat on the drive to Lake Placid. First I called the company in question and collected the relevant data points: what was happening… what was being said… who did they think was saying it… and what stakeholders might be impacted by the attacks. I called my office and had them research what other companies in similar situations had said publicly. I laid out a checklist for the client of what they should do first, then second, third, and so on, to ensure this crisis was contained. Then I started writing, occasionally consulting prior statements and templates buried in my company’s server (and deep in my brain), the product more than 20 years working on crisis situations. I collaborated with the company nearly the entire length of my car ride, refining and editing the message and the plan going forward.
By the time I reached Lake Placid, the New England company had finalized emails to send to concerned regulators and customers, talking points for sales personnel and a statement for media in the event they decided to write a story on the rumors. The goal was simply to remind everyone of the truth: that the New England company had one of the best environmental records in the industry and there was nothing to this anonymous smear campaign, which was no doubt orchestrated by a less-than-reputable competitor. Over the next several days, the crisis was contained and the damage mitigated.
But as I was sitting in the Whiteface Lodge in Lake Placid with my wife at the end of that first day, I started to think about the sudden assignment and the value we’d brought to a New England company we didn’t know before that morning. We’d be paid well for the consulting work, to be sure (actually, my original client agreed to foot the bill, since they could better afford it and knew full well that any attack on their partner company would have a negative impact on them). But something was nagging me. At the time, I was working for several companies in the tech field – including an online legal document preparation company, a legal research provider, and the creator of secure portals for financial institutions and advisors. All were using technology to facilitate collaboration and the provision of information – essentially mechanizing processes that had been, up till now, bespoke. Why, I wondered, didn’t something like this exist in the crisis communications field?
I also knew just as well, by the way, that the New England company couldn’t have afforded my PR firm's services on its own -- but they could probably afford a subscription-based technology that streamlined the crisis communications response process and brought the "intelligence" behind effective response to their fingertips.
Thus, CrisisResponsePro was born.
How does it work? Let me give just one more example:
About two months ago, I was leaving a meeting with a financial client in Midtown Manhattan when I received an urgent voicemail from a small manufacturing client: his plant was on fire, and media was arriving outside the facility to find out what was happening. I quickly pulled over at a nearby Starbucks and opened a "Virtual WorkRoom" on the CrisisResponsePro software, inviting the client CEO and facility manager onto the site. We collaborated on the details of the fire and strategy for proper response on a collaborative “wall” in the Virtual WorkRoom. We quickly researched our vast database of statements issued by other companies (now close to 6,000, and growing each day) and found a few that dealt with the same situation. We also found a proprietary StatementReady™ template on the site that gave us a model to work from. At the touch of a button, that template could be converted to talking points, an employee email, and even a draft Twitter post. With the details inserted, I uploaded the draft media statement to the Virtual WorkRoom’s DocVault, which my client reviewed and approved from his iPad (while I was in a Starbucks, he was actually working in a McDonald’s across from his facility — he couldn’t get into his office, obviously). With final approval of the statement, we made it available on the company website and to any media who called or showed up at the site.
The entire process took about 8 minutes!
This is the power of CrisisResponsePro.
And it works not just for small and mid-sized companies but for any organization that wants to respond better… and faster… to "sensitive" issues and events with potential reputational impacts. For larger companies, you can open as many Virtual WorkRooms as you like and invite a range of different users to different WorkRooms as needed (your local PR firm in Tucson, for example, or an employment lawyer in London). You can upload your own crisis plan, templates, contact lists and protocols to the site for easy viewing from any desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile device -- across all WorkRooms. Subscriptions start at $299 per month for a Virtual WorkRoom and four users, and rise based upon the number of users on the system and the number of Virtual WorkRooms open at any given time -- so the software is infinitely adaptable for companies of all sizes. And it works equally well with longer-term crisis (such as lawsuits, investigations, etc.) where keeping the team, the plan and the messages intact over time becomes a priority.
Read the press release, here, or watch a cool video, here. Or better yet, contact us at 800-497-1737 or email@example.com. We'll put your subscription in place today and immediately get you and your colleagues up and using the system (which is web-based, intuitive and easy-to-learn).
As we like to say: "Sign Up. Sign On. Respond!"
To download a sales flyer for CrisisResponsePro, just enter your name and email below.
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