Finance Monthly connected with Colin McDonough, Director of 50 Words LLC to hear about his company and the crisis communications challenges that they help their clients with.
Can you tell us a bit about the work that you do with your firm 50 Words? What are the clients that you work with and what’s your overall goal for the company?
We are a full-service marketing, public relations and crisis communications firm. Although we have customers across many industries, we focus on financial services and professional services firms. This includes bank-owned and independent financial services providers such as asset-based lenders and factors, investment banking firms, financial advisory and turnaround firms and other professional services firms such as accounting and legal service providers. Our clients vary from start-ups through to Fortune 500 companies.
Our goal is to act as an extension of our clients’ marketing and communications departments if they have them. If not, we step into that role as their dedicated team. So, our services vary greatly from client to client. For some, we guide them through strategic planning and for others, it’s all about execution of an existing plan. On any given day, the professionals in our firm could be hard at work designing or updating websites, developing and posting content for social media or digital marketing campaigns, crafting communications such as press releases or helping guide a client through a crisis communications situation such as a criminal matter, downsizing of a labour force or other unforeseen situation.
What are the typical crisis communications challenges that you assist with? What’s the best way of handling one?
Some examples of crisis communications situations we have worked through with clients include criminal matters, bankruptcy and downsizing of a labour forces, labour issues including strike, closing of business unit, sale of business unit, failed merger/joint venture and failed product launch.
The practice of crisis communications management is much different today due to a 24/7 news cycle along with a plethora of individuals on social media platforms reporting news. Brand value can be destroyed in minutes when a crisis hits.
The best approach for any company is to have a tested crisis communications team and process in place before a crisis happens. But sadly, this is not the case for most firms, especially middle market or smaller businesses who don’t want to spend the time or money for this to happen.
Firms need to have a plan and process in place, identify members and roles, select and train key spokesperson(s), control access to all communication points including the website and social media platforms, and build a relationship with a PR expert so he/she is knowledgeable about your firm before a crisis happens. Firms don’t have 24 hours to react when a crisis hits, they have minutes. If I could give one piece of advice to management teams, it would be to invest in media monitoring software.
What differentiates 50 Words from its competitors?
Two things. Firstly, our focus on financial services firms and professional services firms, many in the turnaround and restructuring space. A common complaint in any organization about the agencies they deal with is that they don’t understand the nuances of their sector. Our principals have over 25 years’ experience in the sector, so there isn’t a learning curve when they hire our firm. We network in the same industries as our clients so we understand the industry and market dynamics they face. Secondly, we offer a complete solution for our clients. Companies today are juggling multiple agencies to meet all their marketing and PR needs. That doesn’t work for small and middle market businesses who don’t have supply chain or internal resources to manage multiple vendors. We are that single source that our clients need. If we don’t have what they need, which is rare, we bring in a partner to meet their needs.
Rapid technological change is changing the business landscape and businesses have to adapt or will be left behind. While this change impacts all business functions, marketing and communications are particularly affected. The capabilities and competencies required for marketing and PR professionals are evolving and firms often can’t afford to have large teams in house to meet their growing needs. They should build a network of go-to technological savvy marketing and PR professionals to supplement their existing staff.