Harbor Group’s mission is clear and direct: to strategize, create and guide client communications that make a material difference in matters of importance. The goal is to accelerate the creation, revision, restoration or defense of enduring leadership marketplace reputations for businesses, business leaders and brands.
A direct outgrowth of this mission, Harbor Group’s specialization is sensitive issues and crisis communications analysis, planning, preparedness and implementation. For more than 25-years, these issues of material importance to both B-to-B and B-to-C clients have been a central part of our practice – dating back to our joint leadership of Saatchi & Saatchi Rowland Worldwide Public Relations and, before that, such other firms as Burson-Marsteller and Ogilvy.
Each year, a significant part of our time is spent dealing with these kind communications and material issues that go to the heart of preserving the trust and quality reputations of institutions, corporations and brands that are under fire.
Our job is to diagnose, often anticipate, and help organizations optimally and rapidly respond to – – or, depending on the situation, get out in front of – – the critical attacks on these assets and to design communications, initiatives (internal and external to the client) and activities that assure positive public perceptions are built then maintained through the crisis and beyond, so that the leadership reputation is preserved.
Frequently, this involves the all-important imperative of infusing the marketplace with counterweights to negative images and publicity, even while the institution is in the teeth of the crisis.
Crisis/Sensitive Issue Experience
We have deep experience in the following key types of sensitive issues scenarios – having helped companies, institutions and organizations deal with such situations where:
O the fundamental trust and quality of a “brand” becomes at risk; and, as a result;
O a “brand”/corporation is being painted negatively in the marketplace and on-line (see below) by opponents, competitors or critics;
O the “brand”/corporation is being attacked in the marketplace and/or in the media by a media “champion”/ reporter/community zealot and/or internal or other type of external source;
O the “brand” is subject to regulatory, government and/or law enforcement investigations, or more subtly, “reactive” political resistance within a regulatory scheme;
O the enterprise’s on-line portrayal fails to reflect/does not measure up to the actual quality and success of its brand; or
O an organization presents a community with a perceived environmental and/or health risk – – which triggers a set of communications considerations that must be grounded in the art and science of “risk communications” and how people see, respond to and deal with perceived risks to them, their families and communities.
Representative Client, Brand Names
Harbor Group principals have addressed reputation challenges of material importance for such notable brand names (to name a few) as the following – as well as for prestigious brands that never became matters of public visibility:
- Air Products & Chemical Corp – site coal plant in rural community
- Aluminum Association – rebut and defeat allegations of health effects of industry aluminum products and restore their luster
- Canon USA – environmental citizenship, product quality, labor matters
- Citibank – community relations
- Clozaril (J&J)– safety and efficacy of consumer drug
- Duracell – one of largest product recalls in nation
- Freeport-McMoRan – environmental issues at world’s largest copper/gold mine
- Hallmark – negative public perceptions, fueled by national media coverage of corporate actions
- Holly Farms -union issues
- Major national law firm – litigation crisis
- Major regional NY/NJ/CT law firms – defeat on/offline reputation attacks by competitors, investigations, succession issues
- National trade association – defeat on-line reputation attacks, resolve Attorney General investigations and restore reputation on-and-off line
- Nestle – infant formula attacks
- Waste Management Inc. – hazardous waste, landfills, NIMBY
- 22 Western Power Utilities – nuclear power, emissions and health issues (particulate matter, mercury, EMF radiation), acid rain
HGC’s Experience – – Samples/Vignettes
HGC has scores of examples of situations where we helped preserve constituent trust and brand reputation in the face of brand neglect, negative public/customer perceptions, or allegations regarding management competency, staff and employee behavior, institutional policies, standards and practices. The following are a few brief examples:
- In one of the highest profile national cases of recent reputation litigation, HGC analyzed/strategized, managed and preserved reputation of one of the most revered, blue-chip enterprises in its industry – – which was confronted over two years by persistent allegations to its integrity and business practices.
- For NY business, political and law firm leader, designed and conducted rapid reputation protection and restoration program that resolved aggressive negative attacks by political opponents. Mitigated all negative references in first 90 days.
- For one of the nation’s leaders in optical imaging from space, succeeded in killing/spiking (over one weekend) the planned highly critical NBC TODAY SHOW feature attacking accuracy and integrity of company’s speed zone optical camera product line ( the national leader), as stimulated by aggressive competitor.
- HGC’s professionals conducted a competitive marketplace analysis and communications audit for one of the largest health systems in the East including position and strategic communications blue print, to address negative staff and public/community perceptions, communicate the value and “heart” of this huge institution to the staff, the greater tri-state community and local, state and other politicians.
- We worked to preserve the reputation of Olsten Staffing, while several of the company’s officers were under DOJ investigation for wrong doing related to the sale of Olsten Home Healthcare to Columbia/HCA.
- HGC helped one of the nation’s 100 fastest growing national defense contractors prepare for a media attack as the company was readying for the release of a report on a DOJ investigation. During this period the company added hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts.
- HGC’s founding partners defeated efforts to paint the country’s Western power utilities as environmentally “dirty”– creating positioning/perceptions of the best of the “clean coal” utilities.
- HGC managed the communications around the largest product recall in history — ten million Duracell Lithium Batteries – – the largest recall you never probably never heard of. The company behavior not only preserved consumer confidence in the company; during the crisis, it also maintained consumers’ and retailers’ positive perceptions of Duracell’s category leadership.
- HGC’s co-founding partner managed the second most serious reputation crisis in Hallmark’s history; a crisis around the accusation by 20/20 and others of wrongdoing when competing with smaller companies. Opinion research showed that Hallmark’s reputation was fully restored within six weeks of the story running on national TV and in the papers.
Each of these assignments was handled with speed and managed efficiently and effectively. But while speed is always critical in crisis situations, our experience demonstrates that the best, most enduring results emerge from those efforts rooted in fundamental understanding of the critical underlying issues and conducting the rigorous planning, remediation ( where appropriate) and carefully crafted outreach.
Five Areas of HGC Client Support:
- Crisis/sensitive issue and scenario analysis/planning, response preparation and intensive training;
- Message development/optimum alignment of communications posture with issue facts and developments in order to support brand trust and quality and to separate facts from innuendo;
- Implementation activities:
- conduct media relations, outreach and publicity (proactive and reactive);
- determine how client should approach the various audiences and other communications outlets;
- map the most optimal sequencing of specific go-to-market messages;
- target community groups, organizations and institutions that can be most efficiently and effectively seeded to accelerate message penetration throughout your market areas;
- message preparation and training for meetings with stakeholders, opponents, media;
- Development of signature initiatives to generate “new” news/ alternative perception in the marketplace – to assert control over the perception “agenda”; and
- Identification of which influencers and opinion leaders in the marketplace can and must be leveraged to accelerate reputation remediation as counterweights to the barrage of media/critic attacks.
R.E.D. ZONE: HGC’s On-Line Reputation Enhancement and Defense Expertise
In today’s marketplace, first page search engine results define for your company/ your brand’s stakeholders the nature and quality of their first impressions and subsequent impressions. Either to enhance your reputation or to defend it, today when it comes to on-line search engine page listings, chance can play no role.
Harbor Group’s specialty division, R.E.D. (Reputation Enhancement & Defense) Zone On-Line Reputation Solutions today represents the most comprehensive and sophisticated approach to managing, optimizing and resolving all the factors materially impacting your on-line standing.
There’s nothing random about getting the credit your business, brand or organization deserves at the top of on-line page listings. Nor is there anything accidental about avoiding the negative fallout that accrues from critical first page, on-line listings that your company doesn’t merit or deserve.
Despite the conventional, though unsophisticated, wisdom that search engine results are generally “fair and based just on site visits and traffic,” this is not the case. A careful crafting of art and science is required.
R.E.D. Zone careful blends the art of positive reputation content development and distribution with the science of technical search engine optimization – – in order to:
- dominate the first page of search listings with your positives, particularly when your on-line portrayal and reputation fails to reflect the actual quality and success of your enterprise; and/or
- dismantle/drive down negatives and criticisms about your enterprise/ leadership and inoculate the organization against future ones.
Unless you know the hidden rules and nuances, getting onto and dominating the first page of Google with positives or off of the top five/first page search listings if there are negatives, then this activity might as well be left to random acts of chance.
We would be happy to discuss in detail any of these services and provide client references.