Marijean Jaggers

Transparency and the Crisis Communications Client: Five Questions to Inform Decisions

By Communications, Crisis Communications

As I’ve said before, I love crisis communications. There’s something about the challenge of taking a bad situation and getting the best out of it, that I enjoy. The opportunity to tell the story of a company’s good works in a community that has been hurt by it (think BP), to humanize a brand, or to help rebuild a reputation that has all but been ruined is a challenge I like.

But of course, sometimes that means engaging a client that people don’t like. Or that has done something to harm the environment, or people’s lives or livelihoods. It means defending, in some cases, the indefensible. In public relations, the BIG money often comes from the indefensible industries; tobacco, legalized gambling, chemical production, firearms manufacturing, and the like, all fairly unpopular sectors with a great many haters.

So how does a PR firm decide it’s worth taking on a client that, on the surface, seems to have NOTHING positive to say?

Here are five questions to carefully consider before engaging with a crisis client:

  1. Does the client share the same values as you and your firm? 
  2. Has the client demonstrated the ability to take and follow other professional counsel (e.g. legal counsel)?
  3. If the client has committed past sins, is that now over, and are you confident the client will not repeat the same mistakes?
  4. Has the client expressed true remorse and demonstrated a commitment to change, in both words and actions?
  5. Is there a benefit to your firm, either financially, from gained experience or as a future case study, to enable other crisis work?

If you and your firm aren’t satisfied with the answers to these questions, it’s probably wise to walk away, and allow other counsel to take on the work.

What other considerations are there when considering crisis work? 

The Joys of Being the PR Firm Around the Corner

By Communications, Public Relations

I worked in St. Louis, Missouri for years.  17 in all, in fact. Five of those I lived in Charlottesville, Virginia. And while I loved that job, the firm I worked for, my colleagues, my clients and the work itself, traveling (and all its inevitable hassles) back and forth and not having the ability to “walk the halls” of my clients’ offices frequently wore me out. While I’m clearly a big believer in staying connected to others through social networks, I deeply value the ability to show up, to be present and to be eyeball to eyeball with people who are important to me.

At the end of 2010, after that last lonely hotel room, that last airline delay, that final unexpected layover, I quit the job in St. Louis and at the beginning of 2011 I opened my own shop in Charlottesville. I haven’t looked back since.

One of the truly great joys of working here is the ability to be present, live and in person, with our clients. A common day might include running into clients on the downtown mall, or really anywhere around town. Or learning the Gangnam Style dance from a client prospect at a mutual friend’s birthday party. Our proximity to those we serve allows us to dash, sometimes literally around the corner, to a client’s office. A client had a crisis recently and my colleague Rusty and I were able to pick up sandwiches for a working lunch and land at their office to work through the crisis management within the hour.

I’m not saying it isn’t perfectly possible to work at a distance, and we’re happy to do that, but there’s great gratification at being able to connect with those right here in our community.

New: Endorse Your Contacts on LinkedIn

By Social Media

As a LinkedIn user, you may have noticed that you’re suddenly racking up endorsements as fast as an Olympic athlete. Since you can’t seem to recall your medal-winning athleticism, you may be wondering, what the heck is going on here?

LinkedIn launched a new feature to allow its users to “endorse” — with one click — the skills people in their network claim to have. Here’s a sample from my own account:

As a bonus, LinkedIn will e-mail you to let you know who endorsed you and for what — extra points if your employees or customers endorse you out of the blue — you’re doing a good job!

I like this feature for a couple of reasons:

  1. It doesn’t require the user to request the endorsement of their contacts.
  2. You list the skills and expertise you have and others select from your list.
  3. It provides a quick and easy way to recognize others for their capabilities — we often get hung up on the crafting of the perfect testimonial recommendation — this takes that cumbersome task out of the picture.

Endorse someone today!

Social Media Success Story: Finding a Job through your Network

By Public Relations, Social Media

Our friend Kim Connolly, @cvillekim on Twitter, vice president of Marketing & Communications with United Way-Thomas Jefferson Area, wrote me an email with the subject line: My Social Media Success Story.


This is actually YOUR success story, too. I went to your get-together at Commonwealth Skybar in lieu of the first cancelled Meet the Media Tweetup event. While there, I struck up a conversation with a young man, John Kowalski @theoriginaljage and learned that he had just graduated from VCU with a degree in media and communications and was looking for his first real-world job to get him started on his career. There was something about him I really liked, and I wished that I had an opening for him here. I did tell him he should widen his search to include nonprofits because of the opportunity to be flexible and creative and not relegated to some cubby in a bigger organization.

I invited him to come by the United Way the next week and we talked some more. I sent him some nonprofit marketing job listings and then saw an opening at the United Way in Fredericksburg for a Communications Coordinator that listed all his skill sets. I also saw from their staff list that this position was the only purely marketing position there. I sent him the job posting and told him it would be the perfect starter position. He did apply and I called their president to encourage an interview. Coincidentally, she had his resume open on her desk when I called, and told me he was in her “maybe” pile, but based on my referral, she would include him in her first round of phone interviews. Long story, short – he got the job!

All because of Twitter, and because of your Tweetup, which started the ball rolling.


We LOVE success stories like this — thank you Kim and best wishes in your new job, J.J. — we’ll be staying in touch with both of you!

The Power of Going Unplugged

By Social Media

I’m taking a little time off, and for me, it’s important that that time include disconnecting from social networks and the internet, in general. Because my work is so intimately tied to platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, I’ve got to refuse to log in, otherwise risking getting sucked in to engagement that will take away time and focus on the task at hand. A client who is a small business owner like me advocated going without checking e-mail while I’m gone and, indeed, I’m going to attempt this. “You’ll hate yourself for it if you do,” check e-mail while away, she said.

What’s the task at hand? Total relaxation. An opportunity to rest and refresh. Time to celebrate friends and explore new places.

I’m lucky that I have a great team, people I totally trust to mind the store while I’m away. That, and trusted friends and family give me the peace of mind I need to shut off, shut down and just chill (hopefully there’s a beach in my imminent future). I am a big proponent of taking time away from work — I don’t admire the workaholic or the business owner who has “never” taken a vacation. Where’s the fun in that? I strongly encourage the people I work with to take time away, to value it and reap the benefits of it. YOU should do it, too!

I’ll be back with great stories of adventure and (hopefully) uneventful travel.