News Updates

On Top of PR Podcast: Effective crisis communications with Christopher Britton

On the latest episode of On Top of PR podcast, crisis expert and RockDove Solutions' Chief Operating Officer Chris Britton explains how business leaders can best prepare for an environment where multiple, unique crises are hitting an organization all at once. When you have a pandemic, a faltering supply chain, rapidly changing energy and commodity prices, data security hacks, even civic unrest – it creates a situation in all businesses where crisis is the new normal. 

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How to strike the right tone when communicating during a crisis

As published in The Economist on November 30, 2020.

These are difficult times for companies as they struggle to cope with the pandemic’s impact on their workforce, their operations and in some cases their very chances of survival. To complicate matters further, managers face the challenge of striking the right tone when communicating with customers and partners. Fail to mention the crisis, and you risk looking uncaring or disconnected from reality. But gratuitous references to the situation can come across as tin-eared at best, and as mercenary profiteering at worst.

Even at the best of times, there is a “shoot the messenger” tendency to blame the comms team when things go wrong, says Janie Jordan, a specialist in crisis communications based in New South Wales. The rise of social media and “cancel culture” make corporate missteps even more dangerous. Some communications experts see a silver lining, however. Bosses may be more willing to try something new during a crisis, opening up new opportunities, says Christopher Britton, co-founder of RockDove Solutions, a corporate-communications firm based in Maryland. So what are the dos and don’ts when it comes to communicating in difficult times?

  • Steer clear of pandemic “newsjacking”. In a bid to garner attention and secure media coverage, companies often try to link promotional activities to breaking news. But if they are perceived to be exploiting the situation (“Stuck at home? Buy some leisurewear!”) consumers will think “Whoa, that’s not alright”, says Hervé Cacheur of Sharing, a communications agency based in Paris. It may be counter-productive in another respect: “pandemic fatigue” appears to be sapping interest in media reports that reference covid-19 in any case.
  • Provide practical, factual information, rather than a sales pitch. Communications should be led by “purpose rather than product”, says Parul Soni, a partner at Thinkthrough Consulting, an advisory firm based in Delhi. Rather than tout a new investment vehicle, for example, a financial firm might instead write a press release offering advice on convincing creditors to reschedule payments.
  • Reflect before crowing about community engagement or charity. If your firm has bad news, such as employees who have died of covid-19, announce that first. Charity activities should only be mentioned separately and later, lest the juxtaposition appear crass. Some will view a donation, by itself, as tokenism. “You can’t just write a check these days”, says Terry Hemeyer, a communications professor at the University of Texas, Austin, who has advised American presidents. Get staff involved in charitable activities, he says, and highlight that in your PR.
  • Avoid navel-gazing. Messaging must address what matters to recipients, Mr Soni notes, not the sender. At a time when suppliers may be worried that orders will dry up or payments will be delayed, sending season’s greetings or fluff about your firm’s centennial will merely annoy people.

So much for the content. What about tone? The pandemic has also increased the importance of how messages are conveyed. The experts we spoke to suggest the following:

  • Respond quickly if a problem pops up, even if only to say that your company is gathering facts for a forthcoming update; in the social-media era, informational voids can fill fast with falsehoods.
  • Be reassuring. In difficult times, business leaders should exude competence and, where appropriate, compassion. The latter can be difficult to convey through the written word, so don’t neglect spoken messages, says Jonathan Bernstein of Bernstein Crisis Management in Colorado. He advises firms to use filmed messages and, with important stakeholders, video calls.
  • Convey authenticity. Overuse of buzz-phrases signals insincerity, not to mention laziness. So steer clear of “pivot”, “new normal”, “in these unprecedented times”, “out of an abundance of caution”, “now more than ever” and other clichés. And since personal circumstances vary dramatically, refrain from claiming that everyone is in the same boat.
  • Attempts at coronavirus humour and wordplay are risky. Coca-Cola and McDonald’s are among brands that have run campaigns with their logos tweaked to convey social distancing. (The former spaced out the lettering; the latter separated its golden arches.) Even that struck “a sour note”, as the editor of Ad Age told CNN.

Another source of risk is that processes around communication will be disrupted or circumvented in a crisis. So what should you watch out for?

  • Beware the authoritarian opportunist. Businesses in crisis often see a dominant personality hijack the confusion and “adrenaline of the moment” to seize the megaphone and dictate a new approach to communications, Mr Britton says. The resulting concentration of power can lead to blunders, such as...
  • Don’t stray into politics unless you mean it. When checks on a communicator’s power fall away, political statements are more likely to crop up. To avoid partisan rancour, keep your company’s statements from appearing to mirror a particular political party’s positions, advises Mr Britton. And if a company is going to take a political position, it should do so deliberately.
  • Beware of the crisis within a crisis. Public-relations folks often assume that an emergency will follow a predictable trajectory “from crisis through fire-fighting to business as usual”, says Mr Bernstein. With the pandemic grinding on and activism soaring, he says, that’s no longer the case, and the situation is far more fluid. To keep an eye out for unexpected problems, monitor news outlets and social media closely, and set up automated alerts based on company-specific keywords.

Finally, over-prepare for the unexpected. Organisations that have avoided communications slip-ups so far may feel they have little to fear. But complacency is dangerous. So brainstorm for ways the pandemic could cause a PR emergency for your company, whether by missteps, bad luck, or malicious disinformation. Then “war game” the scenarios to better prepare for the real thing.



Article published on The Economist.

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To Help Organizations Resolve Threats Year-Round, RockDove Solutions Unveils In Case of Crisis 365

Monday, November 2, 2020 — Washington, D.C.— RockDove Solutions, developer of an award-winning Issue and Crisis Management Platform, has released the next generation of their platform, In Case of Crisis 365, to enable organizations to document, track, and resolve emerging issues before they escalate to a crisis. This release comes at a crucial time, as threats to continuity of operations are strained by the ongoing pandemic and reputational risks can be ignited overnight. 

In Case of Crisis 365 was developed to be a purpose-built platform that removes the complexity of responding to and resolving emerging issues by easily connecting cross-functional teams and stakeholders to actionable playbooks, intelligent workflows, and powerful communication services. 

RockDove Solutions COO Christopher Britton spoke to the value of this next-generation platform: “Today, companies are facing real challenges in both how they collaborate and respond to an ever-increasing number of issues unfolding at an alarming rate. In Case of Crisis 365 takes clients from being prepared to respond to a crisis, to activating the right people, at the right time to address emerging threats and work together regardless of their location or area in the business.” 

CTO Ray Baldwin shared the vision behind the release of In Case of Crisis 365: “Through the shared experience of the global pandemic, which destabilized virtually everything we do, we saw an opportunity to support the entire issue and crisis life cycle within our platform. Key to our design is an enterprise-ready platform that can be launched quickly within any size organization, is easy to adopt, and brings cross-functional teams together.”

Britton added that after an issue has been resolved, In Case of Crisis 365 creates After Action Reports so that the valuable insights can become lessons for the organization to distribute and build upon. The platform truly supports the full issue and crisis life cycle, allowing organizations to be better prepared and respond faster.” 

Corporate crises can risk health and safety of staff, harm reputations, create distractions from the corporate mission, and be harmful to the organization's valuation. The RockDove Solutions team is driven by the purpose of protecting clients from threats they face now, or may soon face in the future. 

The RockDove Solutions team is prepared to support any use case brought to the table by the hundreds of organizations currently leveraging In Case of Crisis, across a spectrum of industries, including financial services, hospitality, education, utilities, and technology services. 



RockDove Solutions is headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida, the team is based outside of Washington, D.C. and is the developer of In Case of Crisis 365, an award-winning issue and crisis management platform. Our mission is simple: to help organizations move from static plans and generic company tools, to a purpose-built issue and crisis management platform.


Press Contact:
Maggie Stevens
Senior Director of Marketing



Downloadable images available here

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PayThink Retailers’ breach response isn’t ready for the holiday rush

The holiday season and shopping sprees that come with it don’t always bring tidings of comfort and joy to the payments industry. In this digital era, data breaches and crises can emerge quickly, are often driven or escalated by social media, and develop at a frighteningly fast pace.

This year, the National Retail Federation predicts holiday spending will reach between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion. With data breaches on the rise the challenges are clear, whether consumers are using credit & debit cards for their in-store purchases or using digital payment methods and mobile wallets like Apple Pay.

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Can a Crisis Plan Be a Greater Threat Than a Data Breach?

In this digital era, data breaches can come at any time and from any direction. Threats emerge from unexpected places, and the potential damage to a company’s customers, reputation and bottom line are often driven or escalated by social media and develop at a frighteningly fast pace. The all too often result is an organization and its crisis team struggling to coordinate ongoing speedy and effective responses.

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Is your crisis plan just a crisis waiting to happen?

October 28th, 2019 -PR professionals know all too well that threats to a brand’s reputation can emerge any time, any place. And, since issues are often driven or escalated by social media, they develop at a frighteningly fast pace. Is yesterday’s crisis plan—in a binder on a shelf—really the most effective way to prepare in today’s day and age? I say not any longer.

Based on a recent survey of corporate executives, odds are, even if your client has a crisis plan, it’s likely out-of-date, inaccessible to those who need it when they need it, and unlikely to resolve the specific crisis they are encountering.

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5 steps to building a digital-age crisis plan

Innovation is often associated with technological advancements that impact us in a positive way.

When it comes to communication in the digital era, however, you may be asking, “Is high-tech friend or foe?”

There is no doubt new technologies have ushered in new ways to stay connected and informed. And the benefits are clear when there is a need to respond to a natural or man-made disaster, or even “get the word out” about the latest and greatest news about your company. Yet, the challenges are equally clear when a company is suddenly faced with a crisis.

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A Digital Solution for Today's Corporate Crises

When facing data breaches and other crises, organizations have a need for speed and honesty. Adding an app to the arsenal can't hurt, either.

The fully-digitized, omnichannel world can be a marketer’s dream around a new product launch or other brand messaging. It can also accelerate bad news. A crisis can travel halfway around the globe before a communications team has put on their proverbial shoes.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Digital problems call for digital solutions. RockDove Solutions developed an app for that called In Case of Crisis, now in the hands of over 750 corporate clients.

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