Crisis P.R. Firms Got problems? These masters of message will make them disappear.

By Willow Duttge

Karen Doyne, managing director of crisis and issues management

The firm made its name after handling the 1980s Tylenol poisonings. It also assisted the beef industry with its response to mad cow disease, Hong Kong's government during the SARS outbreak, the U.S. Postal Service during the anthrax crisis, and, more recently, Sony's laptop-battery recall. Burson-Marsteller combines the specialized crisis communication skills of a boutique firm with the resources of a global agency.

Chris Nelson, senior vice president and director of issues and crisis management
Ketchum's crisis management staff is a close-knit group of experts with a total of more than 60 years of experience in the field. It has managed such crises as 2000's Firestone tire recall, Wendy's finger-spiked chili in 2005, and the 2007 Peter Pan peanut butter salmonella outbreak.

Chris Gidez, director of crisis communications
Hill & Knowlton
For Gidez, it's not a P.R. crisis, it's a business crisis with reputation implications. Hill & Knowlton, with dedicated crisis management members around the globe, marries business, legal, and communications strategies in its approach. It provides support for sector-leading companies, but its best-managed crises are those you've never heard of.

Michael Robinson, senior vice president
Levick Strategic Communications
Crisis management constitutes more than half of Levick's business. Protecting and promoting the brand and spreading messages supporting clients' goals are two areas in which the firm thrives. Its résumê includes work for mergers and acquisitions, global trade disputes, and issues driven by the S.E.C. Clients include Rosie O'Donnell, the United Fresh Produce Association (think E. coli and spinach), and, most recently, the Pet Food Institute.

Julie Goldberg, executive vice president
Among Rubenstein's more-famous crisis management clients are Michael Richards (of post-Seinfeld, comedy-club-meltdown notoriety) and Christie's (which Rubenstein assisted during the Justice Department antitrust investigation). The firm works to determine the ethical response before developing the appropriate message to communicate.

Paul Verbinnen, president
Sard Verbinnen & Co.
Crises, particularly those that are litigation-related, are a big part of the business of this corporate and financial public relations agency. Other crises under its umbrella include a major executive's departure, an investigation into backdating stock options, and insider-trading allegations. Well-known former client? Martha Stewart.

Bill Keegan, executive vice president and director of crisis and issues management
Edelman's crisis management practice, with offices in New York, London, and Hong Kong, prides itself on thorough preparation, 24/7 rapid response, and widely experienced senior staffers-not to mention its handling of two of the three largest food recalls in U.S. history (Pilgrim's Pride and ConAgra), as well as two other major P.R. crises (KFC's response to PETA's charges of animal cruelty, and Chrysler's reaction to accusations of racial discrimination).

Torod Neptune, senior vice president for crisis and issues management
Waggener Edstrom
Waggener Edstrom won an award of excellence for its response to the computer worm Zotob, reported to have threatened Microsoft Windows users worldwide in 2005. But you may not have heard of its global work (which is a good thing) on the bankruptcy of LG.Philips Displays in 2006.

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