The Neenan Company retained us when it discovered that several buildings designed by Neenan did not meet code. The Denver Post broke the story, leading to an investigation by the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies.

David Shigekane is vice president and director of business development for The Neenan Company, a design-build firm that uses its unique ‘Archistruction’ model that allows architects, designers and builders to collaborate from the start of projects.

How serious was the threat to your company?

It was very serious. We couldn’t anticipate what our clients’ reactions would be. Luckily, all of our clients stood by us, in part because dovetail solutions helped us communicate a clear message to our clients.

Why did you seek an outside PR firm for help ?

We realized we were not prepared to deal with the media attention. We are great at designing and constructing buildings, but we are not experts in dealing with the media. We instinctively knew that our first priority was to take care of our clients and having dovetail solutions help us develop strategy, send the right messages and interact with the media let us to focus on our clients.

Why did you select dovetail solutions specifically?

dovetail solutions has a great reputation for handling such situations, and they were recommended to us by a lawyer in Denver that we respect greatly.

How did the experience change once you retained dovetail solutions?

The dovetail team worked with us to develop and implement a comprehensive response strategy. Before dovetail was on board, we were focused on individual issues rather than a global strategy. Once the dovetail team was involved, they worked with us to create a strategy that aligned very well with our culture, and they helped us implement it.

dovetail solutions led us through the process like an internal project manager would in the construction world, which really made sense to us and made it easy to work together.

Did you find that dovetail solutions was as responsive as you needed them to be?

dovetail solutions was available when we needed them, and it was comforting to know that they had a team of experts working on our behalf. I truly felt like we were in this together.

How a company responds during the first moments of a crisis is critical, and we felt really good about dovetail’s responsiveness, as well as its ability to incorporate into our team and work seamlessly side-by-side with our staff. Having that support during the initial response was enormously helpful.

What was dovetail solutions’ strategy?

We were on the same page from the first day. dovetail solutions encouraged us to be open and transparent about the situation, and to be available to those who asked questions. We fundamentally are a good company with good people, and dovetail solutions helped us showcase that to our clients, the media and the public.

Did you have a crisis response plan in place?

We did have a crisis plan in place, but it was intended for a different type of crisis. Our original crisis plan focused on how to respond to a serious injury on a job site, not on a more fundamental threat to our business. We found that dovetail’s expertise was invaluable to us.

What was it like dealing with reporters?

It was intimidating. Most of us are not trained spokespeople and have little, if any, experience interacting with reporters. We’re experts at designing and constructing buildings, not dealing with media, so it was very helpful to have a team that understands how the media operate and has a lot of experience working with them to represent us.

The team at dovetail solutions didn’t just help us develop our messaging, they also helped us understand how to handle the media in a way that gave us a great shot of confidence. I appreciated their commitment to our company.

What value was there in working with a PR firm through this process?

I think there were two major benefits. First, it was great to have the counsel of someone who has been through similar situations before and could provide us with a roadmap of how to get through the process.

And, second, dovetail solutions gave us the confidence that we could get through the situation. They reassured us that if stayed focused and were responsive to our clients’ concerns, we’d be okay. Getting through the steps they had identified was painful at times, but with dovetail’s help, we were confident that we could get through them.

How did dovetail solutions help you manage communications with your employees?

Employees were a critical audience for us because we needed them focused on their work instead of being distracted by the situation. In addition to the external strategy, the team at dovetail solutions developed an internal campaign to help us explain to employees what was going on and what they could expect to happen in terms of media coverage.

They reminded us of our culture, something that we tended to forget during the crisis, and helped us prevent the rumor mill from spinning out of control and morale from dropping.

How has the community responded to you?

The community response has been overwhelmingly positive. They let us know they admired the way we handled the situation, and that in many cases they thought more highly of us than they did before. Anyone can tell you they stand behind their product. Our clients and the community saw us live that promise in a way many companies would not have.

What advice do you have for someone going through a crisis situation?

When you are in unfamiliar territory, it is nice to have a partner who holds a roadmap. And it is even better when that partner demonstrates they care as much about getting you through it safely as you do.