Nav­i­ga­tor beef­ing up so­cial me­dia ca­pa­bil­i­ties

Cri­sis pub­lic re­la­tions firm to ac­quire con­sult­ing com­pany, start True agency

Calgary Herald - - FINANCIAL POST - JAMES MCLEOD Fi­nan­cial Post jm­[email protected]­tion­al­

Toronto-based cri­sis pub­lic re­la­tions firm Nav­i­ga­tor Ltd. is launch­ing a team of so­cial me­dia “com­man­dos” dubbed True, in an ef­fort to keep up with the blaz­ing-fast pace of the in­ter­net.

On Thurs­day, Nav­i­ga­tor is ex­pected to an­nounce that it has ac­quired Had­don Strat­egy, a Toronto based con­sult­ing firm, and that founder Shayna Had­don will be­come pres­i­dent and cre­ative di­rec­tor of True.

While Nav­i­ga­tor ex­ec­u­tive chair­man Jaime Watt would not ad­dress the spe­cific tac­tics he ex­pected True to em­ploy, he said the move came about be­cause the on­line sphere is be­com­ing such a dom­i­nant part of cri­sis rep­u­ta­tion man­age­ment.

“I see it as us us­ing these tech­niques in a high-pres­sure, very time-sen­si­tive sit­u­a­tion when we need to get mes­sages out very quickly, and where con­ven­tional me­dia aren’t fast enough for us,” he said.

Nav­i­ga­tor has taken on al­most myth­i­cal sta­tus in the cri­sis man­age­ment world in re­cent years, op­er­at­ing un­der the high-stakes motto, “When you can’t af­ford to lose.” De­spite the in­creased fo­cus via True, they’re not ex­actly new to so­cial me­dia.

The firm fa­mously rep­re­sented for­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral Michael Bryant after he killed a cy­clist with his car, and was cred­ited with launch­ing a twit­ter ac­count ti­tled “Bryant Facts” to sup­port his case shortly after the fa­tal­ity.

Nav­i­ga­tor also briefly rep­re­sented dis­graced CBC Ra­dio broad­caster Jian Ghome­shi after mul­ti­ple women lev­elled sex­ual as­sault al­le­ga­tions against him.

Be­fore Nav­i­ga­tor dropped Ghome­shi as a client, he pub­lished a lengthy Face­book post de­fend­ing him­self. In an Oc­to­ber es­say in the New York Re­view of Books, Ghome­shi didn’t men­tion Nav­i­ga­tor by name, but he lamented, “The pro­fes­sional team that I had hired as ex­perts to guide me through the ex­plo­sion bolted, too — but not be­fore they had cheered on some il­lad­vised so­cial me­dia post­ings and threat­ened law­suits.”

Speak­ing to the Fi­nan­cial Post this week, Nav­i­ga­tor ex­ec­u­tive chair­man Jaime Watt had a dif­fer­ent take on the Ghome­shi episode.

“All I would say about that episode is that clients make their own de­ci­sions, and I’d be very care­ful con­clud­ing about what our ad­vice was, or what our ad­vice was not in that case. It would be a mis­take to, on the face of it, con­clude what ad­vice might have been,” Watt said.

“When you re­tain us, we don’t talk about our clients ever and we don’t talk about the ad­vice we give. But the anal­ogy that I would use is this: When a pa­tient has a dis­ease and the pa­tient can de­cide whether they want chemo­ther­apy or whether they want ra­di­a­tion or if they want pal­lia­tive care, or if they want prayer.”

In the past month, an episode in­volv­ing the Ot­tawa Ci­ti­zen shed light on some of the pos­si­ble shady tac­tics that can be used for on­line rep­u­ta­tion man­age­ment — es­pe­cially on so­cial me­dia.

Last week, the Ot­tawa Ci­ti­zen pub­lished an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into at least 20 fake Twit­ter ac­counts that were at­tack­ing the news­pa­per and prais­ing Ot­tawa Se­na­tors owner Eu­gene Mel­nyk in the wake of a con­tro­ver­sial story about a group of Se­na­tors play­ers sur­rep­ti­tiously filmed crit­i­ciz­ing the team’s coach­ing staff while shar­ing an Uber ride.

Asked about the Ot­tawa Se­na­tors sit­u­a­tion specif­i­cally, Watt said cat­e­gor­i­cally that True won’t be us­ing so­cial me­dia for that sort of thing. “I can tell you that in al­most 20 years run­ning this busi­ness ... we have never once, never mind done any of those kinds of tricks, we have never con­tem­plated them. That is the quick­est way to pro­fes­sional sui­cide that I know,” Watt said. “I mean, we act for ma­jor, ma­jor, ma­jor firms. They have no in­ter­est in us par­tic­i­pat­ing in that kind of ac­tiv­ity, nor would we.”

The news re­lease an­nounc­ing the ac­qui­si­tion of Had­don Strat­egy and the launch of True said the new en­tity will be staffed by “a ro­bust team of pro­duc­ers, strate­gists, de­sign­ers and com­mu­nity man­agers.”

The same re­lease de­scribed True as “a new full-ser­vice cre­ative and dig­i­tal agency.”

Watt said so­cial me­dia is par­tic­u­larly use­ful for de­liv­er­ing a mes­sage be­cause it’s fast, and it’s a way to com­mu­ni­cate with a self-se­lected group of fol­low­ers who have ex­pressed an in­ter­est in hear­ing about a spe­cific in­di­vid­ual or topic.

“The politi­cians are try­ing to dis­rupt the fil­ter of con­ven­tional me­dia,” Watt said. “That’s not what we’re try­ing to do.

“We’re try­ing to get mes­sages out to stake­hold­ers in a very fast, di­rect fash­ion, and we’re try­ing to iden­tify stake­hold­ers that care about our mes­sage from a uni­verse of peo­ple who don’t.”

Nav­i­ga­tor ex­ec­u­tive chair­man Jaime Watt says the True cre­ative and dig­i­tal agency won’t be us­ing shady tac­tics like the sur­rep­ti­tiously filmed video of Se­na­tors play­ers crit­i­ciz­ing their coach­ing staff while shar­ing an Uber ride, above. “That is the quick­est way to pro­fes­sional sui­cide that I know,” he said.

Jaime Watt

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