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Meet Dave Oates | Crisis PR and Reputation Repair Specialists for Businesses, Non-Profit, Government Organizations, and Individuals

We’re so pumped about our conversation with Dave Oates. Dave is a Crisis PR and Reputation Repair Specialist for Businesses, Non-Profit, Government Organizations, and Individuals and is also a content partner. Content partners help Voyage in so many ways from spreading the word about the work that we do, sponsoring our mission and collaborating with us on content like this. Check out our conversation with Dave below.

Hi Dave, so great to have you join us again. For folks who might have missed our earlier conversations, can you please take a minute to briefly introduce yourself?
I started my career nearly 30 years ago as a U.S. Navy Public Affairs Officer and later as a Corporate Chief Marketing Officer and Non-Profit President, I LOVE helping individuals and organizations address a myriad of crises, including handling employee and executive misconduct, cybersecurity attacks, product recalls, mass layoffs, large-scale accidents, criminal investigations, and civil litigation matters.

What exactly is Crisis PR?
Ask most managers and executives how to define Crisis Communications, and they usually envision an impromptu press conference outside their office doors with an endless crowd of reporters, cameras, and microphones. Everyone shouts questions at once, demanding immediate answers to accusations of wrongdoing by them or someone on their team. Well, yeah, that does happen, and we’ve been there, be it to announce mass layoffs, product recalls, large-scale accidents, employee mishaps, criminal activities, and other accusations of wrongdoing. But there’s more to it in this day and age. Most Crisis Communications events originate outside traditional media circles. Therein lies the problem. Many companies fail to see the unflattering blog article or angry social media post talking about a supervisor’s improper remarks until weeks, if not months, later. However, these stories can generate as much disruption – if not more – to operations than something that comes from the local “I-Team” television segment. Online comments can fester for long periods. Individuals who troll along the “interwebs” will click on such posts and share with others, often adding poorly-crafted but emotional commentary. If unchecked, that content can get popular enough to catch the eye of Google. The next thing you know, the information ranks highly on search findings when interested parties look you up… …and just like that, your organization’s reputation is up a big, stinky creek with nothing close to a paddle in sight. Paragraph title: Change “We Help Navigate Your Platforms” to “We Defend You Against Internet Trolls” Like it or not, most individuals no longer see traditional news outlets as their primary source for information. They may look at them, at best, as one of many authorities. Friends, influential bloggers, and the organizations themselves often play that lead role with greater credibility, depending on the audience. That means any organization of any size can go from “Hero” to “Zero” in an Instagram post, and not just from a sensational exposé in the local paper or six o’clock news. In essence, Crisis Communications covers any event in the public domain that disrupts operations, damages an organization’s brand, impacts revenue, or jeopardizes cash flow.

I know what Public Relations is. How is this different and why is this not a common service by other PR professionals?
It’s a different skill set altogether. When a crisis hits, you don’t have time to do perception audits, messaging strategy sessions, and multi-variate testing. You’ve got an hour to respond well if you are to mitigate any hits to your reputation and get back to normal operations soon. Crisis PR practitioners like myself possess a wide array of experiences in dealing with practically any kind of scenario. You have to know what to do BEFORE an event hits the social media, blogosphere, or evening newscast. Most PR practitioners aren’t skilled in the art. I was fortunate enough to have the experience early on, starting with my days in the U.S. Navy. I’m grateful to be of help to a wide array of organizations and individuals.

How did you get into this line of work?
My Navy Public Affairs background has a lot to do with it. Managing Crisis PR events was just part of the job. I saw it all; accidents, deaths, mishaps, criminal activities in foreign ports of call, armed conflict, and the like. It was the best training ground that a young PR practitioner could get. I then entered the private sector 20 years ago and got exposed to a ton of other instances, such as mass layoffs, product recalls, CEOs behaving badly, and other crises. I consider myself lucky and grateful to have done the things I do and love putting it to use for a wide array of organizations.

What are the three things you tell every company about what you do?
1. Don’t plan your crisis response when it happens. Incorporate crisis communications as part of your comprehensive disaster recovery plan. It will ensure you can react the right way, mitigate the damage to your reputation, and get back to normal operations as quickly as possible. 2. Always respond to a crisis by expressing empathy and action. That doesn’t mean you need to admit fault, particularly when you’re not responsible for whatever the event is. Nevertheless, engaging audiences to tell them that you hear them and are acting upon it will go a long way to diffusing the situation. 3. NOTHING is off the record. Don’t even go there. If you don’t want it posted in a blog or appearing in the New York Times, don’t say it.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
The list is long. I love to cook and hike with my wife. I’m a big fan of the ocean and am a die-hard San Diego Padres and San Diego State Aztecs fan! If I had more time, I’d play the guitar and read historical fiction books more.

It was so great to reconnect. One last question – how can our readers connect with you, learn more or support you?
Twitter/Instagram: @OatesCrisisPR

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