HEARTH, a small social-services non-profit organization, found nearly 50 percent of its annual funding at imminent risk of elimination. Employees of a local government entity were mandating that this well-respected organization change its operations and, in fact, its raison d’etre due to their bureaucratic misinterpretation of an ambiguous federal statute.
While hoping that this situation could be resolved amicably behind closed doors, a required court filing was mere days away, opening up the issue to public and media scrutiny.
Within eight hours of first contact, Shift held multiple emergency meetings with the organization’s board, executive staff, and outside counsel in order to devise a strategic crisis communication plan, standby statements, talking points, media outreach platform, media training and presentation in preparation for the resultant media firestorm. As the crisis ebbed and flowed, preparing for media action and at times pausing towards a resolution, we launched a press conference to push the issue into a public conversation.
Shift, the client, and its outside legal counsel held multiple meetings with federal and local elected officials, laying out the facts of the case and the need for high-level engagement in order to head off negative publicity for the local and federal government entities. We needed to create media attention on a national scale to influence the federal government. We engaged the Associated Press for the national voice but a local voice was key, that’s where the funds were stalled. In addition to being posted on the home page of every local, newspaper, TV and radio station, the Associated Press article appeared on more than 60 U.S. newspaper, TV, and radio station websites, including the San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Times, cnbc.com, The Huffington Post, and The Charlotte Observer. The crisis then moved to legal mediation and funds were then released to HEARTH.