Meet the professionals helping businesses deal with drama

There are more than two million active businesses in Australia and when a crisis hits, there’s a group of startup founders ready to help out.

“The majority of them who come to us do so blind — just being naive,” says founder of Crisis Shield, Allan Briggs.

The founder of Crisis Shield, Allan Briggs, spent years in police and SES media roles.
The founder of Crisis Shield, Allan Briggs, spent years in police and SES media roles.

The company was founded about a decade ago after Briggs, who had spent years in police and SES media roles, became known as “the crisis guy”.

Businesses can book Briggs’ team for media training, crisis communications plans and crisis simulation exercises, which run through how to communicate with staff and media when a live incident hits a workplace.


The company also ensures there is a plan in place to talk to staff if a business is involved in misconduct.

“We’re there to help them deal with the worst. In the unlikely event that it happens, it means they’re prepared,” Briggs says

These days, the $1 million business is gaining traction in both the UK and the US, after Briggs was surprised to discover there was a gap in the market overseas for his specific type of boutique firm.

“One thing that’s become apparent is no matter where we are in the world, there’s a crisis unfolding. When you’re responding to a crisis, the same core principles apply.”

The firm does not reveal individual clients but they include education institutions, financial services businesses and those in the entertainment and travel sectors.

Some of the top threats the company currently advises on include cyber attacks, information compromises and how to treat activists who may be campaigning against a business.

Crisis communications is not a new sector but the value of digitally focused firms is growing. The world’s top 250 communications firms now generate more than $US12 billion ($17.5 billion) a year, according to the 2019 edition of the major annual report into the sector, the Holmes Report.

However, it’s the middle market and niche operators that have seen the most growth.

Briggs says he has been able to expand the business globally because few businesses have blueprints and processes in place when things go wrong. However, there are some lines in the world of crisis management that he won’t cross.

“We have had to walk away from a few clients. If someone has gone out and intentionally done something wrong, we’re not prepared to assist them,” Briggs says.

Other firms are hoping to leverage interest in social justice causes to allow businesses to draw attention to important issues or fights between themselves and big business.

David and Goliath battles

Serial entrepreneur Juliet Potter has found a niche helping small businesses and social justice causes share their David and Goliath battles publicly.

The founder of Girlcomms has recently spun out a separate brand, Justice PR, hoping to help advise businesses on how to deal with injustices they face and leverage media attention to do so.

Potter has grown her business on the proviso that bigger corporates don’t mind dragging out disputes with the little guy, but they tend to move more quickly when the stories enter the court of public opinion.

“I hate injustice,” she says. “They [big businesses] don’t care. Particularly if they’re a large organisation, going to court doesn’t worry them… what is going to motivate them is [a reporter] running after them with a camera.”

Founder of Justice PR, Juliet Potter says she hates injustice.
Founder of Justice PR, Juliet Potter says she hates injustice. Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

Over the past two years, Potter has worked with clients on a number of intellectual property disputes, involving the likes of Sensis and Zara. 

She has also worked with non-profits, including her own White Caravan Foundation, to bring causes including domestic violence and homelessness to the front of media’s minds.

Potter says the rise of “social justice PR” is becoming more important in the digital news cycle.

“Crisis management has been around for 20 years. This is a new category altogether.”

With three staff members, Potter believes Justice PR will only grow from its current turnover of more than $100,000. There is no shortage of entrepreneurs in need of advice on handling media when fighting a larger business, particularly when these battles can carry a large price tag.

“And sometimes, it is the battlers that do end up going down when fighting against a bigger business,” Potter says.

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