SAUSALITO, CA: What do you do when your client's CEO is embroiled
in a sex scandal and the local daily is headed down the trail of a
potentially devastating expose? Try persuading the scribe to pen a
positive piece about how a company practices damage control.
Sound impossible? That's precisely what MSR Communications principal
Mary Shank Rockman did last week for client MetaTV, a Bay Area start-up
whose founding CEO was arrested June 2 for allegedly luring an
undercover cop posing as a 14-year-old girl to Golden Gate Park for
But just one month after MetaTV hit the headlines for the arrest of its
now-former CEO Ranjit Sahota, the fast-growing interactive-TV software
company scored a front-page profile in the San Francisco Chronicle
business section focusing almost exclusively on the firm's masterful
handling of the crisis.
The piece, which spotlighted the company's newly installed leadership
and emphasized the separation of Sahota's personal issues from daily
business operations, also included quotes from confident company
investors and partners.
Each of the company's key audiences - investors, board members,
partners, vendors, key customers, and employees - were personally and
immediately briefed by co-founder and now president Andrew Lev.
"But to the press we commented only on company-related issues, not
Sahota," said Shank Rockman. "And we were very selective in which media
we granted interviews with Andrew because we wanted to keep the focus on
our message: that this arrest was the personal act of an individual not
related to company operations."
Shank Rockman fought an uphill battle to convince MetaTV's legal team to
go along with the plan. "They thought we were putting them out to
slaughter," she admitted.
When the final piece ran, "We were all incredibly relieved," said Shank
Rockman. More importantly, MetaTV's business has continued to thrive,
with no employee turnover since the scandal, and continued backing by
investors such as Cox Cable and Comcast.