Years in crisis work: 20
Crisis work: Philadelphia School District during contract teacher negotiations and a subsequent strike; Philadelphia Orchestra as it negotiates its contract with musicians' union; represented carpenters' union in high-profile public debate about labor issues at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
Philosophy: "Preparation is key. While you are never actually ready for a crisis, proactively addressing potential scenarios is incredibly more effective than waiting until a situation arises and then reacting. Don't let your opponent frame the issue."
President and managing director
Dan Klores Communications
Years in crisis work: 12
Crisis work: Vivendi Universal sale of entertainment assets in 2003-2004; Cantor Fitzgerald post 9/11; Sean "P. Diddy" Combs trial in 2001
Philosophy: In working with Cantor Fitzgerald after 9/11, Cassidy and Klores outlined key principles for the firm, including clearly mapping out how the victims' families would be provided for and setting specific dates for delivering that care. On the business side, it sought to communicate with the business press how quickly the firm's business rebounded.
President & CEO
Years in crisis work: 20-plus
Crisis work: Bethlehem Steel bankruptcy in 2001; worked with McDonald's in 2001 to deal with discovery of a syringe in a hamburger sold in a New York City McDonald's; Worked with Bally Total Fitness when FTC filed an action against it in 1994
Philosophy: While Kempner sees each crisis as unique, he agrees it is crucial to maintain a positive dialogue with the press and all major stakeholders in any crisis. Only such an ongoing discussion can guarantee fairness and forge a degree of goodwill that will allow the company to have fair coverage in the future.
EVP, MD, media relations Americas
Years in crisis work: 9
Crisis work: Bridgestone/Firestone tire recall; Norwegian Cruise Lines; now working with the British Tourism Authority to revitalize tourism after concerns about hoof and mouth disease among British cattle.
Philosophy: Kerins sees effective crisis communications involving open communication with the client so all scenarios are completely understood before any action is taken. He doesn't waste time soft-pedaling recommendations in a crisis, believing crisis counselors aren't doing their jobs if they're not being candid and straightforward.
SVP and senior partner, director, corporate and b-to-b group
Years in crisis work: 30
Crisis work: TWA 1996 flight 800 disaster; labor dispute at heavy-equipment maker Caterpillar; Alar apple scare.
Philosophy: Timeliness and credibility of information form the basis of McCue's philosophy of crisis communications. A crisis communicator needs to know "what do we know, when did we first know it and what did we do about it," McCue says.
Wendi Taylor Nations
SVP, practice leader
Years in crisis work: 16-plus
Crisis work: Oxford Health Plans when accounting problems discovered; Ravenswood Hospital in Chicago when someone shot outside its emergency room died after being refused treatment.
Philosophy: "It's about the people involved. Do right by those who are affected by the situation. Publicly show your care and concern," she says. Also, "reach out to third-party partners. Make sure they are prepared to respond and show their support."
SVP, public affairs practice leader in Washington
Years in crisis work: 10
Crisis work: worked as the first communications director hired by the US Congress to establish a communications team post 9/11 and post-anthrax; Bank of America, 1999-2000, worked on issues of identity theft with the company's operating units
Philosophy: Neptune is amazed how many companies don't do advanced planning for possible crises. "Most still employ 'hunker down until we know all the details' strategies, even though we live in a day and age where electronic communications and the responsiveness it demands have made the old traditional decision-making model outdated."