Winner: MWW Group and Boscov's
Campaign: Boscov's Beats the Odds and Stores Return to Founding Family
Just as its executives initiated several operational improvements in early 2008, the credit crisis hit hard, subsequently forcing the family-owned independent retailer Boscov's Department Stores to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Aug. 2, 2008. The decision was made in an attempt to reduce debt, strengthen the balance sheet and normalize vendor relations.
At the same time, though, the company needed to position itself as a viable and necessary business to multiple stakeholders, including potential buyers, lenders and customers. Plus, the owners wanted to keep the business in the family, thus requiring them to reverse the financial tailspin. To meet these goals, they tapped MWW Group.
Leading up to filing day, the team of executives created a cascade of audience-specific messaging to help keep key stakeholders engaged and supportive during the Chapter 11 process. Strategies to keep operations running smoothly included:
Counseling Boscov's management to provide regular updates to co-workers to keep vendor- and customer-facing employees informed;
Developing scripts, talking points and FAQs documents that anticipated audiences' main questions and concerns;
Developing a schedule of talking points for those managers who were responsible for communicating news of store closings, layoffs and restructurings; and,
Conducting a town hall meeting at the company's headquarters on filing day, which was hosted by the CEO, whose remarks moved employees to pledge to do whatever they could to protect the company's future.
All In The Family
What easily could have been a catastrophic crisis for Boscov's reputation--and its future--ended up remaining under control thanks to the team's stalwart communications efforts. Since filing in August 2008, only one private equity firm expressed sincere interest in buying the company but, because it couldn't promise to keep the stores open, this outcome was deemed unacceptable to the Boscov family.
In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, the company's leaders rallied to raise almost enough money to buy the company. Then, the state of Pennsylvania and two of the cities in which Boscov's operates unexpectedly stepped in with a bridge loan to make the purchase possible--all in time for the holiday season.
Company: Media & Communications Strategies, LLC and Gleason Group
Campaign: Saving American Manufacturing Campaign
In 2007, the Gleason Group--one of the nation's largest hand truck manufacturers, faced being forced to go out of business because the Department of Commerce granted an incredibly low tariff to an international competitor. To convince the Department of Commerce to reverse its preliminary decision and reinstate the original higher international tariff, Gleason Group turned to Media & Communications Strategies LLC, whose executives built on burgeoning local interest to eventually secure national media and political attention. Ultimately, not only was the original international tariff of 26.49% reinstated; it skyrocketed to a staggering 383.6%, which prevented overseas companies from undermining Gleason Group's position in the hand truck manufacturing industry.
Company: FD and Tropicana Entertainment
Campaign: "All In": A Communications Campaign to Support the Chapter 11 Restructuring of Tropicana Entertainment LLC
In April 2008, FD was enlisted by Tropicana Entertainment to drive internal and external communications surrounding the company's multibillion dollar Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, and to provide ongoing communications counsel following the announcement. The team identified Tropicana general managers as the key communications conduits to major audiences, and in turn equipped them with a toolkit for communicating all messaging around the filing and restructuring. That approach, as well as efforts to monitor media coverage, provide messaging counsel and create a restructuring section within the corporate Web site, effectively prepared the company for its transition and garnered positive media coverage.