Communicator Looks to Chapter 11 for New Business

The coronavirus has prompted PR firms to create practices aimed at helping brands, companies and organizations work during the pandemic and make plans to emerge from it. Given the virus's decimation of the economy, another angle has opened. Later today a firm will unveil a practice dedicated to the specialized communication around Chapter 11 proceedings, other types of bankruptcy and litigation.

23-year-old, Los Angeles-based Bob Gold & Associates will announce that it’s formed a practice in anticipation of a wave of bankruptcies and Chapter 11 filings. The veteran communicator Bob Gold will lead the practice. The unit will add another bankruptcy and Chapter 11 communicator, Paul Jacobson, of Denver-based SilversJacobson. Gold and Jacobson have worked on Chapter 11 and bankruptcy cases over the years, including the multi-billion-dollar Chapter 11 reorganization of former cable provider Adelphia.

Judges Want PR and Communication Plans

In an interview last evening, Gold noted some judges want to see PR and communication plans before they approve a Chapter 11 reorganization. Since a reorganized company’s board and management are responsible for preserving and maximizing value for creditors, communication around a company’s Chapter 11 activities is seen as critical, Gold said. Communication must address all stakeholders in a Chapter 11 situation, he added.

“Employees in Chapter 11 situations are scared for their future. [Internal] communicators need to reassure them.” In addition, consumers need reassurance. “They want to know what to do.” Communicating with emotion and empathy are required in such situations, he said. It's similar to how PR pros are communicating during the pandemic.

For example, Gold has handled cases where cable providers declared Chapter 11. “Their customers want to know how long they’ll have their cable and who will answer their service calls,” Gold said.

Another facet of Chapter 11 communication, Gold said, has PR pros working closely with attorneys. Though Gold admits most attorneys approach a crisis by urging their clients to say nothing, he has found that creating a trusting relationship with lawyers is optimal for a Chapter 11 situation.

“You begin with face-to-face meetings,” Gold said, which now will be held via phone call or video. Then, Gold said, “you explain that they can lean on you to solve problems and you will lean on them.” You have to assure them you won't say or do anything to hurt what they're trying to do in court, Gold said.

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