feat. Mike Shebak | Senior Managing Director of a large independent advisory firm, Mike Shebak, shares how they pivoted daily client communications during the COVID-19 crisis.


Since the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, financial markets have been in a “crisis of clarity” and financial advisory firms have been thrust into an uncomfortable dual role: becoming both financial and crisis communication experts.

We talk with Mike Shebak, senior managing director of Clearstead, one of the largest independent financial advisory firms in the Midwest, on how they pivoted their firm from not just managing nearly $25 billion in client assets, but setting daily steadfast client communications that quelled fears and created opportunities to foment even stronger client relationships.


Read the Transcript
Speaker 1 (00:00):

Welcome to on crisis. I’m your host, Joanna Donovan. And I have dealt with a lot of crisis for the past 15 years or so as press secretary for a big city mayor and in running my company, Premo consultants. And I think we all need to know more about how to handle crisis management in the age of fake news, political discord, lightning, fast news cycles and social media shaming. It’s essential that your business has a plan in place to handle crisis communications. We’re going to have some really cool people on our show talking about behind the scenes stories in city government, in corporations, employee scandals. Ultimately, we’re going to bring on people that will share stories with you to help you inform your own strategies. I promise we’re gonna have fun, very excited to have my sheep back joining us today on, on crisis. My chief back is somebody who we’ve worked with at premier consultants.

Speaker 1 (01:25):

A lot. In fact, we rebranded their financial services company. Was it last year, two years now, two years. Oh my gosh, time’s flying to clear stead and we redid their website and really help them navigate how to modernize their communications channels. As many of their clientele are inheriting money from let’s say their parents or grandparents and the importance of modernizing communications is critical to their business. So let’s, let’s first set the stage here and, and talk about clear stead. And I just want to begin by saying for many Americans, there has been a lot of worry with regard to the financial markets. 2020 has been an unprecedented time because of course of coronavirus. And I know me personally as a business owner and as a, you know, an entrepreneur having a good financial advisor and accountant that I can trust became, it became very clear how important that is this year. So let’s, let’s talk a bit about your role at Keirstead first and set the stage for really what you’re overseeing there. Sure, sure. Thanks. Thanks Juliana. Good, good to be with you today. So I’ve been fortunate to be a part of clear stead for over 14 years. Today my role as senior managing director is to help oversee I

Speaker 2 (03:00):

Actually run our institutional practice. But I’m also a member of the executive team at the firm. And so help run you know, larger I guess initiatives and opportunities on behalf of the entire firm, not just our, our institutional client division. Just a little bit about, about clear stead. We advise a little over 25 billion for 150 institutions and as well as 500 individuals and families by a lot of measures, we are one of the largest independent investment advisory institutional and wealth advisory firms in, in the region, in the, in the Midwest here based in Cleveland. So it’s nice that a Pittsburgh native would have a Clevelander on, on the podcast.

Speaker 1 (03:52):

Okay. I’m all about controversy. So this fits right in,

Speaker 2 (03:56):

But my role again at the firm, I had our institutional practice and I can talk a little bit about that, but you know, really it’s helping to form, you know, messaging and branding and other I guess what ways that, that we reach out to our clients and help them through difficult times and also, you know, proactively make sure that we’re known in the marketplace

Speaker 1 (04:19):

And let’s dive right into what happened when the pandemic hit and how your firm responded to clients. I mean, $20 billion, 25 of assets under, under management or advisement, rather, there’s a difference there still a lot, and I can imagine people were just holding their breath. How, how did, how did your firm navigate clients? Let’s just talk about in the beginning of the crisis, w w how, what was your advice to them? And how important was it that you had a communications plan?

Speaker 2 (04:54):

Yeah, so it was, I mean, it, it, it was unprecedented for everyone, right? Not just financial services or us, we, we, we were maybe a little more prepared than some to to, to react to this environment because the nature of investments is that they go up and they go down. And so you know, regardless of pandemic or financial crisis from 2008 and nine, or, or other volatile periods that we’ve seen in the last few years, you know, we’re, we’re kind of always programmed to play a crisis management if you will, with our clients. And I think, you know, Joanna, before we even get into February, March and April, it starts with setting reasonable expectations for your clients right up front. You know, making sure that you know, their, their goals are accounted for and their objectives are accounted for, and their strategy around pursuing those long-term goals.

Speaker 2 (05:53):

So that in times of crisis, you can rely the strategy on the soundness of that long-term point of view and not have to do a lot of re-educating for why something is the way that it is why the portfolio is constructed, the way that it is or why an investment policy is set up a certain way. And so if we’ve done our job and we’ve communicated over many, many time periods to our clients, the importance of that, it doesn’t make the crisis any easier, but it makes it maybe the, the, the, the point of reference or the, the context for why we then discuss you know, that individual strategy long-term planning strategy for an individual or a long-term investment strategy for an institution. It, it just, it makes it, you know, it adds the context. And so what we were really doing in, in March and April was, was kind of two two-pronged and, you know, the, the external communication, proactive communication to clients was really, really important, but also internally to the firm we needed to make sure that the professionals who were providing that advice that were conducting you know investment transactions buying and selling investments, or moving money around that they all felt comfortable with the you know, work from home, the viability of the firm, what was going on in the market so that they could do their job.

Speaker 2 (07:28):

And so Dave Folden, who’s our CEO, myself, and some others, you know, we, we, we made sure that we kind of had a very purposeful two-prong type communication policy, or I guess, strategy, if you will. That went out to both clients and, and internally specific, I’m looking at a screen right here just to remind myself, but on March 13th. So this was pre kind of shut down on March 13th. We sent out a very succinct kind of simple message to every one of our institutional am and private clients. And it talked broadly around the state of our firm, what we saw going on in the world what we saw going on in, in, in, in capital markets and in equity markets in particular, and, and use it as an opportunity to, to remind them of a couple things, the long-term nature of their strategy, but also, and I think most importantly, that we were there to listen.

Speaker 2 (08:27):

Don’t, don’t hesitate to reach out with questions and also to inform our clients that they should expect to hear from us personally, sometime in the next couple of weeks to, to talk through their specific situations. So that was kind of job number one, to get that I guess, communication out and then job two became you know, communicating that, that hand to hand combat, if you think of it that way making sure you picked up the phone and called every single client, every single stakeholder to make sure that they knew they were important to us, that we were listening to what their concerns were and you know, reacting accordingly, if it was a simple, Hey, thanks for checking in. We’re all fine. We understand no problem, but other organizations and individuals, you know, they, they want to talk it through.

Speaker 2 (09:18):

And so at that point, you know, w we, as financial professionals are balancing you know, the, the, the, the real technical fundamental elements of capital markets and what’s going on in the economy and what that’s going to mean with the emotional behavioral type of tendencies that individuals have in those situations to, to want to sell all of their equities or to you know, put all their cash under their mattress, so to speak. Right. And so you know, that there was a lot of those types of discussions, both the real technical on where markets in the economy are going, and also stick true to that strategy that we have talked to you about for years and years and years. And, and don’t stray from it.

Speaker 1 (10:04):

It’s, it’s a long-term play. Right. did you have many, let’s, let’s say higher value clients, clients with a lot of money in the bank. Did you have a lot of them that actually just pulled money out, or were you able to convince, I mean, w what would it, I mean, were there aberrations talk to me about that.

Speaker 2 (10:22):

Yeah. That’s, yeah, that’s a, it’s, listen, it’s not a one size fits all type of solution for every individual and every institution. They’re all different. So I’ll, I’ll give you two examples, one you know, and, and this was a common conversation with a lot of our institutional clients think about a religious organization or a museum or a college or university, or even a hospital, right. Hospitals are at the front ground of, of what was going on in this. And we have a number of, of of hospitals that we work very, very closely with as their their trusted fiduciary and advisor. And so the discussions centered more around this, the, the, this really kind of silly concept of, of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Let’s, let’s make sure that, and you’re looking at me like, Mike, are you really bringing up you know, psychology?

Speaker 1 (11:20):

I like it. I take it. I mean, it is psychology, right? The markets are.

Speaker 2 (11:24):

Yeah. But, but, but what, what are those basic needs that a hospital or a museum, or even an individual need to make sure are accounted for? It’s having cash and liquidity on hand, and then let’s not lose sight of what our long-term goals are. If we can have some assurance that, that near-term, our, our strategy has been accomplished, and we’re going to be able to live through the next couple two, three years, maybe. And again, this was March or April. We really didn’t know what was going to be the next six months, let alone the next two years. But if we can make sure that we have those needs accounted for then you know, then, then maybe we can stay true to that longer term strategy. But I would say, you know, Joanna on the institutional side, it’s a little bit different conversation on the individual side, I would, would certainly say that there were some individuals where they, they felt more comfortable, you know, moving some of their equities to, to cash and, and kind of waiting a little bit to see what the world had had in store for us.

Speaker 2 (12:28):

But, but by and large, I would say most clients stayed very true to their, their longterm approach. But that doesn’t happen without pre communication over many years up until that point. And then, you know, very doing, being, being a very good listener and listening intently in March and April to what, what our clients were asking us.

Speaker 1 (12:48):

And, and you know, I think one of, one of the key things I tell clients who are dealing with a crisis is, is answering the question before it’s asked. So anticipating the questions that your clients are going to ask you, and, and I mean, it’s connecting now connecting, is it, is it a topic here because look, we’re connecting differently now. And it’s you know, the, the importance that you said of having a good strong foundation with your, with your clients became paramount and keeping them on the right track, ensuring they trust you. And I think, you know, any kind of crisis, it really tests an organization’s core. What are, what are your values? What is your integrity? Are you really staying true to your mission? So did you, did you see clients come to you? Did you, did you get new clients during COVID because maybe those with whom you communicated were so happy about it and told their friends? Cause I can tell you personally, I did not have that TLC approach from my, from my advisor or my accountant, and it’s, it’s led to a change for, for me which really, really stinks. It’s a pain in the butt to change these things, isn’t it? Right? No, you become tethered to your, to your financial advisor because he just, nobody wants to have to change. It’s it’s, it’s stressful, right? Money is stressful.

Speaker 2 (14:17):

Well, it is, it is stressful. I mean, you know, changing a financial advisor requires a, a lot of moving parts and you know, you, you develop not only long relationships with these, these trusted advisors, but then the paperwork and the, the moving of, of, of assets around can, can be cumbersome. And so there needs to be a real, real value there to do so. And so, you know, to, to, to your question yes. And we would, we were fortunate early in the shutdown to still continue to, to attract some new clients to the firm. I, I think a lot of it, a lot of the reason why was because of the proactive outreach that we had, not just to our clients, clients came first and we were very consistent and very purposeful in how we reached out to every single client. But once we had done that and we were able to spend some time and speak with, with prospects and those that we had been getting to know over time you know, and, and share with them some of the things that we had been doing with our clients, it, it definitely did resonate.

Speaker 1 (15:26):

So tell me what you mean. Like, give me an example, what was resonating? I mean were you suggesting the implementation of certain strategies for certain institutions? Like I can, I know, you know, universities, you know, I think of Carnegie Mellon, my Alma mater, and I have a few friends that work there, and I can tell you they’ve, they’ve tightened their belts drastically because there’s simply less students that are going to be going there now. The travel restrictions are hitting, hitting the colleges that have a high foreign foreigner population. So, you know, any sort of, I mean, did you guys have to innovate in your thinking or were you following best practices that really always existed in your, in your circle of circle of influence?

Speaker 2 (16:13):

Yeah, so I, it, the answer to that is it was our approach was different by client type. And so let me, let me answer that by responding first. So what we did with our institutional clients and prospects, and then with our private clients in in prospects, on the institutional side colleges and universities and foundations, and even hospitals there, their focus became very, very narrow, right. Stay open, or really make sure that, that our clients or those that we support employees or students, whatever are safe. Right. And so the thought, and even today, we’re, we’re eight, nine months into this really the attention of a lot of those institutions remains on those, those those key priorities and not so much on finding a new advisor. And we were not tone deaf to that. And so what we, what we purposely did was not make it a point to reach out and, and, and, you know, pray on that’s a, that’s a strong word, but, you know, distract perspective institutional clients with our story. Right, right. Instead, what we wanted to do was make sure we were really, really responsive to our existing clients. And in fact, Joanna w what we did for some of those that we knew were specifically struggling you know, really hard financially was to identify those and especially our hospital and healthcare related clients and, you know, provide some financial support to them. And you know, that was we thought the right thing to do the, the right way for us to see

Speaker 1 (18:10):

Financial support, just connecting them with the available loans or

Speaker 2 (18:14):

Yep. So helping them think through cares act and, and other government types of relief that was available. But, but also recognizing that, that a lot of charitable funds opened at these, these organizations COVID relief funds, or specific funds at hospitals to purchase supplies for, you know, masks and, and just things like that, or to help to support the the payroll in some cases of their essential staff. And so we, we identified some opportunities to make sure that, that we were, we’re giving, you know financial support to our clients as well, where we could now that the dollars in and of themselves do they, did they make a dent? You know, probably not, but it’s, it’s important for us from a communication, a client partnership point of view, that we were not tone deaf to what they were going through and try to help out any, any, any way that we could.

Speaker 1 (19:18):

Did you develop any kind of cadence for how often you’re communicating with clients? So obviously there’s the individual outreach, which is arguably the most important, but then there’s the, okay. Here’s the frequently asked questions and we’re getting, and we should be blasting out this information, you know, every three weeks. Did you guys create a cadence or did you, were you, I mean, naturally, were you just more reactive because, well, nobody knew what was, this was coming

Speaker 2 (19:42):

Well, so it was a little bit of both, but I’m glad you asked that because one of the things that our research, our investment research department did very early on, and I give a ton of credit to Carl Tippett, a neat dish bandy, and our research department who Tom C who quickly got together and created this concept that we called research corner. It’s a two page front and back communication that was sent, that was created and sent out daily, March, April, may, daily, daily. So every morning, 9:00 AM, we had the bullet points you know, call it you know, 15 to 25 bullet points on what had happened the previous day, what the outlook was for the day. And it was a way for us to consistently share our message across the firms so that the professionals who are client facing are, are speaking about the same, same topics, the same data points but also consistently get our message out and frequently to our, our client base, both our institutional and our, our private clients research corner has since I guess reduced its frequency back to weekly.

Speaker 2 (21:05):

But it’s still a very timely piece every Monday morning that goes out to a very wide universe. And again, it’s, it’s, it’s helpful in creating that, that internal common language that we’re all using. Cause if you think about it, we have I’ll ballpark here, 25 or so client facing professionals at the firm touching 150 institutions, 500 families, you know, there, there’s going to be some variability in there of the message, but if, if we can work to create some sort of common you know terminology and points of view around what’s going on in the economy, that, that, that helps as a firm to make sure that we’re being consistent with,

Speaker 1 (21:53):

Right. And that’s critical in communications that your, when you’re communicating externally, remembering that that’s also an opportunity to communicate internally and, and make sure everybody’s speaking with the same voice and really feeling like they’re, they’re empowered. You know, I can imagine, you know, I, I personally know many of the clear state employees and, you know, I can attest that there’s a personal passion that you all have, and in doing the job you do, it’s not just a punch the clock job. So it’s not surprising that you were able to pull together a daily communication. Congrats. That’s awesome.

Speaker 2 (22:39):

I mean, I, I take, I take zero credit it’s the, the guys in our research department were, were amazing in pulling that together. I know it was a lot of work, but they, they did a great job on another example Joanna just on our private clients side, our tax and planning department pulled together near the end of March, beginning of April, pulled together some tremendous information around the cares act. And in particular you know, was able to supply that information to a number of our private clients and where, where possible, where necessary actually walked them through the small business loan process. And so that, that was just an example of us.

Speaker 1 (23:29):

Let me, let me pause you there and ask, you know, from w for many people, many colleagues of mine, their bank, their local bank would do that. Why did you all see that as a rule that you should take with clients?

Speaker 2 (23:46):

Yeah, well it, it, it was the 800 pound gorilla right in the room at the time. It’s what everyone was with a small business was, was looking at. And so we pride ourselves in being the first stop that our private clients come to to ask for questions. And so we viewed it as our responsibility to make sure we understood all the implications of it, how to go through that process also to understand, you know, how it might impact them down the road from a tax perspective, perhaps, and I guess more so than anything, we just want to make sure that we were part of the discussion we’re being helpful in whatever way we could. And I think it just, it just goes to our culture of, of wanting to be via, you know, helpful in a partner in a lot of different ways, not just on taxes, planning, and investments, but on, on, on any way that we can be helpful to those families and, and, and the individuals

Speaker 1 (24:50):

Yeah, and that’s, you know, the, the one thing that is so important for people to understand when it comes to financial planning and those who are listening to this will probably understand this, but your tax, you know, how you, how you plan for your future, especially if you’re a small business owner, or if you make, let’s say, you know, I don’t know, I’m not gonna tell you what I make, but if you make a decent amount of money, right, you want to figure out that tax piece. What, how can I, how can I reduce my taxable income? And if you have a financial advisor here and an accountant over there, they’re not talking to each other, you’re left to figure it out. And, you know, that’s, that’s not what, it’s not what I do. Yeah. so let’s, let’s dive into sort of what’s happening now. I mean, because we, this has been a momentous month, we have a new president hopefully there’ll be a new what am I saying? You know, a new package, Pat stimulus package that’s passed soon. And you know, the economy seems to be on the uptick globally, but things change every day. What are you, what are you seeing right now? And when you, when you look at the past nine months and you’ve been reading the markets daily, can you predict future trends at this point?

Speaker 2 (26:10):

Well, I would say near term, extremely difficult. I think most of us would, would say, as we sit here today, we’re, we’re surprised by how well markets have done recently. Just to add some context and I don’t have specific numbers, so please don’t quote me on any of these, but, you know, since really Halloween, the Martin, the equity markets have been very strong. You know, at Halloween we had kind of seen the last two weeks of, of October were or someone negative for markets. And then, and then we got, you know, some, some encouraging news about a vaccine or vaccines, plural. There started to become some clarity around the Island actions. And corporate earnings were, were strong. And so we’ve seen the markets do exceptionally well from here. And I, I guess my, my reaction to that is that that was in and of itself somewhat of a surprise, or it has been a little bit of a surprise, I would say.

Speaker 2 (27:20):

And so to, to project the next next, you know, couple months or even year is, is going to be difficult. But I would say, I’ll say this, there, there are some historical trends in investments that have, that have continuously played out equities have tended to be a higher returning, more volatile asset class, fixed income, and cash has kind of that, that staple, that, that make you feel good type of thing, investment. You know, what if I was to predict one thing in my compliance officer will need to make sure this is okay, you know, it’s, that, that there’s going to, because interest rates are so low with what the fed and the government has had to do. And that’s, you know, let’s not dismiss the fact that in a very short amount of time, the fed and the government pumps stimulus into our economy and in a matter of weeks, whereas in 2008 and 2009, it took months.

Speaker 2 (28:23):

But the fact that they did that, it’s, it’s worked, but we’re going to have long-term implications of that. We’re going to have higher taxes. We’re we’re going to have low interest rates for some time, and that’s gonna, that’s gonna have an implication on, on investors, both institutions and private clients, where do we, how do we balance safety with our investments, those traditional investments, like bonds and cash how do we balance that safety versus you know, how do we find you know, meaningful return? And so, you know, if, you know, if there’s any prediction, I guess, it’s that there’s going to continue to be some, some changes and some different ways that, that investors look at they’re balancing their near, near term needs and their, their long-term needs not to be a plug or a commercial. I guess I, I plugged this for the entire financial advisory industry. That’s all the more reason to have a very good dialogue, a very healthy conversation with your advisor around what your goals and objectives are, and, you know, make sure that that expectations are very clear on both sides around the challenges that investors are gonna face. And also, you know, the, the, what the investor is looking to achieve with their, with their investible dollars.

Speaker 1 (29:42):

So how are you changing your investments right now? Have you, have you made any changes?

Speaker 2 (29:47):

Well, we we w we, we adopted a chore system at home because right now the biggest attractor is the three miles I have to feed. They’re the most expensive things I have. So that would be kids one, two, and three. So chores, and that kind of thing is a, a, a good strategy right now for me to, to lower household expenses, but from an investor,

Speaker 1 (30:11):

That’s a good point, Mike, this is really good pun, your compliance. Officer’s going to be really proud of you on that.

Speaker 2 (30:16):

Okay. On a, on a personal front joint, I, I don’t mind sharing. I I’m, I’m a very long-term focused individual, so I, I purposely have not changed anything in where, where my focus has been. And, and I think it’s, it’s, it’s it would be contrary for me to do so. It did, you know, to, I need to live in and breathe what I speak to our clients, which is maintain a longterm perspective. And you need to ride through these, these ups and downs,

Speaker 1 (30:47):

Any, any horror stories you’d like to share of, you know, competitors or clients that jumped ship to you, and is there, is there bad advice being given right now that people should, should be, you know, aware of?

Speaker 2 (31:04):

I have, I’m not aware of, of bad advice. You know, I, I think horror stories no, I mean, certainly not from, from clients. You know, I think maybe somewhat of, of relatable, I wouldn’t call it a horror story, but just something that that’s evolved through, through all of this has been the proliferation of these types of meetings, the lack of in-person to the virtual and, and

Speaker 1 (31:39):

Yeah, no, let’s, let’s be fair. Do you remember when, I guess two years ago, when we embarked on our, we worked together for about a year on the rebranding, and we talked about the need for you ought to start adopting these virtual connections with clients, because you do have clients all over, all over really the world, especially throughout the United States. And there seemed to be some hesitancy because, you know, the, your business is so one-on-one, but I guess you’ve been forced to, to adapt. How has, how has that been?

Speaker 2 (32:11):

We, it, I will say for me personally because I, I enjoy seeing clients in person and being there. It was, it was, it was a personal hurdle to overcome. It was a little uncomfortable to be in this forum, but like anything else we’ve gotten used to it it’s become more acceptable. Clients have been very, very understanding of virtual meetings as opposed to in-person. I don’t think I need to tell you, or, or, or your audience, you know, some of the pitfalls that we had to relearn about, you know, telephone conference calls and video calls and make sure you have a good background and all that kind of stuff, but to your credit, I would say that it, it, admittedly it has created efficiencies for myself, our firm and our team, you know, pre pandemic. I would have been in a car or traveling probably on average two days a week.

Speaker 2 (33:13):

And that’s lost productivity on right on. And so now being able to jump on a video call and see an entire investment committee that you normally might’ve had to get in a plane and fly to you know, obviously there’s a huge amount of time-saving there, but it does require you not just institutional, but also private client. It requires you to, to reach out in different ways, right. Make sure that relationship isn’t missed make sure that you’re, you’re, you’re very aware of what’s going on in their world. And it’s not that it’s more work or it’s, it’s a burden, but it’s just, it’s a change of habit to make sure that you’re reaching out and letting the folks know that on a personal level, you, you care about them as much as on a client and professional level too. So that’s been something that we’ve had to talk about and really enforce,

Speaker 1 (34:12):

Yeah. A few more questions before we,

Speaker 2 (34:15):

I was going to say just, just the other thing that I wanted to mention in all of this that, that was probably the biggest challenge. The, the client work, the client communication the outreach, the, the advice in a, in a trying time like the pandemic has been, that was far easier and far more natural for us than I think some of the internal communication. And I think we’ve done a really good job. Our, our, our head of human resources, Jane badis has been has been great. It just kind of making sure that we’re thinking about, you know, work from home guidelines and in the office protocols, but it’s really tough to maintain a culture when you’re not together. And so things such as frequent you know frequent firm-wide phone calls, more consolidated team-based calls you know, really the emphasis of more frequent communication has been, has been really, really important. And then making sure that you’re consistent, but also knowing that you’re going to probably satisfy some people with policies and suggestions, and some are not going to share the same of view. And so that, that, that has probably been, if there’s a horror story, I wouldn’t call it a horror story, but probably the most challenging thing has been that just managing a firm and a team of professionals through an unprecedented time period.

Speaker 1 (35:54):

Yeah. Because I can imagine there’s, and there’s different. Everyone has different communication styles too. Right. Everyone I’m sure you’re, you could probably put them in sectors. Like the accountants are a certain way, maybe the financial advisor. Right. So the importance of having SOP on here’s, how often we’re going to communicate together and with which teams and here’s how often you’re going to communicate to your clients. I can imagine that’s important to keep everybody, everybody, like, do, you know, just focused on, on, on, you know, performing the tasks, that’s going to give the best value to the clients. Are you guys completely virtual now or are you going back in soon?

Speaker 2 (36:36):

Well, so we w we’ve been

Speaker 1 (36:39):

What’s happening in Ohio. I I’m only following Pennsylvania and,

Speaker 2 (36:43):

Well, I’m not the best to ask. I don’t care. I don’t stay at completely. I believe if you’re an essential business you know, you can, you can be in the office. You know, I know we had individuals in the office today, I’m at home today, but we have been open really since the end of June individuals, professionals, and others coming into the office as they feel comfortable. And I think I’m, I’m, I’m proud of our firm and our professionals and how they’ve, they’ve managed this, this environment. You know, certainly they’ve been very open and, and sharing points of view and, and suggestions on work from home or in the office. But the, the, you know, the, the mutual respect that everyone has for one another to listen to you, you gotta make a choice and we want to get the job done, and I’m going to respect your decision has been, has been really good. And I think that comes from good leadership from Mr. Fulton. And you know, it’s, it’s, it’s still gonna be a challenge going forward just as things have spiked here recently, but you know, we’re, we’re, we’re getting through it.

Speaker 1 (37:55):

Yeah. I mean, especially tough. And we’re, we’re a woman, woman owned firm. We have all female employees, we, a few sub contractors that are, that are males, but, you know, I’m a mom, my key employees are moms. And it, I, what I’ve seen, which has been interesting is in the beginning, when we had to work from home, everybody was happy about it. Like sweet, less commute time. I feel like I can sort of just have more productivity. And now I can tell you, my employees are begging to go back into the office. So like, when can we, what can we go? And that just happened like in the last month. We’ll go back in January. Gotcha. Yeah, we’re going to do January. So, so two more questions, and then I’m gonna let you go. This has been a great conversation. How, how did you guys plan on sort of telling the story to your audiences on how you did this? Do you see yourselves, do you see importance in sharing the best practices that you guys have innovated on and created when it comes to communicating during a crisis?

Speaker 2 (39:04):

Yeah, so we, that’s a thoughtful question. I can honestly say, I don’t know that we we’ve, we’ve discussed how we would share this outside of our client or, or, or prospect base. But I, I would tell you that, that selfishly would we, as a company, make sure that we are always reminding our clients of, of what we’ve done of what we’re doing. And so I think we do a pretty good job of you know, laying out a objectives for the year, making sure that in the client meets those objectives for the year. But then coming back to that consistently and saying, remember you as an organization or individual did this thing, and we helped you here. So that, that feedback loop or that continual feedback is, is kind of ingrained in what we do anyways. Right. I think Joanna, there probably is an opportunity for us to document what we did do and, and, and put together a a story of sorts that talks about how we, as an investment advisory firm or professional service services firm, you know, felt our way through this problem. Some of it was structured. Some of it was gut feel, some of it was luck or unluck. But we could probably learn a lot by going back and creating something like that.

Speaker 1 (40:35):

Well, for the audience, you know, the name that we came up with clear stead was based on two fundamental core principles that the team has, which is providing clarity and steadfastness. And you guys certainly have done that for your clients during the pandemic. So, so congratulations. I just want to thank you for your time and you know, Oh, why do you have one more question? Do you so charitable giving, you know, it’s time to do that. You know, the day of giving is I think Tuesday w are you, cause you’ve worked with a lot of nonprofits, what’s that going to look like for them? Do, are you, do you suspect there’ll be less and how, I mean, what’s going on there?

Speaker 2 (41:19):

So that th this is a, that’s a, this is a really good question. I think I know that a lot of our clients and a lot of nonprofits are really pushing that right now, especially before year end. And what I would say is that there, there may mayor, and this is where I, I admittedly don’t have all of the expertise and I don’t want to lean on some of our private clients and accountants, but I believe that there are some pros and some cons to doing it in this calendar year. I would advise your, obviously your, your, your listeners to consult their tax advisor, but given how some of the tax laws may be changing this year and into next year. It’s my understanding there may actually may be some benefit to waiting the next year. And so that could, that could potentially cause some of the year end giving to be less robust than maybe what some nonprofits are hoping for.

Speaker 1 (42:20):

Well, maybe we’ll have Mr. Marino on to give us his, give us his insight. And I’m interested in, I can tell you, we have a couple of nonprofit clients who are concerned and what we’ve told them is they happen to be busier because of COVID. They’re, they’re providing essential service. And one is one works East part towards Philadelphia and is provides domestic abuse support, the very large scale for, for a very vulnerable population. And they’ve seen their numbers, skyrocket people are trapped home, they’re drinking more. And you know, the, the economy hasn’t been good to a lot of people, especially service workers. So the, you know, they, they think it’s a crisis right now. Like what if our, our, our giving is down and we’re saying, no, it’s an opportunity to communicate. This is, this is how badly you’re needed.

Speaker 1 (43:21):

And, and there’s, there’s a certain way to to, to leverage the increased demand, to reach more donors. So we’ve, we’ve launched a campaign for them. And, but I can tell you personally, I haven’t even thought, like I have to figure that out, what I’m going to do. And there was just an article in the wall street journal that I didn’t get to read yet yesterday. Do you see it? So it’s all about it was, it was a pretty big spread. It was about sort of tax planning into the year. And I, I wanted to read it before this, this call, but, you know, life gotten away. As I was saying, I had a little personal crisis this morning when my daughter broke her wrist. But we’re, we’re back, we’re back, we’re back and we’re doing the podcast. Thank you so much for your time. We’ll connect again for sure, because this is always a topic, of course, the financial markets and it’s top of mind for so many people. So we appreciate your time, Mike. You’re welcome. Have a great day.

Speaker 3 (44:35):




On Crisis: Episode 7

On Crisis: Episode 7

Billie Jo Weyant, the Executive Director of a small nonprofit, discusses the soaring need for abuse and sexual assault victim services during COVID-19, despite limited resources and diminishing public funding.



Pittsburgh Public Information Officer Chris Togneri talks about how he transformed his office’s social media channels into a newsroom, social media’s potential to allow people to make their own news, and more.



Aurora’s leadership talks about the company’s work with self-driving vehicles, the long-term communications mindset, and why aggressive communications on the company’s “safety first” commitment is paramount.



Allison Bentley talks about applying her lessons-learned at an international retail company to help differentiate a new startup in an evolving industry from its many competitors.

Crisis Communications Podcast Art Joanna Doven


Hosted by Joanna Doven, Premo CEO and one of the youngest big city mayoral press secretaries in the United States, On Crisis is a podcast that delves into a daunting challenge that all sectors inevitably face: how to skillfully navigate a crisis. Joined by guest speakers of all industries, Doven takes you “inside the crisis,” discussing real-time decision-making and providing helpful takeaways that can be applied to any business plan.

New episodes airing regularly. Check back soon! 





Libsyn Logo Podcast
Spotify Logo Podcast
Amazon Music Logo Podcast
YouTube Logo Podcast
Apple Podcast Logo

It's time to take action.