Latest PR Offering: ‘Readiness Audits’

As the terror-alert level rose to orange last week, WPP Group’s Hill & Knowlton launched a “terrorism preparedness” service called Threat Readiness Audit, the latest entry in a growing subset of crisis communications born in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

H&K director of crisis communications Richard Hyde will supervise 40 of the agency’s staff nationwide to develop Readiness Audits. The process involves addressing about 160 issues at client firms, such as which departments would be involved in a terrorist response; who would be notified in the event of a threat and when; how to work with public authorities and the news media; and how to set up security facilities, humanitarian services and grief counseling services.

Hyde said several clients are participating, including those in the insurance and packaged-goods sectors, but declined to name them.

Most large PR firms offer terrorism-response counseling, and Kathy Cripps, president of the Council of PR Firms in New York, said she expects all will soon provide it.

Interpublic Group shop Weber Shandwick, for example, which has worked with American Airlines, among others, runs “virtual crisis centers.” Hypothetical scenarios played out online show participants how to protect employees and customers, said Peter Duda, head of Weber’s crisis-management practice.