Catharine Montgomery on Crisis Communication

Catharine Montgomery on Crisis Communication & Social Responsibility

Interview with Catharine Montgomery on Crisis Communication, Social Responsibility, and Business Development.

In this interview, we get to know Catharine Montgomery, Better Together’s founder and CEO.

Catharine is a seasoned communications expert with experience in media outreach, stakeholder engagement, events, legislative affairs, and community involvement.

Better Together is a purpose-driven communications agency that aims to positively impact the world by working with clients committed to social impact and sustainability.

Catharine shares her experiences and insights on crisis communication, business development strategies, and the challenges of starting and growing a socially responsible business.

Let’s dive in!

Can you tell us about your background and how you got into marketing?

I am Catharine, founder of Better Together. I am a seasoned communications expert focused on human and social rights in various industries, such as gender equity, LGBTQIA+ rights, climate justice, dismantling stimags around people with disabilities, cannabis, psychedelic decriminalization, and many more.

I have worked at several agencies and helped to bring about social change through various campaigns. My experience in media outreach, stakeholder engagement, events, legislative affairs, and community involvement have all been integrated to support those disproportionately impacting communities of color who are already stigmatized and under-resourced.

I graduated from Auburn University with a Bachelor of Science in Public Relations and Marketing and earned an MBA from the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business.

I am also a member of several executive-level organizations, including CHIEF, The Upside, Dreamers & Doers, The 10th House, Public Relations Society of America, the National Black MBA Association, the National Press Club, Like Minded Collective, Ladies Get Paid, and ColorComm.

As the founder and CEO of Better Together, can you describe your agency’s mission and approach to marketing?

Better Together is my passion, founded to impact the world positively. Everyone can play a role in creating a better world for everyone, no matter how small. Through Better Together, I aim to help organizations ensure they are not just providing lip service to social responsibility but actively taking steps to make a positive impact.

It wasn’t until I found myself in a position of privilege, with the ability to take a step back from the job market and focus on my goals, that I could fully pursue my passion for social good. However, I understand that only some have the same opportunities or resources to dedicate themselves fully to their passions.

My journey to starting Better Together was challenging because I left my previous job due to a racist employee. Still, ultimately, I overcame them and achieved my goal of creating a socially-responsible business that could make a real difference. I will continue growing Better Together and making it a scalable solution for others to join me in positively impacting the world.

Catharine Montgomery on Crisis Communication's Quote

What inspired you to start your agency?

I founded Better Together to create a more just world while using my passion for strategic communications. We offer various services, including brand strategy, media relations, content development, stakeholder engagement, and more.

Our agency believes real change happens when people unite to make a difference. Therefore, we focus on working with clients who share our commitment to social impact and sustainability and are ready to put their words into action.

Can you share with us how you handle crises when they arise and some of the key lessons you’ve learned?

As a crisis communications expert, I understand the critical role that crisis communication plays in safeguarding a company’s reputation during times of uncertainty and stress. Therefore, my approach centers on swift action and effective communication when a crisis arises.

The first step I take is to gain a comprehensive understanding of the situation by gathering all available information and establishing clear communication channels with the client. This enables me to create a comprehensive crisis communication plan tailored to the company’s needs and the situation.

One key lesson I’ve learned is the importance of transparency and honesty in crisis communication. It’s critical to be truthful about the situation, take responsibility for any mistakes, and communicate with all stakeholders clearly and consistently.

Another important aspect of my approach is responsiveness. In a crisis, time is of the essence, and delays can worsen the situation and damage a company’s reputation. That’s why I’m always prepared with a 24/7 crisis response team that can act quickly and effectively.

Finally, post-crisis evaluation is essential for improving future crisis communication efforts. By analyzing what went well and what could be improved, I help clients to learn from their experiences and be better prepared for future crises.

My approach to crisis communication is centered on proactive planning, transparent and honest communication, responsiveness, and continuous improvement. By working together, we can protect your company’s reputation and overcome any crisis more robustly than ever.

What are some of the most effective business development strategies you’ve used to grow your agency?

At Better Together, we have implemented several best practices for business development to help grow the agency. Networking and building strong relationships with clients, partners, and industry peers is critical in generating new business opportunities and referrals.

I don’t go into meetings or schedule one-on-one time with connections to garner business solely but to build relationships. Building authentic relationships is crucial to business development.

We also prioritize content marketing, creating valuable and relevant content like blog posts on Medium and participating in relevant podcasts.

Social media marketing is another effective strategy. We use LinkedIn, actively build a following through engaging posts, and consistently seek to follow others we interact with. It is a great way to support other businesses that will help Better Together.

Catharine Montgomery on Crisis Communication's Quote

Referral programs have also been a powerful way to expand our customer base, offering incentives for current customers to refer to new businesses.

Additionally, we have formed strategic partnerships with complementary businesses to offer bundled services or cross-promote, helping us reach new customers and increase revenue. Establishing thought leadership through speaking engagements, media appearances, and industry publications has also helped us build trust and generate new business opportunities.

Finally, we ensure that our sales and marketing efforts are aligned and working together, which has helped generate more qualified leads and increase conversion rates. By utilizing these business development best practices, we have effectively grown our agency and expanded our reach in the industry.

How do you approach team management and create a positive company culture within your agency?

To build a solid and productive work culture at a public relations agency like Better Together, it’s essential to prioritize leadership development and purpose planning.

This means fostering a culture where employees are motivated to work with a sense of urgency, not out of fear or external pressures, but of a shared desire to create something great.

I’ve learned that leaders should focus on cultivating intrinsic motivation in their team members rather than relying on external motivators, such as deadlines and threats of dismissal. Intrinsic motivation is self-driven and self-perpetuating. Employees committed to their work because it aligns with their values are more engaged and produce higher-quality work.

Building strong relationships is also crucial to creating a positive work environment. For our teams at Better Together, this means building relationships with potential partners and investing in relationships with team members.

Managers should encourage their team members to build relationships with each other and foster a sense of camaraderie and collaboration within the team.

By building a culture of trust and support, team members are more likely to be engaged, productive, and committed to the agency’s success.

Can you share some of the tools and software you use daily for your job as CEO and founder of Better Together?

I use several tools and software daily to help manage and grow the business that I could do without.

From a communications perspective, our team uses Slack constantly. The Huddle feature on Slack has been invaluable in having quick calls to discuss an idea or give an update on an assignment.

We are also adaptable to the communications tools we use based on client needs. For example, we have clients that entirely rely on email, some that use Google Workspace, and others that use Microsoft programs. We also use Google Meet, but others use Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

We use all elements of Google Workspace, and I’ll say that the transcribing and recording aspects of Google Meet are easy to use and ensure we don’t miss any details of our meetings. It’s similar to the software that many contacts use.

Asana’s project management features help you track tasks and deadlines. All tasks, small or large, go into Asana with a deadline, priority – high, medium, or low – links, and as many details as possible.

We have even found it extremely useful for keeping track of interview candidates. The template available through Asana allows us to track candidates’ progress and keep all details in a candidate’s tasks. From the resume to interview notes, it’s all in one place!

Our CRM tool, Pipedrive, is also invaluable. I can track all contacts and notes from calls, and I have integrated Pipedrive with LinkedIn to add contacts and organizations to the CRM quickly. I can also track leads and deals to remember the status of potential new business.

Those are a few tools that I use several times every day.

How do you ensure your agency creates social impact and positively contributes to society?

Better Together puts the needs of our target beneficiaries at the forefront of everything we do. Through our partners, we engage with the community through feedback sessions and gather insights to shape our programs.

Our team represents the communities we serve, reflecting a deep understanding of the cultural needs. The programs we execute have the specific needs of our beneficiaries in mind.

For example, one of our union partners offers flexible job training programs for single mothers, and another provides resources and support for families facing housing insecurity. We are dedicated to serving our community by making a positive impact.

What advice would you give someone interested in starting their marketing agency or pursuing a career in marketing?

If you’re interested in starting your marketing agency, there are a few things you should consider.

It’s crucial to deeply understand your target audience and the market you’re serving. This includes conducting market research, analyzing competitors, and identifying the unique value proposition that sets your agency apart. In addition, you must know what will differentiate you from the hundreds of other agencies out there.

Next, focus on building a solid brand identity that aligns with your target audience and communicates the value you offer. This includes developing a logo, tagline, website, and other marketing collateral to help establish your agency’s identity and differentiate it from competitors. Again, this is your first impression, so put deep thought behind the development and design of these materials.

Don’t be afraid to take risks and try new things. Marketing is an ever-evolving field, and staying ahead of the curve requires a willingness to experiment and innovate. By staying curious, proactive, and passionate about your work, you’ll be well on your way to success in the marketing industry.

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