Team of agency leaders offers multi-industry expertise and holistic approach to address reputation management before, during and after a crisis

NEW YORK – November 16, 2023 – Communications and marketing firm Peppercomm today unveiled Team Meridian, a new specialty group assembled to provide strategic counsel to help clients plan for and manage societal crises impacting their people, brands and business. A unique approach combining both internal and external crisis preparedness, Team Meridian launches in anticipation of greater public discourse during a highly contentious U.S. presidential election cycle.

With nearly a century of collective experience, the team is comprised of Chief Innovation Officer Jackie Kolek, Chief Engagement Officer Ann Barlow, Head of Content Strategy Matt Purdue, Senior Vice President Paul Merchan, and Senior Media Strategist Marissa Dunn. This team has deep expertise guiding business-to-consumer and business-to-business clients through the process of developing a repeatable and objective protocol specifically to deal with social issues, as well crisis and reputation management. The teams’ expertise spans industries including agriculture, automotive and mobility, manufacturing, retail, food & beverage, hospitality, technology, banking, financial services and professional services.

“We’re in the most controversial sociopolitical environment in recent history, where stakeholders are demanding more than performative corporate statements when a social crisis arises. As a result, brand leaders can essentially throw their existing crisis planning playbooks out the door,” said Steve Cody, CEO and founder, Peppercomm. “Our new Team Meridian crisis consultancy answers the call for timely and judicious counsel to help clients develop a holistic framework – including internal and external communications – on if, when and how to speak out and act on social issues their stakeholders care about.”

In recent years, the public has increasingly looked to organizations to see how they respond to social and political events, such as war, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, cases of racial and ethnic injustice, mass shootings and more. However, brands are often ill-equipped to offer a response. In fact, Peppercomm research found that only 23% of communications executives have frameworks or playbooks to respond to social issues. The majority (51%) said they have no playbooks in place at all.

Responding to this need, in 2022, Peppercomm launched RepCompassTM, an issues and crisis preparedness program designed to help companies and their leaders respond when a matter of social importance arises in the public sphere. Using a company’s purpose as its North Star, RepCompass allows brands to develop a robust framework, execute a proven methodology to respond authentically and measure impact. The program includes five critical components: Authenticity Audit, Risk Assessment, Issues Framework, Governance and Crisis Simulation. The firm’s new specialty consultancy will work with clients throughout this process, providing seamless, white-glove service to ensure all goals are met.

The specialty team is comprised of the following senior leaders at the firm:

  • Jackie Kolek, executive vice president and chief innovation officer. Jackie has been with Peppercomm for more than two decades and currently leads the firm’s financial and professional services sector. She pioneered the development of Peppercomm’s proprietary crisis management methodology, CARES and has led countless crisis management simulations for clients, as well as helping them manage active crisis situations, ranging from financial crisis/stock collapses, CEO/senior leader transitions, client malfeasance, SEC/regulatory fines and infractions, cyber-attacks, employee injury/death and more.
  • Ann Barlow, chief engagement officer. Ann leads Peppercomm’s West Coast team and has specialized in working with businesses in food, agriculture, technology and financial services. She has engaged with clients in these sectors to help them manage countless crisis situations, with emphasis on counseling for employee engagement and reputation management to address employees’ growing expectation that leaders take a stand on today’s issues.
  • Matt Purdue, head of content strategy. After working in journalism as an award-winning reporter and editor for 15 years, Matt joined the Peppercomm team, where he has led content development for the past 15 years. He specializes in carefully crafting messaging and statements in consultation with clients, before and during a crisis.
  • Paul Merchan, senior vice president. With 15 years of experience in strategic communication, Paul has been at the forefront of both responding to crises on behalf of clients, as well as proactively developing playbooks to prepare for these issues. He has particular expertise with brands in professional and financial services.
  • Marissa Dunn, senior media strategist. Marissa joined Peppercomm after a career as a producer in broadcast journalism, most recently with Bloomberg. Her knowledge of how the media works and what reporters look for in crisis situations is an invaluable asset for the RepCompass specialty consultancy.