Project Description

W.L. French

On a sunny summer morning in 2017, a man working on the excavation of a local library was killed in a construction accident. The man’s employer was subcontracted by W.L. French (WLF), one of the region’s largest excavation companies. Immediately, the leadership team at WLF made a call to their public relations firm, but no one could take their call. As they waited for a call-back, the news media was reporting the employee had worked for WLF. Frustrated with their present agency and eager to get their story on the record, WLF went searching for a local crisis communications firm to handle the breaking news; they found Ellis Strategies.

Matt Ellis answered the phone and immediately went to work, bringing a trusted team member into the meeting and getting to work on a statement we could issue to the news media. In short order, the media had an official statement to plug into its breaking news coverage. The media statement not only expressed WLF’s sadness at the tragic situation, it also clarified misinformation that had been released by the city shortly after the accident. The Mayor had incorrectly identified the dead worker as a WLF employee, even though he was a subcontractor. WLF had a stellar safety record and didn’t want its reputation tarnished by this accident. The situation was further complicated by the fact that a giant WLF earth mover was visible in news footage, not because it had anything do to with the accident, but because it was used in the search and recovery effort.

Immediately after the statement was completed, we created carefully-worded posts for WLF’s social media channels. We then went to work writing letters, emails and statements WLF could use to communicate the news to their employees, customers, and partners. After a day, the story slipped from the news cycle until later that year when the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) issued its report on the fatal accident.

OSHA cited WLF for minor infractions and the company again sought the strategic guidance and tactical support of Ellis Strategies. We helped create an appropriate response to communicate the news in a way that was appropriate and sensitive to the family of the dead worker.

Since then, Ellis Strategies has worked with WLF to help promote the company’s new headquarters, its numerous charitable initiatives, and its role in large-scale construction projects around Greater Boston. Combined, these steps have solidified WLF’s reputation as a safe, caring employer committed to doing the best job.

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