Firm’s Founder Bruce Hennes Becomes CEO
CLEVELAND, OHIO, January 10, 2018 – Hennes Communications, one of the few firms in the U.S. focused exclusively on crisis management and crisis communications, today announced that Thom Fladung has become a minority owner of the firm, assuming the role of managing partner. Bruce Hennes, who founded the firm in 1989, remains majority shareholder and now becomes the firm’s CEO.
Fladung joined Hennes Communications in 2015 as vice president, bringing more than 33 years of daily newspaper and digital media experience to the crisis management team at the agency. He served as a top editor at some of the nation’s largest newspapers. Over the past decade, Fladung also played a lead role in the digital evolution of newsrooms to meet the demands of readers who get their news on the web, social media and smartphones.
“I’m ready to dive in and continue growing our skills at helping clients handle crises and controversial issues that threaten their reputations,” Fladung said. “Hennes Communications has succeeded to this point because we don’t lose focus. Protecting our clients’ reputations in a time of crisis – and their bottom line – is what we do every day.”
Most recently, Fladung served as managing editor of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the newsroom beginning in February 2011. Prior to that, he was editor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, managing editor of the Detroit Free Press and managing editor of the Akron Beacon Journal. He has also held a variety of editing and reporting positions at those and other newspapers and has reported on business, politics, state government, crime and courts and sports.
Fladung has led newsrooms of more than 300 journalists and has directed dozens of award-winning investigations, breaking news stories, human interest stories and features. Highlights include helping direct six journalists reporting from the Iraq war after the invasion in 2003 for the Detroit Free Press; leading coverage during the Northeast blackout of 2003 in Detroit, and getting the newspaper out with no power; and overseeing coverage of the Minneapolis bridge collapse of 2007 while serving as editor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
“Thom has it all. He’s intimately familiar with the relentless content requirements of the 24/7 news cycle, and he understands how to use Facebook, Twitter and other social media – places where reputations can be burnished or blistered in moments,” said Hennes. “And he’s been working on tight deadlines his entire career, so he knows how to quickly gather and evaluate complex information to craft effective, strategic messages. These crisis management skills are critically important for clients coping with reputation management issues and breaking crises.”
A native of Canton, Ohio, Fladung is a graduate of the University of Dayton. He is currently president of The Press Club of Cleveland and served on the board of the Ohio Newspaper Association. In 2017, Fladung received the Communicator of the Year award from the International Association of Business Communicators. He is a graduate of Leadership Cleveland, Class of 2013, and Leadership Akron, Class of 2002.
Hennes said the timing for the change felt right. “Over the last few years, we’ve fielded multiple inquiries from firms interested in buying our agency,” he said. “While selling to a larger firm has obvious financial appeal, I’d much rather keep our award-winning crisis management team intact and locally owned. Personally, I plan to stick around for another 10 years, though working a wee bit less than 60 hours a week, with lessened client and management responsibilities, and more opportunity to focus on crisis training and new client acquisition.”
Fladung said he still has plenty to learn and admires the skills and experience his colleagues at the crisis communications firm bring to their work. “Together, we are a formidable team. I’m honored to help continue what Bruce Hennes began nearly 30 years ago. Under his leadership, Hennes Communications has grown into a boutique firm that punches above its weight, serving more than 130 clients a year across the U.S. and around the world. We’re ready to build on that legacy of helping clients in crisis.”
About Hennes Communications
Hennes Communications is a crisis management and crisis communications consulting firm based in Cleveland with a second office in Akron. Serving corporations, government agencies and nonprofits that are “on trial” in the Court of Public Opinion, Hennes Communications also offers litigation communication support, media training, pre-crisis preparation and crisis drills to clients.
In 2009, Hennes Communications won the coveted “Best of Show” award from the Cleveland Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America for its work with another agency on the national peanut butter recall. Hennes Communications also won Gold “Rocks” awards in 2010 and 2011 for its work on behalf of The MetroHealth System and Saint Joseph Academy. In 2012, the firm won another Gold “Rocks” award for its Crisis Management Today newsletter. In 2013, the firm won PRSA’s Gold “Rock” award and the “Best of Show” award for its work on a ferry boat crash. In 2014, the firm won its 6th Gold “Rocks” award for a program it created and carried out for a forestry client in Australia. And in 2017, the firm received two Silver Anvil awards from the Public Relations Society of America for their work on behalf of the Cleveland Host Committee for the Republican National Convention.
For more information, please go to www.crisiscommunications.com.
Bruce Hennes, chief executive officer of Cleveland-based Hennes Communications, has been named one of 50 “Game-Changers of PR for 2017” by PRNews, one of the public relations profession’s leading news sources.
According to PRNews, “With a career in public relations spanning nearly 30 years, Bruce Hennes has earned his stripes as a crisis management expert. He has been confidant to scores of CEOs, executive directors, government officials and other leaders who trust his expertise in preserving and protecting an organization’s reputation. His long experience has convinced him that honesty, fairness and transparency must be at the root of all effective crisis communications.”
Our firm was proud to be part of the communications team, led by one of our clients, Destination Cleveland, that accepted two Silver Anvil Awards last week in New York City in recognition of the work done to support the 2016 Republican National Convention (RNC), held here in July 2016.
The two awards, one for the best Integrated Communications program and one for the best program in the category of Events and Observances – Fewer than Seven Days, recognized the collaborative effort that extended for almost two years to create a communications campaign designed to take the RNC beyond politics and use it as an opportunity to showcase Cleveland to visitors and generate local pride.
Crisis management and communications indeed fit within the public relations rubric. However, the strategies and methodologies employed by those in the crisis industry often differ from the traditional practice of public relations.
Stephanie York is now consultant-in-charge of our new office in Akron, Ohio. Located in the AES Building at 388 S. Main Street, York most recently serving as director of communications and public relations for Cleveland Clinic Akron General. York also was director of communications for the City of Akron. She also brings in-house legal expertise to Hennes, having worked as assistant director of law for the City of Akron. Add to that her background in governmental relations, social media management, strategic planning and implementation, community relations and disaster preparation – as well as having a law degree – we now have another powerful set of tools for clients who need help with crisis management.
Stephanie was recently profiled in Crain’s Cleveland Business. Read the interview here.