As owner of Mind the Gap Public Relations, Ann Marie van den Hurk helps companies present their side in a crisis, protects their online reputations and manages their scoial media interests.

Telegram photo / Hannah Potes

As owner of Mind the Gap Public Relations, Ann Marie van den Hurk helps companies present their side in a crisis, protects their online reputations and manages their scoial media interests.

Expert protects firms’ reputations

By John Henderson

Staff Writer

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Ann Marie van den Hurk wrote the book on public relations strategies to employ during a social media crisis.

Literally.

The owner of Mind the Gap Public Relations, which she operates out of her Tarboro home, has written “Social Media Crisis Communications,” a book that outlines strategies businesses can use to offset negative social media communications.

“I do believe my book is the first and only that dives into this unfolding section of crisis communication,” she said.

As an example, she cited an unflattering video appeared on YouTube about FedEx. The video showed a FedEx driver throwing a large package over a fence into the recipient’s yard instead of placing it on the porch. Though the carrier is not a client, she said, FedEx quickly needed to handle the issue.

“It happened to be posted during their busiest time of the year, which is December,” she said.

Mind The Gap offers general and online reputation management; crisis communications planning, training and implementation; social media management; and strategic public relations.

“We allow you to keep calm and carry on in your business,” the company’s website states.

Even though her firm specializes in crisis management, it is a full-service public relations firm.

“I do marketing and branding and media relations for clients both locally ... and globally. I can do it all,” she said. “Social media crisis communications and reputation management are just something that I really enjoy doing, and I’m very interested in the topic and I do that for clients. Unfortunately I can’t ever say who they are.”

While Mind The Gap’s reach is global, van den Hurk also has found there is local interest in its services.

“I am actually getting some local clients,” she said. “There is a great need here in Eastern North Carolina around marketing, and particularly around digital services – social media, website development, email marketing. There are a lot of companies that are thinking about it, but they just need a little guidance in figuring out what is the best strategy to grow their businesses using those avenues.”

Van den Hurk has worked in public relations for 15 years, opening her own business in 2011 in Lexington, Ky. She previously was a public relations specialist for the Girl Scouts of Chesapeake Bay Council in Delaware.

She moved to Tarboro four years ago when her husband took a job at Carolina Coastal Research, a private consulting firm. But modern technology allows her to do her job anywhere.

“As long as I have Internet and/or access to a mobile phone with a good data signal, I can conduct my business from anywhere in the world, so my business is quite portable,” she said. “I work at McDonald’s, I work at Starbucks – anywhere where I have my iPhone. That is the beauty of technology.”

Q: What products or services do you provide?

A: I provide public relations marketing and social media services to large and small businesses. One area that my company specializes in is reputation management and crisis communications planning. It encompasses a lot of things. Online, of course, is one of the aspects.

I work with companies. For example, a company is having a massive layoff. How are you going to communicate that effectively because that is going to cause a ripple effect that could damage your reputation. For example, with a West Virginia chemical spill, what happens if your chemical company has a leak and it is a catastrophe?

I work with clients going through those sorts of scenarios and help them plan for it as to how do they communicate effectively in situations such as that, as well as help them if it does happen to communicate effectively.

A: Myself.

Q: What is your business philosophy?

A: Providing no-nonsense public relations and marketing counsel to businesses to help them either grow and/or protect their business.

Q: What makes your business unique?

A: A couple of things. One is my experience level. I have about 15 years experience. A good deal of that has been in the digital market place, and even today ... there are a lot of public relations practitioners, marketing practitioners, that really don’t understand the digital landscape and I’m able to bring the traditional and new together in order to move clients forward.

Q: How has your business grown?

A: Actually, my business has doubled in the past year. It’s doing really well. Actually, I’m of those lucky people whose business is based on 100 percent referrals. People just know what I do and the quality of my work. I get a lot of referrals from clients.

But also I get a lot of referrals from other professionals that know me throughout the country, so I have a very strong reputation as being a good, solid practitioner in the profession and somebody that shoots straight, but also that I am really an honest practitioner and I treat my clients well and I give them good value.

Q: What kind of growth do you expect in the coming years?

A: I’d like to keep doubling every year. I’d like to keep doubling business. I’d like to be a powerhouse in providing clients with some outstanding public relations.