BOSTON, August 8—While every technology public relations firm has taken at least a few licks as a result of the economic downturn, FitzGerald Communications was as well placed as any to survive, having expanded its portfolio of services beyond traditional product publicity long before the bottom fell out of the market. With an established expertise in corporate positioning and investor relations, FitzGerald was well placed to help clients deal with some of the issues arising from a tougher economic clients, and now it is extending its offering to include a formal “special situations” offering.
Nicole Russell, senior vice president and a crisis communications veteran, will head the new practice area, which will provide litigation communications support and communications counsel on earnings shortfalls, bankruptcies, corporate restructurings, fraud charges, management changes, financial transactions, and downsizings.
While such services have traditionally been provided by specialist firms in New York, agency founder and CEO Maura FitzGerald believes there is a role for a firm that understands both the pressures of crisis communications and the complexities of technology.
“The current difficult and uncertain economic climate has lead not only to increased M&A opportunities, but also corporate restructuring and companies under financial duress,” says FitzGerald.  “A successful outcome, whether that means winning in the court of public opinion or winning in the courtroom, requires consistent communications to all stakeholders.”
The agency’s experience in this arena includes Emusic’s legal battle against Napster; restructuring and management change at VerticalNet; the Chapter 11 filing of Quintus Corporation and subsequent sale of assets to Avaya; MSC.Software’s acquisition of services company AES, and subsequent secondary public offering; and the merger of, the leading wireless messaging software company, with a WAP technology pioneer, to form Openwave Corporation
“If the year 2000 was about building brands, then the year 2001 is about protecting brands,” says Russell. “We’re seeing a dramatic shift among our client base from the need for marketing support to a broader need for communications counsel that knows how to handle different reporters, different issues and different audience expectations in the face of ‘special situations.’”
Russell joined FitzGerald in 1999 from Hill & Knowlton, where she was the deputy general manager of the New York office. While at H&K, she served as a spokeswoman for Sunbeam during “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap’s tenure; Cendant, during the largest accounting fraud in U.S. history; and Oxford Health Plans, after this Wall Street’s darling’s market cap declined by $3.4 billion in one day. 
Russell will be supported by Ian Bailey and Bob Joyce, who are promoted to vice presidents from account directors.