This issue of Communication Command contains an interview on "Her Inspiring Story Powers A Passion to Help Manufacturers" and an article about "A Movie Predicted It: Now the PFAS Risk to Industry Is Here." We hope you will enjoy our newsletter.

Summer 2021
Latest News 
C4CS® is working with organizations from several sectors on a variety of strategic communication and crisis management tasks. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased our clients' desire to optimize organizational resilience and crisis readiness. Our new eBook on Crisis Management caters to this need and contains important information for companies across industries.
The expert interview on the right focuses on our partnership with Catalyst Connection and how its CEO, Petra Mitchell, and her colleagues are helping manufacturers overcome pandemic-related challenges.
Our article about the risks that so-called forever chemicals pose is available below the expert interview.
You can follow us on LinkedIn, where our presence continues to grow.
If you have questions or would like to schedule a free initial consultation, please send an email to
Improving Presentation Skills
C4CS® Senior Vice President Dianne Chase will present “Presentation Skills for the Virtual (and Non-virtual) World” on Wednesday, August 11, 2021, as part of the E4 Carolinas Communicators Series.
Learn about aligning your verbal, vocal and visual communication, the keys to engaging audiences online, preparing for online presentations and meetings, and more. Additional information and registration instructions are available via this link.
Presentation Skills CLE Class
C4CS® Vice President Anne Linaberger will conduct a Continuing Legal Education webinar class on "Effective Presentation Skills for Legal Professionals" for the Allegheny County Bar Association (ACBA) on Wednesday, August 25, 2021. Please click here for additional information and registration instructions.
If your bar association, law firm, or in-house legal team would like to have C4CS develop a training, conduct a webinar, or discuss a Continuing Legal Education class, please reach out to us at
Crisis Communication Training Webinar
C4CS® President and CEO Oliver S. Schmidt will conduct an open-access webinar on "Effective Scenario-based Crisis Communication Training" for the International Consortium for Organizational Resilience (ICOR). The presentation will happen on Wednesday, September 22, 2021. More information and registration instructions are available via this link.
If your company would like to have a C4CS team member conduct a training, develop a class or discuss an executive coaching session, please reach out to us at
Ransomware & Crisis Management Webinar
AJ Kuftic, Digital Product Strategist at Expedient, and C4CS® President and CEO Oliver S. Schmidt will discuss the people and process challenges of a ransomware attack and how businesses can respond most effectively. The webinar entitled "Survive the Disaster, Manage the Crisis" will happen on Thursday, September 23, 2021. Additional information and registration instructions are available here.
Expedient is a
C4CS partner company.
Crisis Communication & Crisis Management Panel Discussions
C4CS® Senior Vice President Dianne Chase and President & CEO Oliver S. Schmidt will moderate and participate in panel discussions on crisis management and crisis communication as part of E4 Carolinas' online event on "Managing Renewable Generation Project Risk." More information and registration instructions can be accessed via this link.
If your organization would
like to receive information about our crisis communication and crisis management capabilities and services, please send an email to
Media Skills & Spokesperson Training
C4CS® is offering innovative and fully customizable virtual and in-person Media Skills & Spokesperson Training in partnership with Point Park University's Center for Media Innovation (CMI).
Please click on this link to view and download our training brochure and contact us at if you have questions.
Effective Internet & Media Monitoring
C4CS® provides comprehensive internet and media monitoring solutions including customizable 24/7/365 monitoring of social media channels, competitors, pressure groups, regulatory news, legal issues, and other content of strategic importance. For more information about our internet and media monitoring capabilities and services please click here. If you have questions for us, please send an email to
Crisis & Social Media
e-Learning Course
Professionals interested in our e-Learning course on "Harnessing the Power of Social Media in a Crisis" may download the course brochure via this link.
Congratulations to those who completed the course work and obtained a Certificate in Social Media Crisis Management Planning accredited by ICOR.
If you have questions concerning our e-Learning course, please contact us at
Past e-Newsletter Issues
Please click here if you would like to access past issues of our Communication Command e-Newsletter, which reaches professionals in several dozen countries.
Her Inspiring Story Powers A Passion to Help Manufacturing Companies
Why Catalyst Connection Is Partnering with C4CS® and What We Can All Learn As We Emerge From the Pandemic 

A conversation with Petra Mitchell, the president and CEO of Catalyst Connection, an organization focused on helping small- and medium-sized manufacturers successfully lead and thrive. Catalyst Connection is a C4CS partner based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Petra Mitchell
What is Catalyst Connection and how did your background prepare you to lead the organization?

Catalyst Connection is a private, not-for-profit organization headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We provide consulting and training services to small- and medium-sized manufacturers in southwestern Pennsylvania, helping them grow their revenue and improve their productivity. By collaborating with our clients and the manufacturing community, we contribute to the growth, vibrancy, and ongoing robustness of manufacturing in our region.

My family emigrated from Slovenia. My father saw an opportunity working in manufacturing. As an immigrant with literally nothing when he came here, he saw that he could earn a family-sustaining wage and give our family a middle-class life. I am personally grateful for that. I have been able to do things my parents would never have dreamed of. I graduated college with an engineering degree and went on to work in a role where I was interacting with suppliers in manufacturing companies. When I moved back to Pittsburgh to be closer to my parents, I networked with a board member at Catalyst Connection and was able to join the organization. That was 27 years ago. Our objective today is the same: to help manufacturers create and sustain jobs for their employees who can then create opportunities for their children just like my parents did for me.

What have been the biggest pandemic-related challenges faced by manufacturing companies and how have you and your colleagues helped them overcome these challenges?

By far, the biggest challenges for manufacturing companies have been to maintain production and keeping up with customer demands while keeping workers safe. I am proud of the fact that there have not been any significant COVID-19 outbreaks associated with manufacturing in our region and for the most part across the country. Manufacturers have kept their workers safe by adjusting, staggering shifts, adding cleaning protocols, putting up barriers between workers, allowing some people to work from home, and putting all the needed technology in place very quickly, but keeping up with production needs at the same time.

This pandemic is not over, especially for manufacturers. It will be an ongoing challenge dealing with the pandemic effectively, deliberately, and intentionally, especially as we have seen outbreaks of other coronavirus variants. This is why we have provided comprehensive resources as well as online and remote consultations when we could not meet in person or hold in-person trainings. We plan to continue this. While we are gradually bringing back face-to-face events, we are looking forward to being able to resume one-on-one consulting and training as restrictions are further relaxed.

Could you describe Catalyst Connection’s relationship with C4CS and its importance?

We have established a partnership where C4CS is providing consulting, training and executive coaching to our members in the areas of strategic communication and crisis management. We have met with C4CS leaders a number of times over the years. Factors such as the pandemic and the significant increase in cyberattacks have opened our eyes to the reality that these and other potential crises also hit our manufacturers. Everyone needs to be prepared. Small- and mid-sized companies typically do not have the expertise and manpower to successfully plan for and respond to crises, and that is exactly why this partnership is critical. It is also the reason why our first joint eBook lays out the keys to effective crisis management.
We also realize that strategic communication and individual communication skills are becoming more and more important for manufacturing companies of all sizes. C4CS Vice President Anne Linaberger recently trained, in person, the women in our Lead2Succeed Women in Manufacturing cohort on effective presentation skills that they can use to make their companies more successful and further their own careers. C4CS is now working on a second eBook on crisis communication. The timing is good, and we look forward to offering more valuable information, including in the form of eBooks, articles and presentations, to our members with the help of C4CS.

You highlighted cybersecurity and also mentioned other potential crises that manufacturing companies must prepare for. Should IT security and cybersecurity be important topics for every management team in manufacturing and other industries?

Absolutely. We believe that addressing and mitigating this and other mission critical risks are key to long-term business success. No management team should think that their company is immune to cyberattacks and other IT security issues, as well as industrial accidents, natural disasters, product issues, and a host of other potential crises. That is the reason why my colleagues and I appreciate the article series C4CS Vice President Cynthia Cavendish-Carey is contributing to our blog, explaining how companies can prevent crises, how they should prepare during the pre-crisis phase, and how they should respond in the event of a cyberattack and other IT security threats.
Then there is the strategic communication side. Managers at smaller and mid-sized companies may think that they do not have to invest in improving communication with internal and external stakeholders. But we know that manufacturers can gain important competitive advantages as a result of improving corporate communication by seeking outside consulting and training assistance. 

What are your thoughts about the future of small- to medium-sized manufacturing companies in the region and how is Catalyst Connection supporting them?

Embracing best practices, improving productivity, and strengthening employee recruiting and retention are three top issues that we will continue to work on with our members.
We have come a long way. In the 1990’s, Catalyst Connection was just introducing what we call lean manufacturing practices, a systematic approach to identifying and eliminating waste through continuous improvement, focusing on quality, reducing operating costs, and allowing manufacturers to get their products into the hands of customers more quickly. During that time, manufacturers in our community were already achieving productivity gains using new technology, including automation. Now counseling “lean” and other best practices in technology and beyond is a big part of what we do for our members.
Some have viewed productivity gains through technology, especially automation, as a job-killer. We have educated our members to see it as an enabler: simply doing more and better with the same-size staff. This can only benefit their organizations and employees. Even many of our member companies’ unions and union members now see that investment in technology, better productivity, and increased efficiency are critical to their and their company’s futures. Success begets success. That is how you create jobs.
The next big thing for our manufacturers is figuring out how to best retain and recruit qualified employees. Our manufacturers are in a tight race for well-trained personnel, not only with each other, but also with other industries. The ones that can successfully engage their employees and attract new talent will have people who want to work for them. Again, effective internal and external communication will make the difference. We look forward to seeing C4CS guide the manufacturing companies we work with in both strategic communication and crisis management.

A Movie Predicted It: Now the PFAS Risk to Industry Is Here

Have you heard of PFAS? Maybe not if you did not see the film Dark Waters. Experts say that most of us have been exposed to these potentially cancer-causing chemicals. And every organization that may have exposed people to them should be thinking about the Biden administration’s plans to crack down on enforcement. Here is what you need to know and how we can help.

What if someone accused your organization of poisoning a neighborhood’s water supply with chemicals that could make people sick or even kill them? It is a scenario that might sound preposterous, but it is an issue on the Biden administration’s radar that keeps bubbling up in communities across the country.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a family of man-made chemicals that also include perfluorooctanoic acids (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acids (PFOS). These chemicals have been used in everything from the manufacture of the Teflon pans we once used to fry our eggs to making products that repel water and stains including carpeting and clothing. They also have been used as a flame retardant in firefighting foam on military bases, as well as by airports and manufacturing companies.
Often lumped together under the acronym PFAS, these compounds have been dubbed “forever chemicals” because they do not easily break down and accumulate in the environment as well as in the human body. Moreover, research indicates exposure to these chemicals can cause cancer and other serious health problems.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced this month that it is considering drinking water limits for the entire class of PFAS compounds. Although this is only the start of a years-long process, the announcement is significant because the agency does not currently put limits on PFAS in drinking water. This creates potential exposure for manufacturers, water authorities and airport managers, as these chemicals can and have made their way into public drinking water sources from factories, airports, and military facilities.

A study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released in July 2020 says that 2,230 sites in 49 states have PFAS in their groundwater, including hot spots such as Michigan and western West Virginia, but also sites in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York. People in a community outside of Pittsburgh recently went without potable water for more than a week after foam containing PFAS used to fight a fire contaminated their water supply.

In his environmental plan, President Biden has pledged to designate PFAS as hazardous under the Superfund cleanup law, which could significantly affect not only manufacturers. He has also vowed to set limits for PFAS in drinking water as part of the Safe Drinking Water Act, which would require more rigorous monitoring by water utilities.
What could this mean in terms of threats to your organization’s reputation, stakeholder trust and the bottom line? Let us look at what has happened in West Virginia and Michigan, which have become ground zero for this issue.
West Virginia became a focus for “forever chemicals” after the 2019 movie Dark Waters dramatized claims that the DuPont manufacturing plant in Parkersburg, WV, which used PFOA to manufacture Teflon products, dumped toxic sludge in a landfill, sickening animals and people. An EPA action resulted in a $16.5M fine against DuPont and lawsuits brought about hundreds of millions more in settlements to victims. 
Flint, Michigan became the poster child for drinking water safety in 2014, when it was revealed that the city’s drinking water was contaminated with high levels of lead. The scandal made national news and resulted in the suspension, firing, and criminal indictment of government leaders, as well as 79 lawsuits. Increased scrutiny has now turned to the level of PFAS in Flint’s water system, which one environmental organization called “the other contaminant from the Flint water crisis that no one is talking about.”
Will the Biden administration’s focus be only on the so-called polluters and any potential clean-up? Or will the administration also target water utilities and companies across other industries to determine their roles in potential environmental contamination?

At C4CS, we believe organizations should stay ahead of this issue given a sharp uptick in media coverage and the possibility of additional regulation and stakeholder pressure. Here are a few questions that management should tackle as soon as possible.
  • Has your company been responsible for PFAS discharge that resulted in water supply contamination?
  • Have you been monitoring PFAS levels and what reporting can you provide? A company whose northern Illinois plant was recently damaged by fire is currently defending itself over the use of firefighting foam containing PFAS.
  • If you are a water utility or airport authority, are you aware that PFAS water contamination could become an issue for you? The Oakland County (CA) International Airport recently made news after several wells on their property and some nearby residential properties showed detectable PFAS levels, in some cases levels exceeding state standards.
  • Has your water utility been monitoring PFAS levels in the drinking water you are providing to your community?  Pennsylvania is just one state where the Environmental Quality Board is about to set limits if the federal government does not beat them to it.
  • Is your organization monitoring the mainstream media, internet and social media for relevant PFAS-related content that could affect your company, utility, or authority?
  • What are your PFAS-related mitigation and public reporting plans?
  • What will be your key messages when members of the community, reporters, and other external and internal stakeholders ask questions concerning this issue?
A strong message of awareness and concern, as well as proof of monitoring and demonstrated action already underway will help your organization emerge from new regulatory scrutiny and stakeholder pressure with your reputation, stakeholder trust and the bottom line intact.

C4CS provides strategic counsel, training and executive coaching in areas including crisis management, issues management, reputation management, and crisis communication to organizations facing PFAS-related issues. Our team has successfully helped clients navigate these and many other challenges. We are ready to prepare your organization for whatever happens next.
This article was written by C4CS® Vice President Anne Linaberger. As leaders in strategic communication and crisis management, our consultants and trainers have successfully worked with corporate, nonprofit and government client partners around the world. Through strategic consulting, skills building workshops and executive coaching, we provide solutions that protect and enhance our client partners’ reputation, stakeholder trust and the bottom line. In case of questions please contact us at
Food For Thought

“The closer to the offense you apologize, the more effective it is. If you wait too long, it only gives the offended more time to stew in that juice and makes the apology less meaningful and less effective.”

Roy Lewicki, professor emeritus of management, Ohio State University


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Leaders in Strategic Communication
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