Leeza Hoyt is no stranger to disaster. Her Torrance PR firm, Hoyt Organization Inc., has represented companies reeling from kidnappings, hurricanes and earthquakes. But the San Bernardino terrorist attack in November that left 14 people dead added extra pressure.

“It’s a very intense situation,” said Hoyt, who had been tapped to communicate with media for the Inland Regional Center, where the shootings occurred. Within 24 hours, she organized several top employees into a response team to make quick decisions, allowing her to respond to hundreds of calls from reporters.

“It’s important to remain calm and it’s important to do the best you can,” she said. “If you don’t have the right answer, you wait until you have the right answer. I think that’s critical. You need to be able to provide value and clarity.”

Clarity was hard to come by right away. Eventually, law enforcement officials concluded that Islamic militancy had inspired the shooters, a San Bernardino County health inspector and his wife, who both died in a shootout with police. The shooting has been called the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001. International media clamored for details, setting up television cameras just outside the Inland Regional Center and later going through the shooters’ home. Others covered the story from abroad, and Hoyt found herself helping flustered reporters who had trouble picturing the scene, even walking them through Google Maps.

After working for 20 years in crisis communications, she said all companies, especially property owners, should be prepared with a disaster plan.

“If they don’t … they’re going to scramble and it doesn’t have to be that way,” she said. “With technology today, it’s very simple to set up these processes. It’s not if you’re going to have a crisis, it’s when.”

Teamwork

In front of public relations clients, Jill Hoffman calls her boss “Clive.” Away from the office, he’s “dad.”

The two are now celebrating the 50th anniversary of Clive Hoffman Associates Inc., a Beverly Hills PR firm that began as a solo venture from Clive, 79, and is now bolstered by Jill, 49.

The younger Hoffman never planned to work in PR until her father gave her a job right out of college. When she realized she could make a career out of it, Hoffman quit, believing she needed space away from family.

“When you’re a kid you think you know everything,” she said.

Working at other L.A. PR firms, she ended up representing pharmacies and medical device companies. She brought that expertise back to her dad’s firm when she rejoined in 2007 – and it came just in time.

The 2008 recession hit the firm hard. It had long specialized in real estate, but those companies were going under. The company amped up its earlier nonprofit focus to compensate and the younger Hoffman added health care. The diversification strategy worked, and Clive Hoffman Associates pulled through. It has now represented companies including brokerage Cushman & Wakefield, accounting firm Deloitte & Touche, nonprofit A Place Called Home and the Compounding Pharmacy of Beverly Hills.

The prodigal daughter also contributed technological know-how, creating a website and harnessing social media to bring the company into the digital age.

In the coming years, she aims to build the firm’s roster of nonprofit and health care clients while retaining a small staff of about six. The intimacy is good for business since clients appreciate working directly with the Hoffmans, without having to work with a large hierarchy of employees. The family bond is appealing, too.

“They find it really endearing that a father and daughter have a same interest and can work well together,” said Jill Hoffman.

Even after years of experience, she still learns from her dad, whom she suspects will never retire even though he threatens to every year.

“One of his strengths is amazing integrity,” she said, recounting his most important lesson as, “No matter how uncertain you might feel … as long as you do your best, you will succeed.”

Agencies & Accounts

Milner Butcher Media Group in West Los Angeles has hired Zachary Rosenberg as president. … Culver City ad agency Team One has named Jennifer Bolt executive director. … Santa Monica marketing agency Phelps is preparing to move to Playa Vista next month. … Ad agency Amusement Park, with offices in Los Angeles and Santa Ana, has created a video promoting JBL speakers that features basketball star Stephen Curry with music by fellow hoopster Damian Lillard. … L.A.’s Consultancy PR has begun representing Avalon Hotel Beverly Hills and Avalon Hotel Palm Springs. … ExcelPR Group in Hollywood has begun representing Playa Vista’s Bezalel, a maker of wireless charging devices that grew out of USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering.

Staff reporter Daina Beth Solomon can be reached at dsolomon@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5262, ext. 263.

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