Our Practice


Special Circumstances is a consulting studio specializing in media and branding strategy for clients who respect their audience.

We are unique. We counsel brands from the worst of times through the best of times. 

  • We have been trusted to develop and re-imagine distinctive brands, while also developing strategies to grab the attention and loyalty of real people, not hypothetical muses or undifferentiated masses.
  • We’re more than just theorists. We have grown and sold companies and developed retail products; hired, fired, and built entire departments from the ground up; and shepherded media brands that have generated billions of pageviews. We understand the work behind the work.  
  • We listen to everyday people with the same respect as we do experts and executives. We have been reporters, researchers, customer service reps, burger flippers, flair-wearing steakhouse servers, landscapers, and gas station attendants—and we remember. We have line-of-sight to where the brightest minds working today aim to take their industries, as well as the row-to-hoe challenges and sacrifices of  modern life.

Joel Johnson

Joel manages media strategy, product development, and crisis response.

After a hilariously ill-planned career as a network engineer, Joel dove into the then-nascent online media industry at brands like Gawker Media, WIRED, and bOING bOING, launching and managing some of the largest online media publications in the technology and enthusiast markets, such as Gizmodo, Kotaku, Lifehacker, The Consumerist, Danger Room, CoDesign, and many more. He has worked as a journalist, reporting around the world from New Orleans to Shenzhen.

Joel subsequently brought his knowledge and experience to bear in the advertising and communications sphere, consulting with agencies like Mother New York and Weber Shandwick, as well as with brand clients such as Netflix, Audi, and General Motors, to develop strategies and executions that approach audiences with respect.

Joel is a high-school dropout and dungeon master.


Krystal Plomatos

Krystal manages brand strategy, research design, and business relationships.

Having worked at some of the finest New York agencies—Mother New York, Anomaly, and Sylvain Labs—Krystal has a knack for discovering something new and true to say about millennials and boomers alike. Clients include: Kraft Foods, Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, Red Bull,  General Motors, Google, Calvin Klein, Converse, and Tumblr. 

Krystal’s digital and social strategies for the Sour Patch Kids "World Gone Sour" campaign helped net a Cannes Lion and Silver Effie for Mother New York.

Krystal earned her MS from VCU Brandcenter in Richmond, VA and her BA at Florida State University with a minor in Hispanic Marketing. She is a long-distance trail and mountain runner.