Crises come in differing sizes and impact business and the public in varying ways. While no two are alike, certain keys are vital to communicate during a crisis. Our top five:

Peacetime Planning Can Equal Crisis Survival

A crisis is, at its core, uncomfortable. Certainly, it’s uncomfortable to live through and frequently uncomfortable to watch or even discuss. These realities make it critical for companies to make strategic crisis decisions – those that can be made anyway – during “peacetime,” or outside of the throes of a crisis. Build a written crisis plan that includes media and message training for executive leadership. This approach will assure that important decisions are made for strategic reasons and not emotional ones.

Acknowledge Responsibility

When a crisis plays out publicly – which is nearly all the time – news and social media channels are not always about finding the truth as much as assigning blame. Take responsibility for that which your organization is responsible and move on to solving the problem. The quicker this happens; the faster efforts begin building a foundation for an organization to emerge from a crisis.

Show Empathy

When a crisis occurs, someone usually is harmed in some way. Showing empathy for those experiencing human consequences due to a crisis is the act of an ethical organization run by ethical people. This also helps repair cracks the crisis may have caused in the foundation of an organization’s reputation and build a strategic platform from which a company can emerge from a crisis stronger than ever.

Say it First and Repeat

Staying ahead of the information curve, both internally and via social channels and the news media is critical. Sharing news – even bad news – before the public is aware is vital to controlling the message and assuring that the public and specific stakeholder audiences receive accurate information in the correct context. Be careful. Execution is key here. The way information is shared during a crisis will determine whether we’re moving the crisis closer to a conclusion or giving it more life.

Leverage the Spotlight

The attention organizations receive during a crisis is typically higher than during peacetime. It is critical to use the time in the spotlight to deliver key messages that will define the company as it emerges from a crisis. This activity must be executed in a sensitive and strategically sound manner to be effective. Without delivering carefully-crafted messages during a crisis, an organization runs the risk of allowing the crisis to define it, possibly permanently.

For perspectives on how to manage your organizations’ strategic communications challenges, contact Chuck Sanger at or 262-352-2077.



It’s a simple lesson that many of us who work with the media still need to be reminded of from time to time. The latest such lesson came yesterday from Green Bay Packers hall-of-famer-in-waiting Aaron Rodgers.

“I think that the more that we give credence to stuff like that, the more it’s gonna live on,” Rodgers said in an interview with reporter Michael Silver. The comment was referring to President Donald Trump’s endless Twitter criticism of NFL players “protests” (or whatever you want to call them) during the pregame playing of the National Anthem.

Rodgers is correct. The President’s tweets will live on. Due in large part to Rodgers’ comments.

Strategic media relations discussions often center around not giving a negative story “legs.” In other words, don’t give more exposure to something you’d like to see have less exposure. It’s a simple and intuitive notion, but one that even professional communications strategists sometimes need to keep in mind. When commenting on the issue, Rodgers’ objective clearly was to give the President’s Tweets less attention, when just the opposite happened.

When you are one of the most prominent athletes on the planet, commenting on anything gives it legs. Not only did the comment draw more attention to the President’s rants, pushing the tweets into another news cycle, it also caused the coverage to spill into non-sports media, giving the comments infinitely more exposure. It takes a lot for “real” journalists to pay attention to a comment from a sports figure. Those quips are usually limited to sports media, what some news reporters derisively call journalism’s “toy store.”

Another path might’ve been to create consensus within the National Football League Players’ Association (NFLPA) – an effort I’m sure is ongoing – with the objective of drawing as little attention as possible to the President’s narrative while crafting a message that support’s the NFLPA’s objective.

Having logged a few years as a sportswriter and working in public relations with an NFL club, I recognize that this approach is a bit like herding cats, or to use a football analogy, “tackling smoke.”

However, the best approach rarely is the easiest, a point of which the NFL and the NFLPA are, no doubt, keenly aware.

For another perspective on how to manage your organizations’ strategic communications challenges, contact Chuck Sanger at or 262-352-2077.