The Best Approach to Crisis

February 17, 2021

I was asked a really good question on a podcast, and I thought I’d share it with you. Because there is sort of this ongoing debate about if it is better to be creative or authentic during a crisis response.

The thought that came to my mind is too often during a crisis response there is a notion that companies can creatively “spin” their way out of the issue.

Authentic Crisis Response

What I’ve always seen as the best practice is to be authentic, no matter what. So if you made a mistake, admit it, take action, and move on and get back to your strategy as fast as possible.

Back in 2015, I worked with a young man who was caught saying a racist chant on video. This person wasn’t a racist but said some very unfortunate things on camera.

We did a traditional stand-up press conference and simply apologized for what he had done, stated how he had grown since then, and the actions he would now take to help make himself and the world a better place going forward. This wasn’t overly creative, and honestly, it was a very straight forward approach that was rich in authenticity.

Shortly after we did the conference the talking heads on cable news commented on how this was an old-fashioned approach. Sure, we took the footage and repackaged it on social for distribution, but the message and the medium were very much simple and authentic.

You’ve probably seen organizations try to be “cheeky” and get away with the “creative” route. One of the classic examples of this is the tweet Oreo posted during the power outage of the Super Bowl a number of years ago. It got lots of media attention and was celebrated for its creativity.

In a crisis situation, the creative option presents very little upside and comes with the massive potential to increase the risk and make things worse.

So what matters most? Be truthful. Creativity or “spin” isn’t going to get you out of the situation. Authenticity can help you get back on track so that you can get back to business. That needs to be your goal – not pleasing talking heads. 

If you want to learn the proven strategies you can use to help your organization stay authentic during a crisis, I encourage you to schedule a call with me.

Filed under: Blog | Crisis Planning


Bill is a reputation management, crisis communications and professional development expert, keynote speaker, Wall Street Journal Risk & Compliance panelist, and best-selling author of Critical Moments: The New Mindset of Reputation Management. He has more than 25 years of global experience managing high-stakes crises, issues management, and media relations challenges for both Fortune 500 companies and winning global political campaigns.