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April 1, 2020 38 min

Joe Baerlein, a nationally known strategic communication advisor for some of the country’s largest companies, trade associations, large non-for-profits, talks about what matters: always consider the long-term impact on the company’s brand and reputation - and never be afraid of providing truthful information or being proactive about providing it.


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Message from Arne Sorensen, President and CEO of Marriott International


If you are a CEO of an organization, you need to say we're doing everything we possibly can.  We're observing everything that the CDC, the various state departments of public health are telling you.  But we want you to know that we care about you. We are one community…this will eventually recede if we do everything.

If the CEO of a particular company can't deliver that message and come across as authentic after two tries, then I would say that's not the messenger.  And you’d have to think about who might be the best messenger.  It could be the senior vice president of health and safety who may live this in his or her bones every single day. It could be the chair of the board - because people will smell in a second if you're not authentic.  13:08

I think this [Covid-19] changes everything. Why? Because it's unknown and I think smart CEOs are going to look at their board and say, what do you think? 7:46

[Information you provide to the press] must be 100% accurate because you do not get the proverbial second opportunity to make the first impression. 15.10



Companies have to have a communications vehicle that can speak to all of their publics, broadly defined, meaning who's important to them: their employees, their customers, their vendors, the community where they do business. And they have to be able to talk in real time.

During the coronavirus crisis the separation of management and governance for boards will shift - it's all “hands on deck.”  Companies need the expertise of their C-suite, of their outside experts and their board now more than ever because they need to figure this out, together.

When there is a crisis, the company's brand and its reputation is a responsibility of the board.

When an unknown hits, you should at least have to have some operating principles on how you would react.  What are our highest risks? What could happen in this company from A to Z?  How would we manage those risks? What level of resources would we need?   What are the five worst things that could go wrong? What are the first five things you do?  It depends on what the business is, but it allows you to have a game plan, that you will alter depending on circumstances, when and if something bad happens.  But at least you have a game plan on how to respond when a crisis strikes.

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