THE CRISIS READY INSTITUTE BLOG

What the Dylan Mulvaney Bud Light can controversy should teach us

Before we discuss the Dylan Mulvaney and the Bud Light can controversy, a disclaimer: 

I’m not interested in discussing sides on this controversial issue. That is not the point of this post. Our goal at Crisis Ready Institute is to teach organizations how to thrive through controversies. 

My hope is that our readers will examine this case study with me objectively, despite any personal feelings on the issue. 

Because regardless of where you stand, we live in a divisive and heated world. Even when prominent organizations purposefully lay low, it’s only a matter of time before they are embroiled in a controversy. This means that in order to truly be Crisis Ready, every organization needs to be prepared for such a challenge. 

So how do we prepare?

First, how did a beer can spark a controversy?

On April 1, transgender social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney posted the now controversial Instagram reel

In the short video, she drank a Bud Light while explaining how the company had sent her “possibly the best gift ever.” 

The gift was a Bud Light can featuring her face in celebration of the one-year anniversary of her gender transition. It was part of Bud Light’s March Madness campaign, and Mulvaney admitted that she didn’t know which sport she was promoting. 

The public backlash against both Mulvaney and Bud Light was heated and extreme. Conservative voices called for a boycott of Bud Light. Most dramatically, Kid Rock posted a video of himself firing a machine gun at a tower of the beer cans and swearing off Anheuser-Busch. 

The company waited two weeks to respond, meaning that their Crisis Response Penalty was significant. Bud Light sales were down by 20% at the end of April. In that dip, Anheuser-Busch lost $5 billion in market share. 

When it did respond, Anheuser-Busch downplayed its partnership with Mulvaney. Two of its marketing executives took a leave of absence: Bud Light’s marketing Vice President Alissa Heinerscheid and her boss, Daniel Blake, the vice president overseeing marketing of Anheuser-Busch’s mainstream brands. 

That backpedaling led to more boycotts, this time from gay bars in Chicago who felt Bud Light had abandoned the LGBTQIA+ community. 

What was wrong with Anheuser-Busch’s response?

Anheuser-Busch did not live up to values it purported in other marketing campaigns. 

In a 2016 campaign, for example, Amy Schumer and Seth Rogan declared Bud Light the beer for “all genders” and used a gay wedding as a backdrop in a pitch for national unity. 

Heinerscheid herself claimed in a podcast that her directive (as Bud Light’s first female VP) was to “evolve and elevate” the brand. She said Bud Light had to attract younger drinkers to “save it from decline.”

Rather than holding to those values as the controversy unfolded, Bud Light reversed its position. It reacted in fear of the loudest voices on social media rather than standing firm on a past-declared intentional stance. 

In his official statement, Anheuser-Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth claimed the company was “in the business of bringing people together over a beer.”

Those words rang untrue to both sides of the controversy. Sending a customized beer can to a transgender influencer with 10.8 million followers on TikTok was absolutely an intentional stance on a well-established national controversy. 

Whitworth said he wanted to ensure “every consumer feels proud of the beer we brew.” However, when you take a stance on a controversial issue, you will never appease “every consumer.” Nor should you try. And when you back-pedal the way the brand did, how could “every consumer feel proud”?

Instead, Anheuser-Busch scapegoated its marketing executives. 

Whitworth failed to accept accountability. His official statement was short-sighted and self-centered. For example, he used the word “I” five times within his short statement, making the whole thing more about himself than anything or anyone else. 

He avoided the controversy, the company’s past-declared values, the divisiveness, and the human being who was subjected to death threats after accepting a gift from Bud Light. 

The main goal of Whitworth’s response was to back away from the controversy. 

What a missed opportunity!

Thriving through controversy IS possible.

How do I know that a controversy can elevate a brand rather than dragging it down? Because brands like Chick-fil-A continue to get it right. 

In 2012, when COO Dan Cathy made a public statement opposing same-sex marriage, Chick-fil-A did not backpedal. Instead, company leaders held true to the company’s core values. They were open and clear, as always, that their business philosophy was based on “biblical principles.” 

Because Cathy’s statement aligned with company values, even their opponents couldn’t fault them for inconsistency. Of course, Chick-fil-A may have lost some customers who were not aware why the company closed its restaurants every Sunday. Like I said, in a controversy you cannot nor will you appeal to or appease everyone. 

However, their dedicated customers — those who always aligned with, or at the very least accepted, Chick-fil-A’s values as well as its food — rallied in support of the brand. Chick-fil-A’s sales soared throughout the controversy. Chick-fil-A’s sales continue to soar to this day. They avoided a crisis entirely. 

Chick-fil-A execs continue to prove that core values are key to responding to a controversy. 

The steps to managing controversy

Organizations will find themselves embroiled in a controversial issue — whether that is their intention or not. Burying one’s head in the sand won’t make the controversy go away. Trying to appeal to everyone, every side of the controversy, will only worsen your Crisis Response Penalty.

The key is preparation. We teach organizations to respond to controversy using the four steps of the Crisis Ready® Formula

Step 1: Be Thoughtful 

While it may feel like you have to be the first to respond, controversy is a case where organizations should be strategically reactive. Take a little more time to respond thoughtfully. I’m not saying to wait a full 24 hours. I’m saying to put thoughtful consideration into the reason behind your response.

Being thoughtful means seeking to understand all points of view of the controversy and the charged emotions attached to the reactions. 

Consider: 

  • Why are people so divided by this controversy? 
  • What deeper issue is being triggered by these events? 
  • Why is the emotional response so strong? 
  • What is the context for this reaction?
  • How does the issue align or misalign with our brand?
  • What is our long-term view on this topic?
  • What have we done in the past in accordance with this long-term view?

To answer these questions, reflect on the organization’s core values and plan out your response in alignment with those values. Those core values become the organization’s guiding beacon during a controversy. 

Assess all potential risks to the organization’s reputation. Weigh how each response may affect the organization’s emotional connection with its stakeholders. You must choose which consequences you are willing to accept, remembering that you cannot appease everyone. 

This means that, as unfortunate as it is, you have to accept that you will most likely lose people as a result of this controversy, no matter what your response. While you do not need to like this, you do need to find a way to accept it and continue to move forward in alignment with your core values.

Choosing a response in alignment with core values allows the organization to create a stronger bond with its most loyal supporters: those who love the product and connect emotionally with its values. 

Step 2: Be Decisive

Once you’ve laid a course of action, stick to it! Stand strong on the values you’ve decided to uphold. 

Ensure your team understands that some stakeholders will not be happy. You will experience backlash, no matter how you’ve chosen to respond. 

That is why it’s so crucial to craft a thoughtful response that holds up under scrutiny. Leaders should feel confident about the reasons they made their decision. If your response is in full alignment with your values, there will be no reason to change your position later, thus avoiding a Crisis Response Penalty. 

Step 3: Be Clear 

Once the decision is made, your response must be very clear. 

The official statement should be concise and direct. It should clearly take a position in the controversy. It should cite core values and give reasons for why the organization responded the way it did. 

The response should not be too long and it must not leave room for ambiguity. Be clear, be concise, and then…

Step 4: Be Quiet 

Once your response is out in the world, be quiet. If the response is thoughtful, decisive and clear, there is no need to say anything more. 

At least one side of the controversy will not be pleased with the decision. Expect them to be loud. Expect them to call for boycotts. Expect them to try to cancel the organization or its leaders. 

None of that matters. You’ve already accepted that you’re going to lose those folks, at least for the time being. The backlash will be uncomfortable and even scary, but it will pass. 

Focus on those who align with your values. They may be quiet, but they are your key stakeholders. If you betray them by stepping back from your values, you risk losing all of your stakeholders rather than just a loud minority or people who don’t truly align with you anyway. 

If you’ve done the work, and you’ve built strong relationships with your key stakeholders, they will come to your defense and stand strong with you. 

Key Takeaways

Controversy is an inevitable consequence of operating in a divisive world. Preparation is key to handling controversy with grace and avoiding additional Crisis Response Penalties. 

Core values will be your guiding beacon during the storm of a controversy. If you don’t feel strongly about your core values, now is the time to evaluate them. Lead an internal discussion about their purpose and make sure they run true. 

Core values should be the lifeblood of the organization, not just a pretty poster on the wall. 

The Bud Light can controversy is a perfect case study to test the strength of those core values. Consider how your organization would have responded differently if it was caught up in a similar controversy. 

Finally, introduce the Crisis Ready® Formula to your team. Make sure the organization learns how it works before an emotionally charged controversy strikes. Download our free resource to assist in this process. 

No matter what, respond to controversy with strength and the organization will thrive.

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    6 Responses

    1. Good article on a tough topic, Melissa. Bud Light fell victim to a mindset that resulted in infamous headlines for many companies before them on a wide range of topics. That is, thinking there was only one possible outcome to a decision or campaign – a positive one.

      When touching a third-rail topic like this, someone at Bud Light should have thought, “What if our customers don’t like this?” It is reasonable for the CEO or Board to expect the marketing team to anticipate possible negative scenarios and to plan for them. With one or two possible negative reactions in mind, the team and/or their agency could have developed a full program to handle negative feedback, prepare statements for reporters, and address boycotts.

      This case is comparable to organizations facing day-to-day issues like hostile takeovers, activist shareholder proposals, or lawsuits. Their teams of lawyers, bankers, and executives all know the outcome could go against the company, but many don’t plan for those potential scenarios and fail to respond accordingly. If crisis preparedness is encoded in a company’s DNA, teams consider potential negative eventualities whenever major decisions are made and can better protect the organization should the plans go awry.

      Keep up the good work!

      1. I like the way you put that first point, Glen, and as for the rest of your comment… what’s the saying? “A man after my own heart”?! I couldn’t agree with you more!

        I’m working on something new and, as you’ve shared your perspective here, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the following: what are the things that you believe get in the way of an organization (or human) lacking this mindset of being prepared or, as I put it, investing / prioritizing in a Crisis Ready Culture?

        1. That’s a quandary wrapped in a riddle, as my old boss used to say.

          Would you have wanted to be the Assistant Vice President at Bud Light that stood up, smiled, and said in a meeting, “Let’s spend some more money and resources to plan for this campaign falling on its face!” Or do you want to be the attorney or investment banker who says, “I think we should prepare for the failure of this deal?” Who would volunteer for the role if leadership doesn’t prioritize crisis prep and the organization does not have a Crisis Ready DNA?

          With a Crisis Ready DNA, leaders would know to ask these questions and make the appropriate resources available to plan for negative eventualities.

          1. They would indeed.

            “A quandary wrapped in a riddle”, great line! And it is. It’s also something I’ve been working to better understand and solve for. Excited to share more in due time!

            Thanks for playing and engaging, Glen 😊

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    Brian Kinch

    Brian is an internationally recognised risk professional. He has over 35 years of experience, predominately discharging roles in domestic and international financial services businesses, including senior roles with HSBC, Visa International and Lloyds Banking Group. He has additional consulting expertise in areas such as insurance, telecommunications, the public sector and across industries in a risk, authentication, data protection, cyber, continuity and resilience context. Furthermore, he has held senior positions with the decision management and analytic giant FICO (Fair Isaac) where he was the principal risk practitioner, and both led their global fraud consulting and was a leading contributor to their enterprise risk roadmap.

    Brian is an innovator and thought leader and has co-authored potential patents in the first party fraud and payment tokenisation space. He was a founder of the Mobile Identity Authentication Standard (MIDAS) Alliance, a collaboration of Information Security professionals, which was responsible for the creation of the Publicly Available Specification (PAS 499) for digital authentication by the British Standards Institution, a seminal piece of work in preparation for the implications of the European Payment Services Directive 2.

    He is also a leading figure for both the Business Continuity Institute where he founded what has become two of the UK Chapters, and where he remains on the management committee, and the Institute of Strategic Risk Management where he has roles on the Global Advisory Council and as Chair of the Oversight Committee.

    Brian co-founded with his brother, almost a decade ago, his own firm, Knight360 Limited, where he acts as a dedicated security advisor and risk practitioner, enjoying helping clients embrace and overcome their greatest business challenges. The company specialises in areas of business development and regulatory compliance activity and offers a raft of business consulting and partner solution services including with and through GDS Link, a client of Knight360’s which Brian has gone on to serve as Managing Director in their Global Fraud Solutions area, and where he has been independently recognised as Managing Director of the Year 2022.

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    Rob Keller was retired from the U.S. Army when he received a call from the ND Department of Emergency Services (NDDES) to return to full time Public Information Officer status to work a “small protest happening in southern Morton County” that would probably fizzle out in 2-3 months.” Nine months later he returned to retirement status. During the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protest, Rob was the lead Public Information Officer for the Morton County Sheriff Department and the ND Department of Emergency Services Joint Information Center. Rob and his team of over 15 PIOs worked over 500 media engagements during the 234-day protest that garnished the attention of the world.

    “This was the most challenging and rewarding position that I have ever been involved in my entire career. I felt that I was the “right person in the right place at the right time for the right reasons.”

    Rob’s previous career positions had in effect prepared him for his last public affairs mission.

    He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Television Journalism, was a TV news reporter, TV anchor, a community relations officer for a police department, a television producer, marketing and advertising for the U.S. Army, worked multiple FEMA disasters in North Dakota to include floods, wildfires, snow storms and a Canadian Pacific railroad anhydrous ammonia spill. Not to mention during his 26-year Army career, he was deployed on two public affairs missions to Iraq, five PIO missions to Ghana, Africa and working with twelve Killed In Action (KIA) soldiers and their families.

    He was the Deputy PIO for the ND COVID-19 response and formed a 50-persom Joint Information Center staff within two weeks.

    He has been a FEMA Crisis Communication trainer for over 10 years having trained over 600 PIO practitioners.

    Far from retiring, Rob and his colleague co-founded the ND Public Information Officer (NDPIO) Association this past year (2021). The 501c3 is a nonprofit statewide organization made up of professional communicators who work in local, state, tribal, federal, or other public safety venues. This organization is dedicated to the principles of open government.

    Rob has left Morton County and back to semi-retirement but is training Public Information Officers from multiple agencies who may have a need for crisis communication and for their agency to be “Crises Ready”. He is married with a very understanding wife, a son who is following in his footsteps as a career military man and a daughter who is a “stay at home” mom. He has five grandchildren that now take up his entire time. He is also an “adventure motorcycle rider” who has traveled on journeys across Canada to the Arctic Ocean, South American and everything in between.

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    Mike Todd is the founder and CEO of Near-Life. He has experience in media and technology. Beginning his career in digital content, he has also worked in film and television: creating internationally acclaimed feature documentaries for the likes of BBC, ESPN and PBS.

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    Shawna Bruce is a seasoned strategic communicator and trainer with 30 years of crisis communications, public information and public affairs experience and a passion for public safety.

    After serving in the Canadian Forces as a Public Affairs Officer (27 years) and working in the petrochemical industry at Dow Canada as their national Public Affairs Manager (8 years), Shawna began putting her focus into crisis communication, community preparedness, public information and emergency management training when she began her own consulting business: M.D. Bruce and Associates Ltd in 2019.

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    I am passionate about building brands that drive consumer insistence and loyalty. My experience in developing brands ranges from the core of strategy building and story creation to tactical activation and data assessment to measure success.

    Whether leading enterprise integrated marketing strategies, creating content, or developing relationships as a business partner, I am a visionary and results-oriented collaborator with extensive experience in metrics-driven, brand-focused marketing and communications.

    As an outstanding innovator, communicator, and relationship builder, my expertise in translating business objectives into strategies have proven to grow revenue and engagement especially in large organizations in which local market integration is essential.

    My leadership style is based on a true coaching philosophy that encourages growth and trust for all team members. I am a highly-effective, hands-on team leader who enthusiastically influences and motivates teams to meet complex business challenges.

    Angelica Montagano

    I specialize in communications (corporate, internal and external), digital and content marketing, brand awareness and reputation and public relations. I’ve advised individuals and businesses (small and large) on what steps they need to take to reach their target audience.

    If you need help with content marketing strategy (blog writing, podcasting, YouTube), strategic communications strategies (internal communications, crisis communications, corporate communications), public relations, lead generation or even team building and relationship management – then please feel free to reach out to me.

    Amy McKenzie

    Passionate communications professional with a diverse experience in public relations, social media, and leadership.

    Patrick Campion

    Founder of Preparedness Advisors LLC. I am an experienced emergency management and homeland security professional focused on providing innovative strategy and data analysis solutions, streamlined project management support, and straightforward consultation. Please visit the Preparedness Advisors website: www.preparednessadvisors.com for more information.

    Elle Arlook

    Elle Arlook serves as APCO’s Deputy Advisor on Equity & Justice and a senior associate director in the Corporate Communications practice. Elle has a depth of experience counseling clients through transformation rooted in efforts to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion. She has counseled clients through challenges that range from responding to external societal crises to racial discrimination lawsuits and boycotts. Her background includes experiences that sit at the intersection of DE&I and traditional corporate communications, stakeholder relationship development, non-profit strategic counsel, media relations and crisis management. Her clients have included one of the world's largest global health companies and household names such as Walgreens, Walmart, National Urban League, CarMax, and the University of North Carolina System's Racial Equity Taskforce.

    David Meerman Scott

    I was fired. Sacked. My ideas were a little too radical for my new bosses. So I started writing books, speaking at events and advising emerging companies. That was in 2002 and since then my books have sold over a million copies in 29 languages.

    Many new forms of social media have burst onto the scene over the years, including blogs, podcasts, video, virtual communities, Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Instagram, and many many others. But what’s the same about all the new Web tools and techniques is that together they are the best way to communicate directly with your marketplace.

    My latest Wall Street Journal bestselling book "Fanocracy: Turning Fans into Customers and Customers into Fans" released from Portfolio / Penguin Random House. I wrote Fanocracy with my 26 year old daughter Reiko. The book is about Fandom culture and how any business can grow by cultivating fans.

    My 2007 book "The New Rules of Marketing & PR" opened people's eyes to the new realities of marketing and public relations on the Web. Six months on the BusinessWeek bestseller list and now in a 7th edition with 400,000 copies sold in more than 29 languages from Albanian to Vietnamese, "New Rules" is now a modern business classic.

    My other international bestsellers include "Real-Time Marketing & PR" and "Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead" (written with HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan) and my most recent books are "The New Rules of Sales & Service", and "Marketing the Moon" (written with Richard Jurek and with a foreword from Gene Cernan, the last man on the moon and now being made into a film).

    I'm Go-to-Market LP at Stage 2 Capital where I invest in and advise some of the most promising new businesses in the world. I'm a co-founder and Partner in Signature Tones, a sonic branding studio.

    I serve as an advisor and investor in emerging companies that are transforming their industries by delivering disruptive products and services.

    Pre-pandemic, I delivered keynote speeches at in-person conferences and company meetings all over the world. Now I focus on virtual events.

    Katie Nelson

    I am the Social Media + Public Relations Coordinator for the Mountain View Police Department in northern California. I specialize in social media management, speaking across the country on social media best practices, crisis communications and forming positive working relationships between law enforcement and the media.

    Before joining MVPD, I worked as a public safety reporter for papers including the San Jose Mercury News, the East Bay Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. Published nationally, I was an award-winning journalist for my breaking news coverage of the Asiana Airlines crash at San Francisco International Airport and my investigative work on the state Department of Social Services led to major legislative reform to protect elderly residents in California.

    Lisa Manyoky

    With over 30 years of communication, branding, marketing and entrepreneurial expertise in my hip pocket, I understand people, interpersonal dynamics, motivation, expression, business—and words, especially words!

    I can't resist the chance to help professionals figure out if what they're putting out there—whether you can see it, hear it, read it or feel it—is getting them where they want to go OR if where they are is where they should be. I look for that delicious sweet spot of what they WANT to do, ARE BUILT to do and ARE MEANT to do. Then, I determine if their “message” is working for them, fix it if it needs fixing, adjust the volume so their world can hear them, and make a plan that helps them keep on keepin’ on as they stretch toward their goals.

    As a career entrepreneur, founder of Presence Intelligence™, and licensed, specialty-certified coach with a neuroscience focus (wow!), I blend an understanding of brainpower, behavior, aesthetics and communication with business smarts to help professionals...

    • identify what makes them tick
    • find their "fit"—personally and professionally
    • strengthen and make good use of their natural assets
    • develop their one-of-a-kind presence that’s true to who they really are
    • refine communications to reflect who they are and draw in resources and people right for them
    • improve perception and reception
    • become excellent (or more excellent than they already are)
    • shape lives in important ways
    • get remembered for something great by those who matter to them.

    I am a bit of a firecracker who champions self-mastery, integrity, personal best and kindness. I am the consummate wordsmith with an energetic style, a quick wit and an expansive mindset. I am direct but diplomatic, dynamic and funny. I also have a very big heart.

    Lewis Werner

    My mission is to cultivate proactively safer communities.

    Proactive risk management makes people less stressed, more comfortable, happier, and more productive. Cultivating proactive security operations desrisks and accelerates human progress, raising quality of life for everyone.

    I cultivate proactively safer communities by arming Security Professionals with the data they've been missing for decades. Operations, Finance, Marketing & Supply Chain have been building metrics and KPIs based on real-time process control, outcomes, and projections. Security, especially physical security, has been left with: "Monthly Incidents and Annual Budget".

    If you HAVE data, you can measure it. If you MEASURE data, you can IMPROVE it. I started Quill Security to provide risk data for security professionals.

    Quill Security is building the inevitable future of the security industry. When you embrace risk data, you will:

    • Earn your seat at the table with answers instead of assurances.
    • Communicate clearly with non-security stakeholders to achieve buy-in.
    • Spend less time debating and more time taking PROACTIVE ACTION.
    • Know your measure of success and unambiguously achieve it.

    Nothing like Quill has ever existed before. Protect your community with the future of security.

    Alliancé Babunga

    Alliancé [pronounced “aliya-n-say”] comes with a background in politics, leadership and education which speaks to her passion for people and positive change. Through her experiences she has learned first-hand the importance of having a unique voice, the value of authentic communication, being relatable with one's audiences, establishing relationships and working collaboratively to get things done.

    She has worked in multiple political campaigns; a highlight being the successful election of two city councilors, one Member of Parliament and one Prime Minister.

    As a crisis communications enthusiast, she came to the realization that the traditional crisis preparedness plan does not meet the demands and needs of today—the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath demonstrated the extent of this truth. She sought for a more proactive approach that would empower leaders and organizations to readily take on the new evolving challenges. It is her curiosity that grounded her interest in pursuit of crisis communication and led her to the Crisis Ready® Institute.

    In 2020 and 2021, Alliancé grew her career with the Crisis Ready® Institute as the Marketing and Community Manager. Her portfolio included building and strengthening the Institute’s brand reach, visibility and engagement, and fostering the growth of the Crisis Ready® Community.

    Alliancé holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from the University of British Columbia, studied Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies at Uppsala University in Sweden, and recently completed the Public Relations Certificate program at Simon Fraser University.

    Alliancé serves as Events Manager in the British Columbia chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), Regional VP Administration in the British Columbia chapter of the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce (CBCC) as well as Public Policy Coordinator on a Partisan National Women’s Commission.

    Lisa DuBrock

    Lisa has 20+ years both in Management of fortune 100 firms and in the Management Consulting Business. She specializes in security both physical and logical. Lisa utilizes a myriad of methodologies based on her clients needs, including: ISO 27001, ISO 20000, ISO 9001, ISO 22301, ANSI/ASIS-SPC.1, ANSI/ASIS-PSC.1 and ISO 18788.

    She has a CPA, a CBCP (Certified Business Continuity Professional), and an MBCI.

    Lisa teaches at George Mason University in their PTAC and she sits on the ASIS Standards and Guidelines Commission developing ANSI accredited standards.

    Prior to becoming a Managing Partner at Radian Compliance, LLC, Lisa spent a number of years at Discover Card, where she held positions such as National Director Cardmember Service, National Director Business Continuity, Bank Operations and Regulatory Compliance and she assisted on the launch of their credit card in the UK market.

    Her goals are to grow her own firm, Radian Compliance, LLC, over the next 5 years.

    Sign up to demo this course!

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    Thank you for the honor of considering this important course for your curriculum. We look forward to sharing in the experience with you!

    Benjamin Grant

    Chief Student Affairs Officer & Title IX Coordinator, D’Youville

    BG Grant is an innovative Student Affairs thought-leader, currently based in Buffalo, New York, with over seventeen years of experience across the spectrum of higher education. Specializing in engaging, supporting, and challenging students and the implementation of “what if we…?” Having obtained his undergraduate degrees from Paul Smith’s College and his master’s degree in College Student Personnel Administration from the State University of New York College at Buffalo, BG is currently working on his Doctor of Educational Leadership degree at D’Youville. Outside of work, BG enjoys spending time with his partner Jason and their three furry housemates; Juneaux Bear, Chester B. Arthur, and Saint D’Youville.

    Melissa Agnes

    FOUNDER AND CEO, CRISIS READY INSTITUTE

    • Recognized globally as an expert, thought-leader and visionary in the field of crisis management.
    • Has worked with global players, including NATO, the Pentagon (DoD), Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense, financial firms, technology companies, healthcare organizations, cities and municipalities, law enforcement agencies, aviation organizations, global non-profits, etc.
    • Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World—ranked amongst the leading crisis management books of all time and named as one of the top ten business books of 2018 by Forbes.
    • Creator of the Crisis Ready® Model–which is recognized and being taught as leading industry best practice in universities and higher education curriculums around the world, including at Harvard University.
    • Sits on the panel tasked with developing the International Standard for Crisis Management— ISO 22361, Guidelines for developing a strategic capability.
    • Visiting scholar at D’Youville University, where she co-created and co-teaches a Crisis Ready Program for young college students.
    • Sits on Police Professional Standards, Ethics and Image Committee for the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
    • Global Advisor for The Institute for Strategic Risk Management (ISRM), a global player established to help progress and promote the underlying understanding and capabilities associated with strategic risk and crisis management on a global scale.
    • Leading international keynote speaker on the subject and TEDx alumna.
    • Founder of the Crisis Ready® Community.

    Build for a stronger tomorrow by strengthening your team’s skills in issue management, crisis management, and crisis communication.

    Between the demands of our social impact economy, the divisiveness of society and the many other challenges in front of us, embedding a crisis ready culture is more important than ever before. Having a team that is trained, poised, and empowered to effectively respond to risk, controversy and other threats, will strengthen stakeholder relationships and increase the brand equity of your organization. This is a powerful opportunity. The Crisis Ready® Coaching Program is specifically designed to equip your team with the tools needed today for launching into a stronger tomorrow.

    Effectively manage through today’s challenges with the help of a diverse group of experts.

    From best practices around re-opening, to diversity and inclusion, to managing through the impacts that 2020 has left on your business, the Crisis Ready® Coaching Program is designed to support you through the challenges of today, in order to recover faster and stronger for an even better tomorrow.

    Gain strategic foresight into the coming months, giving you the tools you need to better anticipate and plan for a stronger future.

    COVID-19 continues to affect a great majority of professionals and businesses, leaving them blindsided by its impact and all the uncertainty that came with it. The Crisis Ready® Coaching Program provides you with access to a diverse group of experts, each with unique areas of insight, to help provide you and your team with strengthened foresight to better anticipate and plan for both the risks and opportunities that lay ahead of us all.

    Shireen Fabing

    With almost twenty years of marketing experience, thirteen of which was spent in the telecom industry, Shireen brings with her an experience toolkit which includes marketing, public relations, communications, training & development, fundraising and project management.

    She started her career in a PR agency and her portfolio included retail promotions and events as well as various high-profile projects for the City of Cape Town. This position came only a few short years after apartheid was lifted in South Africa and it is what she claims toughened her up for the real world. She built tenacity, resilience and grit in those early years and more importantly, learnt the importance of building contingencies around all events and programs.

    When she made the move to Canada in 2002 to join her mom and siblings, she was mentally ready for the challenge of starting a new life. Circumstances found her back at school studying part time, working full time in the PR division of an ad agency, and volunteering for a not-for-profit benefitting at-risk youth. It was in this latter portion of her journey that she found a passion for Sponsorship Marketing & Special Events.

    Accepting an entry level marketing position at a large Canadian telco to get her foot in the door, Shireen quickly gained not only the North American experience she was lacking, but also credibility with internal and external stakeholders, with her strongest suite being that she was always prepared for whatever would prove to come. She enjoyed getting to see some of Canada while showcasing some of the biggest concerts, festivals, theme park & sports activations, along with a multitude of innovative product launches.

    The personal pride of her career was finding non-traditional sales venues where she successfully “married” marketing tactics and sales with a profitable outcome for the organization.

    Shireen’s bio is not complete without talking about her boxing life. Initially she started the sport to help her create a work-life balance, however in 2013, when she was asked to compete in her first sanctioned charity bout, she humbly obliged.

    The Fight to End Cancer was founded in 2011 and has donated over $1.5M to date in support of cancer research with proceeds going directly to support the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation. This didn’t come as a shock to her family, friends or colleagues as they knew she’d be all in for training and fundraising! Training like a fighter was no different from the day-to-day boardroom she was used to - only with gloves, her self-motivation and a will to win! She was the first female corporate fighter to enter the ring for this annual event and with her opponent, they set the stage for future female bouts in coming years as they claimed bragging rights for “fight of the night”.

    Today she continues to support the initiative, pursuing the sport as an amateur boxer and boxing coach allowing her to share her passion for the sport that found her.

    Shireen spreads the word that she is living proof that you can do whatever you set your mind to, no matter what stage you’re at in life. Her personal mantra - strong is my beautiful - has turned into the driving force that is behind the self- proclaimed “Machine”.

    Detective Frank Rivas

    High Tech Professional with diverse,domestic and international background: Business Development, Operations Management, Program/Project Management, Partner Management, Process Improvement. Additional experience includes: asset and brand protection, threat/risk analysis.

    Always interested in new challenges, dynamic work environment which provides intellectual stimulation and professional growth.

    Specialties: Partner management, supply chain management, Operations Management, Latin American region, Public Safety, Risk/Threat Analysis, Leader / Talent Development

    Peter Willis

    My gift is to help individuals and groups of people think wider and deeper together than they might otherwise, especially about matters of critical importance. My current work is to help decision-makers reflect on, and learn from, their response to crisis.

    Dr. Rafik Chaabouni

    Specialities: Cryptography, Security, public key cryptography, range proof, set membership, certificate revocation.

    Tom Compaijendion

    Working on a future-proof crisis organization

    ✓ CRISIS MANAGEMENT IS CUSTOMIZATION A lot comes to your organization during a crisis. It is not always easy for employees to switch quickly from daily activities to the ‘crisis position’, with clearly defined roles, tasks, sharp processes and short consultations. Many employees are too little concerned with crisis on a daily basis to be really good at it. In short: crisis management is always tailor-made – and that is not always easy in a crisis situation, in which crisis consultations are often unstructured and go in all directions. I ensure that crisis organizations are better prepared for a crisis through advice, training, training and practice, so that they take the right actions more quickly, maintain confidence in the organization and thus prevent the crisis from becoming a ‘reputation crisis’.

    ✓ ANALYSIS AND YOUR ENVIRONMENT IN IMAGES A crisis places high demands on communication: the public and stakeholders expect a quick response (within an hour); the reaction must be visible among the thousands of messages on social media and one must take into account that the emotion wins over the ratio. I help organizations to set priorities and, in the midst of the complex playing field, to maintain good coordination with all stakeholders and to take on the role for which the organization is responsible.

    ✓ IMPACT ON YOUR ORGANIZATION In times of terrorism, (a growing number of) cyber attacks, coronavirus and other crises, knowledge of crisis management and crisis communication is crucial. After all, a crisis poses a risk of (image) damage. Most companies are therefore working on it, but despite the training, it turns out that it does not work well during an exercise. I guide and advise organizations in the transition to a more organized and partly automated information management system.

    ✓ROADMAP TO PERFECTION Compaijen Crisis Management and Communication has knowledge and experience at all levels: both national (Ministries), local (municipality of Amsterdam, security region) but also international (United Nations, EU consultation). As a trainer, I am one of the few with exceptional crisis experience. This allows me and we are able to convey a clear story with interesting cases and keep things simple. We always aim to make the organization truly better – and not just to complete training.

    *Translated from Dutch

    Andrea Bonime-Blanc

    Andrea Bonime-Blanc, JD/PhD, is CEO and Founder of GEC Risk Advisory and a global governance, risk, ESG, ethics, cyber and crisis strategist, serving a broad cross-section of business, nonprofits, and government agencies. Since 2017, she has served as the Independent Ethics Advisor to the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico.

    Dr. Bonime-Blanc spent two decades as a c-suite global corporate executive at Bertelsmann, Verint, and PSEG overseeing legal, governance, risk, ethics, corporate responsibility, crisis management, compliance, audit, InfoSec and environmental health and safety, among other functions. She began her career as an international corporate lawyer at Cleary Gottlieb, was born and raised in Europe and is multi-lingual.

    She serves on several Boards and Advisory Boards including Greenward Partners (a Spanish green energy firm), Ethical Intelligence (an EU-based AI ethics firm), ProtectedBy.AI (A US based AI cybersecurity firm), Epic Theatre Ensemble (a NYC nonprofit), the NACD New Jersey Chapter and NYU Stern-based think tank, Ethical Systems. She also serves as a Governance Mentor at Plug & Play Tech Centre, a global start-up eco-system. She is a NACD Board Leadership Fellow and Governance faculty and holds the Carnegie Mellon CERT Certification in Cyber-Risk Oversight.

    Andrea is a global speaker, including at Davos, and appears regularly on Bloomberg TV, Yahoo Finance, Cheddar and other media. She is faculty at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs Masters program teaching “Cyber Leadership, Risk Oversight and Resilience”. She is an extensively published author of many articles and several books including The Reputation Risk Handbook, Emerging Practices in Cyber-Risk Governance and The Artificial Intelligence Imperative. Her latest book, Gloom to Boom: How Leaders Transform Risk into Resilience and Value (Routledge 2020) debuted as an Amazon #1 Hot Release in Business Ethics and Game Theory. She lives in New York City with her family and is an avid photographer and artist.

    Marylène Ayotte

    Marylene is a Life Transformation Consultant, Trainer and Coach licensed with The Brave Thinking and HeartMath Institutes, premier training centers for transformational coaching in California. She also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business and Human Resources Administration and a Master’s Degree in Organizational Communications and Change Management.

    Through her professional career and track record of over 20 years as a Coach, HR Executive Leader and Change Management expert in medium and large corporations, Marylène now shares her know-how & proficiencies through inspiring workshops and in-depth, proven and reliable transformational coaching tools and programs.

    Marylene’s passion is to inspire in others self-reflection and greater awareness leading to growth mindsets and behavioural changes. As a result, individuals reach and sustain new heights in performance, success and vitality.

    Licy Do Canto

    Licy Do Canto, is a veteran of public policy, corporate strategy, health care communications and diversity and inclusion, is managing director of APCO Worldwide’s Washington D.C. office headquarters and mid-Atlantic region lead. Licy is also a Global Advisory Council (GAC) member here at the Crisis Ready Institute and a highly recognized African-American public affairs, lobbyist and communications strategist— recognized by TheHill newspaper for the 11th consecutive year as one of the most influential leaders in Washington, DC.

    As Executive Vice President and Managing Director in the BCW Public Affairs and Crisis practice, Licy drives healthcare and social impact policy and strategy, and helps shape strategic direction on diversity, inclusion and belonging for the firm and its clients across North America, in public and corporate affairs, government relations, communications, crisis and reputation management. Licy also leads the BCW Healthcare Team in Washington, D.C.

    An expert in public affairs, policy and diversity and inclusion, with over twenty five years of experience at the international, national, state and local levels across the nonprofit, philanthropic, corporate and government sectors, Licy is an accomplished, values-driven leader with unparalleled experience in developing and leading integrated public affairs campaigns combining strategic communications, public relations, political/legislative initiatives, policy, coalition building, grassroots efforts and advocacy.

    Before joining BCW, Licy built and lead a nationally recognized minority owned strategic public affairs and communications firm, served as Health Practice Chair and Principal at The Raben Group, was the Chief Executive Officer of The AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth and Families, and managed and helped set the leadership direction for strategic policy, communications, and advocacy investments in executive and senior government affairs roles for the American Cancer Society and the nation’s Community Health Centers.

    Before joining the private sector, Licy was domestic policy advisor to U.S. Congressman Barney Frank and served in several capacities in the Office of Senator Edward M. Kennedy. During his extensive tenure in Washington, D.C., Licy has played a leading role in efforts to draft, shape and enact legislation and policy to improve the public health, health care safety net and the lives, livelihoods and well-being of the nation’s disadvantaged and underserved communities. 

    Licy also has worked with Moet Hennessey to drive diversity and inclusion on Wall Street and corporate America. He has partnered with Vice President Al Gore, senior government officials, scientists, NGOs and activists, on global climate change impact and sustainability across Africa. And he was appointed by Republican and Democrat governors to oversee the conservation, preservation and management of a prominent U.S. national historic landmark.

    Licy is a graduate of Duke University and holds a certificate in public health leadership in epidemic preparedness and management from the University of North Chapel Hill—School of Public Health and Kenan Flagler Business School, and is the recipient of multiple industry awards and citations for his leadership, policy and public affairs acumen, including being named to The Hill Newspaper list of most influential  leaders in Washington, D.C. consecutively over the last ten years. As a global citizen, Licy has lived in Turkey and Spain, and is fluent in Spanish and Cape Verdean Portuguese.

    Melissa Agnes

    Recognized globally as an expert, thought leader and visionary in the field of crisis management, Melissa Agnes has worked with global players, including NATO, the Pentagon (DoD), Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense, financial firms, technology companies, healthcare organizations, cities and municipalities, law enforcement agencies, aviation organizations, global non-profits, and many others.

    In 2020, Melissa founded Crisis Ready Institute, a public benefit corporate dedicated to creating a crisis ready, crisis-resilient world by elevating industry standards; providing training and certification programs to professionals that better protect people, brands, the environment, and the economy in times of crisis; and promoting and incentivizing organizations and leaders to invest in effective crisis readiness.

    Her book, Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, is taught in dozens of universities around the world, including at Harvard University; is ranked amongst the leading crisis management books of all time, by Book Authority; and was named one of the top ten business books of 2018 by Forbes.

    Melissa is the creator of the Crisis Ready® Model, which is recognized and being taught as leading industry best practice in the fields of crisis management and crisis communication.

    As an in-demand international keynote speaker and a TEDx alumna, Melissa has traveled the world helping organizations and leaders further strengthen their crisis ready mindset, skills and capabilities.

    In 2019, Melissa founded the Crisis Ready® Community, a space for professionals to come together to support one another, collaborate and strengthen their crisis ready skills.

    Melissa sits on the Board of Trustees for D'Youville University, a private University in New York, where she also serves as a visiting scholar for the course she co-created and co-teaches on Crisis Leadership.

    Melissa also sits on the Board of Directors for ZeroNow, a non-profit organization committed to ending harmful events in schools.

    Passionate about serving law enforcement and bridging the trust divide between agencies and the communities they serve, Melissa is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). In 2021 she co-chaired a committee that was tasked with developing a strategy and plan of action to begin managing and overcoming the trust crisis in the U.S.

    In 2019 and 2020, Melissa sat on the panel tasked with developing the International Standard for Crisis Management— ISO 22361, Guidelines for developing a strategic capability.

    Born and raised in Montreal, Quebec (Canada), Melissa currently lives in New York City and enjoys traveling, rollerblading, sailing, and working out when she isn’t working.

    Erick Anez

    Erick Anez is the Global Head of Business Resilience at Finastra. Erick is a proven leader with well over a decade of experience leading change and transformation in the Operational Resilience field.

    His hands-on approach focuses on operational learning, culture, and reputational management. Erick holds a Bachelor of Emergency & Homeland Security, Graduate studies in Security and Disaster Management, is a Certified Business Continuity Professional (CBCP), Certified Risk Management Professional (CRMP), graduate of the FEMA institute in Incident Management and Command, and is a respected member of Public-Private partnerships within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and  the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

    Some of his most notable achievements in the field include leading the private sector response to Hurricane Maria as well as working with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Continuity of Operations (CCOP) projects for mission-critical facilities in the United States. Erick has also trained with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Infectious Disease Planning and community response, including Point of Dispensing initiatives.

    From 2016 to 2019, Erick held several roles at Crowley and, most recently, was the company’s Managing Director of Safety & Resilience. During this time, he was responsible for resilience operations supporting all business segments as well as leading the organization’s safety culture improvement journey. At Crowley, he led the Occupational Health & Safety, Business Continuity, and Crisis Management teams.

    Before joining Crowley, Erick held similar roles at Southwest Gas and Third Federal Savings & Loan.

    Aaron Marks

    Founder and Principal, One Thirty Nine Consulting
    Global Advisory Council Member, Crisis Ready® Institute

    Aaron Marks is the founder and principal of One Thirty Nine Consulting, providing services for small and large businesses in Risk, Crisis, and Consequence Management.

    Supporting both domestic and international clients, he provides operational and subject matter expertise in readiness and preparedness, crisis and incident management, and business and operational continuity for complex systems and organizations.

    Aaron has provided in-depth review, assessment, and analysis for technology, policy, and operational programs for clients in healthcare, critical manufacturing, and entertainment and hospitality, as well as for state, local, tribal, territorial, and federal governments in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. He is a recognized authority on the application of nontraditional techniques and methodologies to meet the unique requirements of training, evaluation, and analytic games and exercise.

    Prior to entering the readiness and preparedness field, Aaron was the Director of Operations for a commercial ambulance and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) provider in western New York State where he participated in the integration of commercial EMS and medical transportation resources into the local Trauma System.

    During his 30-year career, Aaron has worked in almost every aspect of EMS except fleet services. This includes experience in Hazardous Materials and Tactical Medicine, provision of prehospital care in urban, suburban, rural, and frontier environments, and acting as a team leader for both ground and aeromedical Critical Care Transport Teams.

    Aaron is a FEMA Master Exercise Practitioner and received a B.A. in Psychology from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, and a master’s degree in Public Administration with a focus in Emergency Management from Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama. He is also a Nationally Registered Paramedic and currently practices as an Assistant Chief with the Amissville Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, Amissville Virginia.

    Chris Hsiung

    Chris is the 11th Police Chief of the Mountain View Police Department, located in the heart of Silicon Valley. For more than 25 years, he has served the Mountain View community, and as the department’s leader, is passionate about maintaining MVPD’s role as a progressive law enforcement organization in the 21st century.

    Chris is an internationally recognized speaker and columnist on the areas of crisis communications, critical incident management, leadership, and engagement with stakeholder groups. In his time with Mountain View PD, Chris has held a variety of investigative, tactical, and leadership roles, serving in every division in the organization. He is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Senior Executives in State and Local Government program and has a master’s degree in eBusiness Management from Notre Dame de Namur in Belmont, CA.

    Chris also serves in several leadership positions on multiple boards, including as president on the Government Social Media Leadership Council and committee member on the IACP's Professional Standards, Ethics, and Image Committee. Previously, Chris served as a board member for the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center and two terms as a commissioner on the City of San Mateo Community Relations Commission.

    You can connect with him on Twitter @Chief_Hsiung or LinkedIn.

    Ashley Davis

    Ashley is a Brand and Marketing Strategist who partners with CEOs, executives and solopreneurs to grow their personal and professional brands. After spending over a decade working in strategic communications for multimillion dollar brands and startups, Ashley knows what truly drives conversations, builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their stakeholder groups and attracts strong strategic partnerships.

    Ashley has helped organizations and leaders increase employee awareness and overall understanding of the company vision. She has strong experience / knowledge of social media tools and techniques for driving awareness, reputation and brand—and is known for advancing a company's messaging in the marketplace by growing the following of now multiple multimillion dollar brands and startups.

    Ashley has served as the Editor of monthly all employee publications by managing the planning, writing and production. She is an integral part of new product launches and is frequently engaged to train entire sales teams along with channel / distribution partners on new product launches. In addition to her extensive experience, Ashley is a trained business coach.

    Ashley holds a BA in Global Business Management from the University of Phoenix.

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