Crisis Communications

Schenck Strategies | Media Relations & PR Services

Navigating crisis and reputational threats

The secret of crisis management is not good vs. bad; it’s preventing the bad from getting worse.

Effective crisis communication practices enable individuals and organizations to communicate promptly and adeptly during times of risk. In today’s landscape, a single social media post can incite widespread outrage, rendering silence tantamount to admission of guilt. In this environment, swift and appropriate responses are imperative.

Schenck Strategies excels in delivering unparalleled crisis communication and containment planning and support. With a team of seasoned experts and comprehensive programs, we’re equipped to handle crises of any scale with precision and expertise. Whether a minor issue or a major catastrophe, our tailored approach ensures effective representation and resolution, safeguarding your reputation and minimizing damage.

Effective crisis communication practices enable individuals and organizations to communicate promptly and adeptly during times of risk. In today’s landscape, a single social media post can incite widespread outrage, rendering silence tantamount to admission of guilt. In this environment, swift and appropriate responses are imperative.

Schenck Strategies excels in delivering unparalleled crisis communication and containment planning and support. With a team of seasoned experts and comprehensive programs, we’re equipped to handle crises of any scale with precision and expertise. Whether a minor issue or a major catastrophe, our tailored approach ensures effective representation and resolution, safeguarding your reputation and minimizing damage.

Our services encompass:

  • Crafting tailored statements for internal and external audiences.
  • Devising strategic messaging approaches tailored to specific concerns and audiences.
  • Providing media training and management, optimizing interactions from initial contact to aftermath.
  • Developing crisis communication and incident response plans.
  • Collaborating with legal counsel to safeguard reputation amid litigation.

Case studies


In what some are calling a watershed moment in franchising history, a Choice Hotels franchise owner, with the support of 96 other hotel franchisees, banded together to sue Choice ($1.5 billion in revenue) for breaching their franchise agreement and Franchise Discloser Document (“FDD”). This resulted in the franchisor’s failure to secure promised volume discounts and improper use of system fees to fund development activities.

Choice maintains that its procurement department benefits franchisees despite an arbitrator finding after a two-week hearing that the procurement department only benefits itself. Rather than negotiating discounted pricing to benefit franchisees, Choice negotiates massive marketing fees and rebates from approved vendors. Franchise owners claim these predatory tactics put them out of business, and Choice is “weaponizing the arbitration process.”


The franchise owner retained Schenck Strategies in his David vs. Goliath showdown with Choice Hotels, one of the world’s largest lodging franchisors, who, until now, had dominated the narrative. Out of exasperation, the franchisee felt forced to stand up for himself and tell his side of the story, and many like his to call out Choice Hotel’s predatory tactics. We crafted clear, fact-based information about the unfolding crisis to meet the challenge and served as the franchisee’s primary spokesperson. We solicited other franchise business owners to tell us their side of the story related to the business model they were operating under to bolster our client’s claims. We decided to target the Economy reporter for The New York Times to break our silence and give a voice to the hundreds of franchise owners who did not have the resources to take Choice Hotels to court.


The New York Times’s comprehensive investigative report was the first of its kind to document the claims of Choice small business owners and bring into question a bigger story: Choice Hotel’s hostile bid to acquire its rival Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) investigation of the proposed merger between Choice Hotels and Wyndham and New Jersey’s pending Fair Franchising Bill 1958, which would prohibit franchisors from receiving any rebate, commission or kickback from a vendor that sells services to a franchisee unless it is fully disclosed. Yahoo News and DNyuz also picked up the story, delivering a combined audience reach of 329,000,000.


A 16-year-old student at Lincoln Hall, a 400-acred residential treatment, learning, and mentoring environment for at-risk and economically disadvantaged youth, was arrested for the shooting death of an 11-year-old girl. Lincoln Hall made national headlines and was called into question for letting the student leave its campus, even though the facility is mandated by New York state law to allow its students regular at-home visits with their families.


Lincoln Hall retained Schenck Strategies to create concise, evidence-supported messaging about the unfolding crisis and serve as the facility’s primary spokesperson. We immediately provided statements to the media to fend off accusations that implied Lincoln Hall was “at fault” for allowing the student home visitation rights. In an empathetic manner, we made clear that home visits are required in contractual agreements with more than 20 counties within New York State through local Department of Social Services (LDSS). Furthermore, Lincoln Hall wanted it known that they had reached out to state officials advising against letting the student and alleged shooter go home.  


Our efforts successfully shifted the public focus away from Lincoln Hall and back onto the New York State Family Court system and the Office of Children and Family Services actions imposed by the federal Family First Act. We were able to balance the privacy of a minor with the public’s right to know. We rebutted all mischaracterizations of actions taken by Lincoln Hall by governing agencies and reporters. Above all, we were responsive and accurate in order to maintain our credibility and role in protecting Lincoln Hall’s reputation as a leader in the foster care system for 


After conducting an independent investigation because of a detailed and credible whistleblower’s complaint about the ongoing inappropriate behavior of the Food Bank of New York City’s CEO, the organization’s Board of Directors was forced to terminate the executive’s employment. It was determined that the CEO had fostered an abusive and toxic work environment that negatively impacted the agency’s relationships with its employees, volunteers, partners, and donors, putting the organization’s overall performance at serious risk.


The Board of Directors of the Food Bank, the city’s largest hunger-relief organization that provides 400,000 free meals daily, retained Schenck Strategies to create a PR strategy that would support a smooth transition with the executive’s termination and hiring of an interim CEO while maintaining confidence in the organization’s leadership among internal and external audiences.


A smooth transition was achieved despite threats of retaliation, and the possible leak of erroneous and inflammatory statements to the press meant to damage the Food Bank’s reputation. Schenck Strategies proactively executed a crisis containment program to stabilize and advance the organization’s reputation by inspiring confidence, earning trust, and engaging stakeholders.

This was achieved by: 

  • Preparing talking points for the Board Chairwoman to address the crisis
  • Proactively formulating holding statements for the press to refute any negative statements possibly leaked    
  • Creating news releases ready to distribute when the CEO separation was finalized
  • Developing internal communications: Emails to employees explaining CEO transition   
  • Writing talking points for Board members to use for personal outreach to key partners and donors, explaining the transition 
  • Developing external communications: Letters and emails to donors, partners, and volunteers explaining leadership change   

To avoid negative backlash, the Food Bank used our custom crisis-response playbook and messaging strategy to tell impacted employees, donors, and volunteers. The organization proactively notified all of its stakeholders as we recommended, demonstrated transparency and integrity, and earned goodwill with the majority of individuals affected. As a result, the Food Bank quickly moved past the issue and continues to thrive today, providing 400,000+ free meals daily across the five boroughs of New York.


Michael Skakel, the nephew of Robert F. Kennedy’s widow, Ethel Kennedy, was convicted of the high-profile murder of Greenwich, CT resident Martha Moxley and sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. He spent more than a decade behind bars for the murder until his early release when a judge determined that he received incompetent legal representation at trial. During his incarceration, Skakel’s siblings and their families experienced constant harassment and were viciously slandered publicly for defending their belief that Michael was innocent. 


Michael’s siblings retained Schenck Strategies to launch a media relations campaign to restore their reputation by telling their side of the story and exposing new information about the case that supported their belief that their brother was wrongly accused and incarcerated. Part of our task was to provide a counter-narrative to the hundreds of stories written about the murder.

We developed an aggressive online reputation and media outreach campaign to restore the family’s good standing by securing strategically selected national media placements coinciding with the family’s decision to end their 30-year silence. 

We conducted extensive media training geared explicitly toward preparing designated family members to tell their side of the story to the national press.


Schenck Strategies offered select media exclusive access to the family, culminating in an hour-long documentary produced by CBS 48-Hours and hosted by Leslie Stahl. The investigative report included interviews with Michael’s cousin, Robert Kennedy Jr., and three of Michael’s siblings. PEOPLE Magazine followed up with a sensitive four-page feature story about the family’s burden of living with the conviction of their brother, including an exclusive prison cell interview with Michael. As a result of the campaign, we secured more than 100,000,000 media impressions and helped significantly curb negative sentiment experienced by the family.

You have a story to tell.

Put us to work today to help you tell it correctly.

Dwain Schenck

Dwain Schenck

Founder, Schenck Strategies
Media Relations | Reputation | Crisis Communications

Dwain Schenck is the founder of Schenck Strategies and a seasoned strategic communications and public relations professional, author, and former award-winning TV reporter. He has a successful track record of developing communications and transformational reputation strategies that drives growth, builds brand awareness, and solves business problems for companies and nonprofit organizations on a global scale.

He offers a strong combination of leadership, management, and hands-on tactical experience that enhances the positioning of brands and personalities with their key stakeholders. He serves as a trusted senior communications counselor and helps companies outperform their competitors. His clients include high-profile and high net worth individuals, Fortune 500 corporations, nonprofit organizations, start-ups, media companies, biotech and renewable energy companies, and politicians.

Schenck started his communications career as an award-winning beat reporter for a regional TV station in Connecticut when a 6.8 earthquake ravaged Spitak, Armenia, decimating the region and prompting Mikhail Gorbachev’s formal request for U.S. humanitarian aid. Americares, at the time the world’s largest private humanitarian relief agency responded, and with them Schenck became the first Western TV reporter to be on the ground for this monumental relief effort where more than 100,000 lives were lost.

Schenck eventually was asked to join Americares to lead its PR and communications operation.
When he wasn’t booking relief workers to appear on Good Morning America and the TODAY show or developing feature stories about the organization for PEOPLE, TIME and The New York Times, he travelled to disaster areas and war zones around the world as chief spokesperson and escorted reporters on relief missions to Kuwait, Jordan, Iran, Turkey, Moscow, Sakhalin Island, North Korea, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Kyoto, Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Djibouti, Rwanda, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Croatia, Sarajevo, and Bosnia.

In total, he produced campaigns featuring relief efforts that generated more than 1 billion media impressions about Americares on major networks, newspapers and magazines around the world.

Schenck has held many communications and PR positions over his distinguished career. In addition to his strategic counsel, media relations, and crisis management work, in the early 1990’s he leveraged his years’ of journalism experience to spearhead an award-winning documentary taking first and second place prizes at the U.S. Industrial Film & Video Festival and the Houston International Film Festival respectively, for co-producing and writing a documentary about the civil war in Ethiopia.

Respected for his crisis communications management skills, Schenck was retained by Connecticut Governor, Dannel P. Malloy, during his first run for office. Schenck was instrumental in turning around public opinion to quell a well-orchestrated smear campaign against the Governor during a 17-month criminal investigation of his public and private life. Malloy was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing by the state’s top prosecutor.

Today he serves as a trusted senior communications counselor to high-profile and high net worth individuals, Fortune 500 corporations, start-up organizations, media companies, biotech and renewable energy firms, politicians, and philanthropic organizations.

He has provided outreach and gained valuable visibility and endorsements for world-recognized influencers including President George H.W. and Barbara Bush, and the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson. He has also worked with and interviewed world class entertainers and leaders like James Earl Jones, Elton John, Michael Jackson, Cid Caesar, Roy Orbison, Robin Williams, President Donald Trump. Mort Zuckerman, and Seinfeld creator, Larry David to name a few.

Schenck is the author of The New York Times reviewed and Amazon best-selling non-fiction business book titled, “Reset: How to Beat the Job Loss Blues and Get Ready for your Next Act”, published by Da Capo Press with a foreword by Mika Brzezinski, journalist, best-selling author, and co-anchor of MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

Schenck graduated from the University of Southern California (USC) and lives in Westport, Connecticut.