‘SNL’ Strikes the Right Tone in Response to Newtown Shootings

For many communicators, their most challenging task is crafting the best response possible to a crisis or tragedy that affects their brand or the world at large: a response that is transparent, authentic and measured to fit the situation perfectly.

This weekend, as the nation mourned the killing of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.—20 of them children—a comedy show not generally known for its reverence just may have provided the perfect response to the massacre.

Instead of opening with a usual rousing comedy sketch, NBC's "Saturday Night Live" began its Dec. 15 show with the New York City Children's Chorus singing "Silent Night." The song's refrain of  "sleep in heavenly peace" was never so moving and appropriate. Then, in unison the chorus shouted out the familiar "Live from New York, it's Saturday night."

Reaction to this deeply affecting opening was positive across the media, as was the reaction some 11 years ago to "SNL"'s first show after 9/11, when New York City firefighters and police offers joined Mayor Rudy Giuliani on stage.

Somehow, producer Lorne Michaels has a touch for striking the right tone after horrendous events, something communicators should take to heart in responding to their own crises.

The biggest lessons learned here? Be authentic, tasteful and emotional if the situation calls for it.

If there was ever a case for emotion, this was it.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01

1 Comment


About Scott Van Camp

Scott Van Camp is editor of PR News, an executive-level, reader-supported publication that helps enhance the business impact of PR. Scott has a rich background in both journalism and PR/marketing. He has more than 15 years of experience as a writer/editor at various consumer and trade publications. Scott was with VNU Business Publications for five years, including stints as managing editor at IQ News and Technology Marketing magazines and senior editor at Brandweek. In the PR/marketing sphere, he has served as corporate communications manager at MarketBridge, a marketing and sales consultancy, and as editorial director for the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. While at the Council, Scott led several high-profile marketing research projects. He has also operated his own communications and media consulting firm, SVC Communications.

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  • P Hayslett

    Like many, the events of last Friday hit me like a ton of bricks. I was deeply troubled that someone could be so callous and self-absorbed that they could do something so terrible.

    With that being said, life as usual will and must go on and Lorne Michaels is the best in the business when it comes to this.

    Much like 9/11 Michaels made a point to recognize the tragedy while offering a chance for reflection. Once the moment had passed, he got to the business of making us laugh.

    While a tv show could do nothing for the families of Sandy Hook, it does provide a sense of normalcy to a world that at times seems to be on the brink. Thanks Lorne and crew.