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