Jimmy Centers and Marc GoldbergJimmy Centers and Marc Goldberg co-authored this article.

We’re living in what promises to be the most volatile political year of our lifetime, a year that will have rolling and deep repercussions—from our kitchen tables to the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court and beyond.

For companies that are in this tumultuous terrain, we have a simple message: Failure to anticipate and plan for challenges adjacent to societal divisions already roiling our nation is tantamount to business malpractice.

To put a finer point on it: Engaging with seasoned, bipartisan communications experts to establish consistent, sensible internal and external crisis communications strategies is non-negotiable in 2024. Recent experience tells us that, in this climate, it’s not a question of if business leaders will grapple with a public-facing crisis that threatens their company, but when.

The political and social turmoil that we’ve witnessed and what likely lies ahead demands that companies large and small prioritize strategic planning. Smart planning should include actively engaging with policymakers and anticipating and assessing in real-time our evolving social and political landscape. This is imperative to effectively navigate the uncertainties ahead while staying true to core missions.

That’s where Cornerstone comes in. Our bipartisan team’s deep experience and unmatched insights in early voting states—notably via our offices and professional teams in Iowa and New Hampshire—give us a unique ability to keep our fingers on the political and social pulse of the nation. Our established presence in Washington, D.C., along with 10 other states, gives us the reach to take your message to Capitol Hill, the State House or City Hall.

This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Jan. '24 Crisis Communications & PR Buyer's Guide Magazine
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We serve as strategists and sounding boards for clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to small non-profits and work in close collaboration with our government affairs team. This close working relationship with a bipartisan government relations practice within our firm is essential to many clients’ success, serving as a connective tissue between clients, policymakers and the communities in which they’re doing business or otherwise serving the public.

Cornerstone’s fully integrated team of strategic communicators and government relations professionals offer a dual threat: A cavalry in the halls of Congress or the state capitol and a messaging brigade providing air cover in the media, across stakeholder groups and on digital platforms.

And we know all too well that in this era of relentless change and increasingly complicated social and political engagement on both the domestic and international fronts, failure to establish and adhere to a sound, strategic crisis communications plan can lead to sometimes shocking, unintended consequences.

We’ve seen first-hand in recent years the vulnerability of businesses to unforeseen challenges, from the global pandemic and political unrest to technological disruption and emerging and complicated social and cultural issues. Our job is to help our clients build and protect their reputations and their abilities to operate resiliently through foresight, insight, planning and relationships.

Charting that resilient, consistent course can take many forms.

  • A client grappling with an uptick in crime at several of its national outlets is working with us to navigate the important social conversation around deterrence and engage in community building through its charitable foundation to address the issue creatively and authentically.
  • We’re working closely with companies and organizations seeking to improve their responsiveness to the needs of their employees while navigating outside pressures.
  • Our team is leveraging the national footprint of Fortune 500 companies, creating dynamic, effective national, state and local campaigns designed to speak directly to elected officials and policy leaders on their home turf while creating broader awareness and driving desired change.
  • We’re helping companies and organizations stay true to their internal and external missions and principles—especially on diversity and equity issues—while anticipating and planning for potential customer or consumer reactions in an environment that increasingly demands transparency and places pressure on companies to engage on social issues.
  • Across our physical footprint in D.C. and 12 states, we’re consistently providing opportunities for our clients to engage directly with policymakers, community leaders, advocates and members of the media to pressure test ideas, gain insight and develop valuable relationships.
  • We’re delivering consistent, real-time insight to clients seeking to understand the political and social realities of issues affecting how they do business, and deeply informed lookaheads as they plan for the future of their operations.
  • Our work for clients is regularly rooted in quantitative and qualitative research, where we measure sentiment across a variety of audiences and stakeholders, creating a strategic communications plan to address the challenges identified.

As we tell our clients, it’s not just about weathering the storm. It’s about how you navigate through it, internally and externally and, as importantly, how you communicate your actions and decisions to the world.

Social media has been both the boon and bane of many companies. What once served as an efficient advertising and consumer engagement platform has become a platform on which reputations can be won or lost—mostly lost—in a hot minute. That’s why we work with clients to monitor and assess risks and responses to social media communications, including when and why to engage—an essential element of a crisis communications plan.

As we approach 2024, and all fervently hope for a cooling of the national discourse and a more respectful, thoughtful ethic to take hold, we know all too well the harshness that has become familiar during general election years.

Benjamin Franklin’s old saying rings true as you prepare to navigate the choppy waters ahead. “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.”


Jimmy Centers is Principal at Cornerstone Public Affairs and co-founded the firm’s Public Affairs practice out of its Des Moines, Iowa office. Marc Goldberg is Principal at Cornerstone Public Affairs in the firm’s New Hampshire office.