A mid-size university, part of a state system in a red-leaning state, came under fire from media, lawmakers, and other internal and external stakeholders after a training on diversity and gender for student employees was taken out of context and highlighted by national conservative media. The situation was exacerbated by a faculty response that appeared to ostracize the students upset over the training. As is fairly typical in these situations, the institution received an overwhelming number of calls, emails and social media postings. The administration was accused of creating a culture where conservative voices were not welcomed resulting in angry alumni, donors, and lawmakers demanding explanations.

BMCG was charged with developing the overall communications strategy, as well as crisis management response, to mitigate impacts of this event and deter future targeting by media. 

Actions / Recommendations:

  • Immediately mapped out an effective frontline strategy to handle stakeholder, public, and media firestorm.
  • Created a proactive (vs. reactive, whack-a-mole) values grounded, strategic approach to communicate with key stakeholders and media—on various platforms—that provided clarity and context around the issue.
  • Worked with the newly formed Crisis Management Team (team and plan developed by BMCG) which followed new process to identify and address longer-term impacts and consequences of the issue


The stakeholder-centric (vs. media-centric) approach allowed the university to have meaningful conversations with key individuals relieving pressure and criticism. The approach also enabled the institution to understand key-drivers and develop more effective policies, procedures, and approaches to mitigate and, to the extent possible prevent, future scrutiny and targeting by conservative media.