Crisis Communications PR: Who are the Top American Crisis Public Relations Firms

2020-10-29 by EPR Staff

Crisis Public Relations

The best time to start a PR campaign is before trouble rears its head. Unfortunately, when a crisis arises, damage control in real-time is virtually impossible. Of course, big crisis can be handled professionally, and the firms below have developed a reputation for doing the impossible when it comes to crisis PR.

Michael Sitrick everything-pr

Sitrick And Company

Founded in 1989 by Michael S. Sitrick, Sitrick and Company is a national firm with offices in LA, New York, Chicago, and other major cities. Founder Mr. Sitrick has a reputation for handling a crisis, in fact, he wrote the book on it. Critically acclaimed, “Spin- How to turn the power of the press to your advantage,” is one of several books Mr. Sitrick was involved with writing.

Likely this is why Michael Sitrick is known as the “Spin doctors’ spin doctor.” Fortune Magazine referred to him as “one of the most accomplished practitioners of the dark arts of public relations.”

Crisis management and litigation support are what they are best known for, and with good reason. Boasting clients such as rocker Tommy Lee and NFL superstar Michael Vick, Sitrick and Company do the high profile work, bet-your-company / bet-your-life situations.

They are most likely to be hired by a West Coast Celebrity, or a multi-national entertainment conglomerate in trouble.

5WPR 5W Public Relations


Founded in 2003, 5W Public Relations does perhaps more crisis work than any other New York PR Agency – ranging from financial shenanigans, litigation, corporate takeovers, to the largest police union in New York, the Sergeants Benevolent Association.  They have represented everyone from major celebrities to executives with litigation issues.

Nationally, they have handled issues ranging from litigation to political lobbying issues, proxy battles and more – they win, and they vigorously defend their clients. They work often with litigation and criminal attorneys to spin the media for their clients.

Yet, this agency is known as street fighters, an agency “in the know” with the media, with the ability to turn stories around – there’s no more aggressive crisis PR firm in the United States than 5WPR. They know the media, they understand issues and in recent years have handled many high-profile issues in a very discrete manner.

Known for an aggressive approach to PR, their “results speak for themselves,” 5WPR is ranked as a top 20 firm by O’Dwyer’s and has won the prestigious Stevie’s for PR firm of the year  for three years running.

Sard Verbinnen Firm

Sard Verbinnen

Founded in 1992 by partners George Sard and Paul Verbinnen, this high profile firm specializes in handling difficult crisis with discretion and class. While they work mostly in mergers and acquisitions, their most impressive feats are the cases that never make headlines. As one of their clients put it, “They spend 98 percent of the time trying to keep us out of the press, which I like.” But when that proves to be impossible, Sard prides itself on their ability to shape the message to benefit their clients.

What Are They Known For?

What Sard is best known for, is their ability to stay out of the spotlight. During the very high profile trial of Goldman Sachs trader Fabrice Tourre, they shaped the news while notably being the only presence at the trial not profiled. Yet in spite of their noteworthy successes in crisis and litigation, Sard’s bread and butter is their ability to help clients get the better end of a deal.

Sard actually worked with Dollar Thrifty’s President Scott Thompson, when major rental company Hertz attempted to strong-arm them into selling. According to Thompson, “When we wanted to bury our heads in the sand and just run our business, they explained how we needed to win the hearts of the investors to win the battle with Hertz,” The deal went through after Hertz raised its price 44-fold. “In hindsight,” Thompson says, “I would have to say their advice proved itself to be on point.”

They are most likely to be hired by a blue-chip financial firm in crisis.

Hellerman Baretz Communications

Hellerman Baretz Communications

Founded nearly a decade ago by partners John Hellerman and Spencer Baretz, Hellerman Baretz is the “go-to” firm for entrenched legal battles. Their unique approach to PR is one where PR is not something a company “does”, but rather it is a business philosophy guiding every facet of a company’s growth in a measurable way.

HBC wins numerous awards every year, and they’ve been named, “Best Crisis Management Firm,” and “Best Social Media Consultant” by Washington, D.C.’s Legal Times.  This is a good PR firm for large legal battles and intricate major, detailed assignments.



Dan Edelman founded Daniel J. Edelman, Inc. in Chicago in 1952. Since then it has grown to become the largest independent PR company in the world, employing more than 5,000 people in 65 cities, with access to additional affiliates in another 35 cities.

What do they specialize in.

Edelman’s Crisis and Issues Management practice helps companies manage, prepare for, and anticipate, crisis possibilities and realities including labor relations, poor financial and corporate performance, high-profile litigation, product recalls, accidental and malicious food contamination, and environmental issues. The agency’s team includes political strategists, lawyers, former journalists and PR crisis management and communications experts. Their team has provided expertise to clients when they needed help getting out of “hot water.”

The largest privately owned PR agency in the world, Edelman is currently representing Saudi Arabia as it manages crises over the impending crucifixion and beheading of a young political critic, and civilian deaths in the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen.