With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, Americans’ thoughts turn to spending time with family and friends and being grateful for what we have. But just as quickly as we count our blessings, many rush out the door the next morning to get their hands on more goodies for less money.

This year, the infamous madness of Black Friday is beginning even earlier. Several retailers will now be open for the Thanksgiving holiday. Their choice to do so has been met with strong resistance, gaining the new shopping day an ominous nickname: “Gray Thursday.”

While retailers have found it extremely profitable to open their stores increasingly earlier each year on Black Friday, some think they’ve gone too far by encroaching on Thanksgiving. The controversy has created a PR flare-up for several companies whose employees have garnered tens of thousands of signatures in online petitions to stop the action. Some workers have even threatened to strike.

However, most of these companies are no stranger to controversy and continue to weather the storm. PR representatives for the retailers have noted that careful consideration was taken before setting the Thursday store hours, and they don’t believe the protesters represent the sentiment of the tens of thousands of other store employees who will be reporting to work.

In this type of sensitive situation, it is critical for companies to execute effective communication with their employees and the media. The retailers need to continue providing their side of the story to the press and to remain consistent on their messaging. Most importantly, the companies need to ensure that their workers feel valued more than the bottom line and that they emphasize why this decision to open for business on Thursday will ultimately benefit everyone at the company.

Red Banyan Group is often retained by companies in similar high-stakes and crisis PR situations to provide strategic communications counsel. Our unique, integrated approach combined with diverse industry experience enables us to carefully guide companies through challenging circumstances and deliver results when the stakes are high.