A story as old as time:
Tension of old vs new

Up in Smoke

When is standing still falling behind? The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is finding out. True, the Chamber’s role is to represent members’ interests. But when some members are treated more equal than others, it causes friction. It also caused angst as the Chamber’s PR team tried to sidestep the problem without talking about it. When…

First know your real goal.
Then the path is clearer.

A Timely Pivot

Sometimes people get it right, either because they have good instincts or because they receive wise counsel. Whole Foods did it right (ultimately). “Straight up, we made mistakes. We want to own that,” co-CEOs Walter Robb and John Mackey said in a YouTube video this week. That’s about as stark as an apology can get,…

Don't be a victim of verbal clumsiness.

They Say. We Say.

Until Thursday and Friday, only three women and six men knew how the U.S. Supreme Court was going rule on Obamacare and same-sex marriage. Everyone else was just speculating. That’s why pundits and politicians were ready with two sets of quotable and profound-sounding one-liners, praising the court for its wisdom and declaring the battle settled…

Cut the ego. Be sincere.

Ego & Insincerity

Tired of hearing about Brian Williams, the disgraced former anchor of NBC Nightly News? So are we. But the story demands a final peek. It’s a pitiful saga replete with so many lessons: About what the public has a right to expect (but often doesn’t get) from the media. Honesty. About how journalists should (but…

Quid pro quo of Crisis PR:
Swapping access for ink.

Quid Pro Quo

In the 1950s and ’60s, John Howard Griffin, a white Texas journalist who had his skin medically darkened then wrote Black Like Me about his experiences traveling in the segregated South, was hailed by liberals and condemned by conservatives. For years, singer Michael Jackson was a source of confusion and controversy over speculation that he…

True believers won't budge.
Middle can be persuaded.

Small Fibs. Higher Truths.

“There are lies, damned lies and statistics.”   ~ Mark Twain?1 Wanna make a point? Dress it up with statistics. Adds oomph to your argument. If you have “facts” to back up what you say, you must be telling the truth, right? If life were only so simple. But it isn’t, and we see the…

To deflect accusations,redefine shades of gray.

Like Fish in a Barrel

“Why do you always pick on politicians?” a friend asked. “Such easy targets. Hardly a week goes by…” the reputation manager replied matter-of-factly. “But don’t you sometimes feel you’re being one-sided?” the friend persisted. “Not at all. I’m equal opportunity. Never a shortage of people of all persuasions who do dumb things. It infects all…

In Crisis PR, never losecontrol ... or you lose.

Winning Is Everything

“Never lose focus, or you lose control. Lose control, and you lose.” ~ The ultimate adage of Crisis & Reputation Management In Catholic middle school, a nun scolded the basketball coach, “You’re winning by too much. Let the other side score some points so they won’t feel bad.” Years later, popular educational mantra shifted from…

Wonder who's really boss? 
Follow money and find out.

Don’t Fumble, Again

Roger Goodell can’t catch a break. It’s been a tough year for the NFL commissioner. Wrestling with how to mete out penalties to players for domestic abuse and drug use. Trying to resolve a dispute concerning major head trauma in a way that doesn’t make the league seem callous about the dangers of a violent…

Timing is everything.
Get it wrong, and the content doesn't matter.

Timing Is Everything

“Wishing it could plug a leak as easily as deleting a tweet.” ~ The Economist Last week, Twitter fell victim to its own service. Its first-quarter earnings were accidently published half an hour early, and the result wasn’t pretty. Twitter learned firsthand how quickly news travels. Its Q1 wasn’t as strong as Wall Street had…

Everyone filters differently
and responds accordingly.

Reading Differently

After the Germanwings crash and Nepal earthquake, a former journalist tracked the news on his smartphone. It was more than a desire to know the latest developments. It was a basic question bred into him from years on the job: “How would I have reported and written this differently?” Everyone filters every event through their…

Want to alter perception?
Aim for heart, not head.

Liability & Emotion

Where does liability end? Is it a strict matter of law, or of what the public perceives as right and wrong? Let’s take a quiz. Which of these are legitimate claims? Why? Which are attempts, justified or not, to reach into the other side’s deep pockets? (Hint: There are no incorrect answers.) Germanwings (a subsidiary…

Success in Crisis PR?
Measuring a negative.

Making Your Own Luck

Many truisms are passed from one generation to the next. Simple rules designed to guide you through life smoothly. One stands out as especially true in any phase of life and business: Luck doesn’t happen. You create it, by creating novel ideas, by keen insights, and by hard work. Crisis & Reputation Management is no…

Violate the public trust,
and public feels violated.

When News Is the News

Rolling Stone and Brian Williams are only the latest. Sadly, there’s a long and inglorious history of media stumbles. Sometimes journalists don’t verify what they’re told if they’re crunched for time or committed to a cause. Or they fabricate articles because make-believe is easier (and often more compelling) than digging up and reporting facts. Or…

Want to know the truth?
Your perception is reality.

Altruism or Calculation?

Look from afar, and it seems corporate management is becoming sensitive to social issues. But think about it for a few moments, and you realize these are issues that affect their pocketbooks. Most recently, Apple and WalMart came out against state laws in Indiana, Arkansas and elsewhere that would permit discrimination against gays and others…

Believe media frenzy will
blow over? When pigs fly.

Mama Always Says …

You’ve heard them all your life. Nostrums. Doesn’t matter that they’re often untrue. They’re easy-to-remember rules that make large chunks of life seem simpler. No thinking required. Got sniffles? “Feed a cold. Starve a fever.” So what if it’s medically unsound? You do it anyway. Hoping for some magic? “Wish on a falling star, and your…

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How’d This Mess Happen?

You hear the same questions every day, from non-profits and companies: Where’d all the money go? You mean those laws apply to us, too? Can she really sue us for harassment? It was just a joke. Hank was supposed to taking care of that. Is it our fault he didn’t? The answers: Down the rabbit…

Reacting slowly in a crisis
feels like water torture.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

There are scandals you survive, and scandals you don’t. Deal with it quickly, and you have the best chance of putting it behind you. Be slow to react, and the damage will be deeper. Think Hillary Clinton, running the U.S. State Department on her personal email. Or suspended NBC Nightly News anchorman Brian Williams, embellishing…

Winning a fight is nice.Winning the war is better.

Short Gain, Long Value

Mutual fund guru John Bogle leaves no doubt where he stands — in the same spot as investor Warren Buffett: Chasing short-term gain is a fool’s errand. Capturing intrinsic value is the real prize. In Reputation Management, the calculus differs only slightly. You can’t ignore the crisis that’s staring you in the face. That would…

Shift tone of story beforeit takes on life of its own

Life of Its Own

Once a story is embraced, it’s hard to shake. Even if evidence proves otherwise. Take the outbreak of measles that began at Disneyland and swept across the U.S. Why did the once-eradicated disease return, and why did it spread so quickly and virulently? For a long time, a tiny segment of society opposed immunization. They…

Didn't sign on to be liked.
We signed on to do a job.

The Breakup Letters

      “No one loves the messenger who brings bad news.” ~ Sophocles, Antigone Breakup letters are a thing of beauty. Business world communications and lined paper communications (the 3-ring binder kind) are more similar than you might think. “I need your advice. [Followed by detailed explanation.] I don’t know what to do! What should…

Be prepared: Better to do and not need,
than to need and not have done.

The Love Letters

Love letters. We’ve all written them. Whether they’re actually delivered is a whole other matter. Likewise, we’ve also written term papers and reports. Hopefully, those made it to their intended audience before the proverbial dog ate them. It’s all about being prepared, personally and professionally. Regrettably, too many people do the opposite: Step 1: Ignore…

Ultimate test: What will let
you control the conversation?

Telephone, Telegraph …

No. This isn’t a sexist commentary on the alleged inability of women to keep secrets. It is about thinking before you speak, and choosing your words with the precision of a surgeon. Faced with unexpected and unwanted situations, clients too often are inclined to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind — You…

Expect worst & plan for it.
Don't be caught unprepared.

Wall of Worry

We all have worries. Left on their own, they skew our vision and consume us. They crowd out factors that are positive — and even those that are neutral. Consider investors who wring their hands as oil prices fall because the stock market falls in tandem — until traders pause long enough to realize that’s…

Forget about extremes.
Focus on the middle.

Belief & “Truth”

Is “truth” really knowable? Or is it a fiction we create to reaffirm our beliefs? Did Bill Cosby repeatedly have non-consensual sex after drugging women? Did police in Ferguson and Brooklyn act rashly and wrongly? Did the CIA torture prisoners at Guantanamo, and was it justified? Did University of Virginia fraternity members gang-rape a female…

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$37 Billion Memo

As the U.S. Justice Department and states investigated wrong-doing that led to the financial collapse, the nation’s biggest banks dumped tens of millions of documents on them. That’d make finding anything impossible, right? Wrong. From that mountain of information, one internal memo emerged warning bank bosses, before the collapse and Great Recession, that they were…

Sin once, you may escape.Sin again, and you won't.

Fool Me Once…

Generations came and went, but they endured. Oscar de la Renta. Ben Bradlee. Joan Rivers. Nelson Bunker Hunt. All were born in the brief period between First and Second World Wars. When their end came this autumn, they were their 80s and 90s. People often die younger, sometimes older. But few so control their destinies…

Secret of Crisis PR:
Create the best light.

Different Prisms

A recent Vatican report about U.S. nuns was most significant for what it didn’t say. It didn’t condemn the nuns for “radical” and “feminist” ideas as expected when the investigation began in 2008 under conservative Pope Benedict XVI. Rather, it bore the compassionate imprint of his successor, Pope Francis. The final report shifted the spotlight…

Good Crisis PR can turna lump of coal into a gift

A Christmas Story

The holiday season is a busy time. Santa isn’t the only one who brings packages on Christmas Eve. So do judges. Recognizing and seizing every opportunity when it happens gets you the best results. The media wants their story now, not when you get around to it. Let us tell you a tale of how a smart Crisis PR…

Media's power is immense.
Use it to your advantage.

Hard Facts, Soft Feelings

Regardless of what economists say, pundits prefer their own definition of economic hard times: “A recession is when your neighbor is unemployed. A depression is when you are.” It’s simple. It’s pithy. It’s memorable. It’s based on your awareness of the moment, not on statisticians sifting through numbers after the fact. Case in point regarding…

History is often revised.
But seldom in short term.

On Second Thought

Time softens the sharp edges. As memories fade, events are reinterpreted. Sometimes to reflect new evidence. More often to better fit with what is comfortable for our purposes today. Take the Union Army’s Civil War Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman. It’s the 150th anniversary of his brutal March to the Sea, and historians — including some…

Surviving crisis is tough.
Preparing eases the pain.

Be Very Afraid

“It’s only a matter of the ‘when,’ not the ‘if,’ that we are going to see something dramatic.”    ~ Admiral Michael Rogers, Director of the NSA It’s a mantra apropos to many of our professions, and often our daily lives. Hit with a liability lawsuit: doctors. Car accidents: LA drivers.  Client won’t listen to…

Guilty of commiting oneof the 3 Deadly Sins of Crisis PR?

3 Deadly Sins

“I won’t dignify that with a response.” It conjures up images of high-brow society (very Downton Abbey or Masterpiece Theatre). For some, it seems an effective way to let the others know they’re being ridiculous and offensive. It might even thwart further taunting. But with the media, this is the first of the 3 Deadly…

Building up goodwillhelps you in the future.

Fantastical

For ages, men gazed skyward and dreamt of going to distant planets. It’s long been a theme of science fiction. Comets were another matter. They were mysterious fireballs of ice and dust streaking through the heavens. But this week — after a journey that began 10 years ago and stretched over 4 billion miles —…

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Alien Realities

HG Wells wrote about it. So did Isaac Asimov. It was a recurring theme for Rod Serling on The Twilight Zone. Earthlings encounter aliens or experience different realities. Some stories are straightforward. You know from the outset who is who, but want to see how it plays out. In others, you think you know, but…

In crisis, change is fast.
Be prepared for worst.

Fringe & Mainstream

“I aimed at the public’s heart, and … hit it in the stomach.”    ~ Upton Sinclair, American socialist and novelist Sinclair was disappointed at the public’s reaction to his 1904 novel The Jungle, about Chicago’s meatpacking yards. Instead of being alarmed by the deplorable conditions of the workers, the public fixated on the way…

Fear is powerful emotion.
Use it well, and you win.

Politicizing Ebola

A crisis is a terrible thing to waste. Ebola is the just latest. Watch the politicians. Both parties are guilty of making missteps, of pointing fingers (rather than seeking solutions), and of doing too little (to calm the public) or too much (to feed hysteria). The political commentariat dismissed this trend as understandable because of…

No rule book in Crisis PR.
Trust gut. Make no errors.

Be Careful What You Ask

Always a good rule. For everyone. Comparable to the caveat that a lawyer never ask a witness a question unless he already knows the answer. That was reinforced recently after Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage was struck down by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In challenging the ruling, Idaho in effect dared the U.S.…

Don't let it get personalOr you lose sight of goal.

Think You’re Ready? Think Again.

“Nothing rattles me,” the young executive routinely assures colleagues. Makes sense. That’s her job. She is the voice of calm and reason in the midst of the storm, and that lets her find solutions to clients’ problems. Then the unexpected happened, and she lost it. She’d just bought a new car 10 days earlier, and…

Life with digital tether
is blessing and curse.

Untethered & Angst-Ridden

Some professionals are tethered to their work 24/7. Doctors. Lawyers. Executives and business owners. Crisis PR people. Problems don’t take time off. You don’t get to, either. When clients or customers want you, they want you now. Ten minutes ago would be even better. You wear a phone glued to your hip all day and…

Uncover the essence.
Then you can solve it.

Butcher, Baker, Candlestick-Maker

If problems didn’t exist, there’d be less need for lawyers, psychiatrists and other professions that fix them. Crisis PR people are in that category. They’re equal parts problem-solver, hand-holder, confessor and consigliere. Unlike spiritual leaders who want to guide their flock back to righteousness, the overarching goal for Crisis PR is to understand the dynamics,…

Get out in front of a crisis.
Or other side controls story.

Too Little. Too Late.

When is “at all cost” too high a cost? The NFL is finding out. So are other sports. Once upon a time, it was considered proper to protect the brand first and foremost, from turning a blind eye to being dismissive of accusers to giving slaps on the wrist. The Game was all that mattered,…

Job #1 in Crisis PR -Separate fiction from fact

Fiction & Fact

We’re all better for having read, seen or told fiction. Whatever can be imagined, can be. Think Jules Verne, J.R.R. Tolkein and J.K. Rowling. Not so in the world of Crisis & Reputation Management. Facts are facts. You can’t ignore them. You can polish, redefine or interpret differently. To use the vernacular, you can spin.…

When we do our job well,it is the best of times.

Best and Worst

The desire to edit another person’s words is almost irresistible. Not always for the better. Consider the publishing-house editor in charge of A Tale of Two Cities who suggested Charles Dickens shorten his initial wording to “It was the best and worst of times.” Dickens refused and his original language is now one of the…

When we do our job well,
it is the best of times.

Disruption

Routine has a bad reputation. Deservedly. It conjures images of people slogging through their jobs and lives. The only goal is to get to the end so they can do it again the next day. But there’s a flip side, too often overlooked. It lets people organize the “routine” in their lives so they can…

How much your time worth?
Depends on perceived value.

Eye of the Beholder

A professor posed a riddle to his MBA students: A new device significantly shortens the time needed to complete a manufacturing process. How much is it worth? Most students dutifully crunched the usual numbers. Cost of materials. Cost of labor and overhead. Add in a fair profit. Voilà? Not even close. One student took a…

As privacy erodes, potential threats to your reputation multiply.

Demographics & Big Data

Demographics will define the future. Big Data is the future. The first concept is undisputed. The second depends on who you talk to. The biggest demographic is the one most talked about — the gray generation, Boomers born after World War II and now on the cusp of retirement. They built the economies of today’s…

Watching media contortions
-- a sport for ex-journalists

Top to Bottom

News media has always been stratified: Cream of the crop. Bottom of the barrel. Big in-between. Today there’s less cream, much more bottom and in-between. In part because of more voices with more megaphones. Read it online? On Twitter? Must be true, right? Consider actor George Clooney’s recent battle with London’s Daily Mail over allegations…

Give up a private life.Gain a dependable client.

Like a Baby

Parents of newborns share a gloriously painful experience with Crisis PR people: Exhaustion. Neither are masters of their daily lives. They rest when they find the time. For new parents, the experience is measured in weeks. For Crisis PR, it’s a relentless way of life. Thankfully, the two rarely occur simultaneously. New parents are usually…

Don't fall victim to foot-in-mouth disease.Think before you open your mouth.

Open Mics & Disengaged Minds

Foot-in-mouth disease has damaged many careers and ended others. Its history is long, colorful and likely to continue. Most of the time, it has a close correlation to carelessness and insensitivity. Sometimes it’s not even a gaffe at all, but a carefully rehearsed message. Let’s take a closer look. Cause and effect will become more…