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Time and Tide

Time and tide wait for no one. Neither do crises (personal or professional). That’s why they always seem to come at the most inconvenient time. (Whoever heard of a convenient crisis?) What do you do? Deal with it. Don’t panic. Some clients have the calmness and presence of mind to avoid this pitfall, but they…

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You Should’ve Called Earlie

Call early, and you have more options. Call later, and you have fewer. A business owner was the target of scurrilous gossip and accusations on the Internet. Because his business community and social circle were tight-knit and intertwined, his reputation was being damaged in both. But he waited several months before seeking help. This happens…

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Social Media During a Crisis

Recently we received a call from a pair of panicked business owners. Someone had posted a video on Facebook alleging that the business’ food came out bursting with bugs. It went viral instantly. The owners aren’t alone in their fear of social media. Traditional media was daunting enough, but social media feels like a whole…

Secret accounts don't
stay secret for long.

Case Study: Wells Fargo

Right now people are angry, and anger is a powerful motivator. By creating millions of fake accounts, Wells Fargo violated the public’s basic need to feel secure. The reaction was visceral because what was done was personal and easy to understand, compared to the sophisticated and distant machinations that caused the 2008 financial meltdown. If…

Nothing mystical about foresight.
Pay attention to what’s happening around you.

Unheeded

“Once today is gone, tomorrow can only look back in sorrow at warnings ignored.” ~ Rod Serling, Twilight Zone, 1964 It’s a timeless rule for all aspects of life, professional and personal. Let nothing slide by, or it’s gone forever. Watching in the moment is okay; you can react in real time. Foreseeing is better;…

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Heard But Not Seen

Cyrano is ever present. But if he’s doing his job correctly, you’ll never know it. He designs strategies. He knows what you can and can’t do without stepping on landmines. He polishes your message and guides you in presenting it. In all this, he has only one goal: To ensure that you achieve what you…

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That’s the Best You Can Come Up With?

Back in the day, a metal shop teacher drilled a mantra into his students: “A place for every tool. Every tool in its place.” Life was simpler then. Fast forward and everything seems so much more complex. Rules. Personal relationships. Running businesses and non-profits. And the likelihood of suffering foot-in-mouth disease. Why the change? We’re…

Don't let greed turn
you into a fat cat.

Cookie Jar

Where there’s money, there’s temptation. Where there’s temptation, some people can’t resist. It’s a tale as old as time, and it infects every industry and too many non-profits. Wells Fargo and Deutsche Bank are just the latest in a long string of institutions to be hammered in front-page headlines after being caught with their hand…

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Painted Into a Corner?

We’ve all been there. The question is, What are you going to do about it? Whining doesn’t help. So fix it. There’s really no excuse for literally marooning yourself behind a sea of wet paint. But it does happen. (Trust me.) Just pray it’s fast-drying. Neither is there much excuse for self-inflicted wounds such as…

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Fast. Faster. Fastest.

Some tasks require Type A personalities: Ambitious, take-charge, impatient. Life moves fast. To win, you must move faster. This is especially true for those who deal with situations that are critical and fluid. Bet-the-farm litigators. Executives whose companies are under investigation. Board members whose organizations are in turmoil. And the Crisis Management strategists who counsel…

Danger Ahead:Communication breakdown

How Not to Answer A Question: Part Two

Before you put your mouth in gear, know what you want to say — and what doesn’t need to be said. This transcends media relations and creeps into our everyday lives. Repeating the negative. Something negative being said about you? Whatever else you do, avoid repeating the allegation. That just calls more attention. It also…

What will you do when thehack hits your system?

Case Study: Hotel Cybersecurity

Earlier this week the payment system of upscale hotel operator HEI was hacked, compromising credit card information of an “undisclosed number” of people. HEI, whose portfolio consists of Hyatt, Sheraton, Marriott, and Westin, isn’t the first to suffer a data breach. It joins the ranks of UCLA, Target, Home Depot, Ashley Madison, Sony, Neiman Marcus,…

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Transiency

This too shall pass. Eventually. What matters is what happens in the meantime. Worst case, “meantime” can be a long time. At least long enough that your reputation will be in tatters when it ends. People with problems fall essentially into three categories: Those who recognize something serious will ultimately happen and get prepared well…

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The Big One

We all know exactly where we were and what we were doing. The magnitude was so severe it seared those moments into our minds. When the earth rumbled and Richter Scale needles gyrated wildly. When terrorists unleashed bombs and bullets at the Boston Marathon, in Paris and Orlando, in the Mideast, Asia and Africa. When…

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How Did We Survive…

When the only way to contact friends and co-workers if we were away from home or the office was to use a pay phone? When all writing was done by hand or manual typewriter? And to share it, you slipped it in an envelope with a postage stamp, or went to Western Union? When the…

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Keep Up or Be Left Behind

Roger Ailes isn’t the only one to suffer from failing to keep pace with evolving social norms. So is North Carolina. Less than two hours after Ailes resigned from Fox News amid a sexual-harassment scandal, the NBA yanked its All-Star Game out of Charlotte to protest a state law eliminating protections and placing restrictions on…

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A Sweet Surprise

On a recent flight from Los Angeles to Denver, a little girl strolled up the aisle with her father in tow. She was passing out to each of the passenger little baggies filled with candy. My initial instinct was to be careful. I mean, my father taught me not to take candy from strangers. But…

Know what you do well.
Delegate rest. Achieve more.

When Memory Needs a Reality Check

Two hundred and forty years ago this week, our forefathers brought forth on this continent a nation built on the singular concept of self-reliance and fortitude to stand alone against life’s storms. It was an optimistic belief system that promised unlimited opportunity, and that made it beguiling. Whether it was ever realistic is a question…

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Do I Sense a Trend?

It’s been a bad week for the auto industry. Already-shaken consumer confidence was further undermined as the negative headlines kept coming. First: VW agreed to a $14.7 billion settlement in its diesel-emission scandal in the United States — one of the largest-ever consumer class-action settlements. Still unresolved are pay-outs to buyers of more than 11…

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How To Keep Our Lives From Turning Into Game of Thrones

Ever said or done something you wish you could take back? We all have. Think back to the last big oopsy-daisy you made. Did you apologize sincerely? Did you ignore it hoping it’d go away? Did you deny it ever happened when confronted about it? How’d that turn out? How’d you feel? How’d those affected…

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We Never Escape High School

“Oh. My. God. Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but….” Thought you were done hearing that after high school? Wrong! We’ve grown up and matured beyond the Valley Girl mentality — some of us more than others. But people still love to whisper. Why? Simple. People love drama. They love scandal and gossip. It’s…

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How Not to Answer a Question

There are plenty of wrong ways to answer a question. Especially one from the media. Not responding at all. This results in a “So-and-so could not be reached for comment.” Or, worse, “So-and-so refused to comment on the matter.” Solution: There’s always something thoughtful you can say so you don’t seem evasive. Make sure that you…

Emotional boo-boo?
Best to rip the Band-Aid

Answering the Tough Questions

When trouble erupts, it’s natural to want to hunker down. But silence isn’t a viable option. The hardest pill to swallow may be realizing you need to set the record straight. People often have things they’d prefer to keep quiet because it’s embarrassing, damning, painful, or a combination of everything. Problem is, you don’t get…

Sometimes you can't look away.

Can’t Look Away

There’s news. Then there’s NEWS. Some published stories are little more than a matter of record and quickly forgotten, if they’re noticed at all. Others have some semblance of substance, but leave no lasting impression. And sometimes, you get dragged deeper and deeper into a story. It’s intriguing. You devour every detail as it emerges…

We all make mistakes.
It's important how you handle it.

3 Ways to Handle a Mistake

You’ve made a mistake. Now what? Clients usually fall into three categories: Category 1: Least effective. Live in denial or delusion. Either by insisting that something never happened — or happened very differently — when others can see the facts clearly. Repeating a lie won’t magically make it true. Think a little boy asked by his…

Life's good once you learn
you can't please everyone.

Damned If You Do. Damned If You Don’t.

You can’t please everyone. When you’re making tough calls about how to handle a sticky situation, there’ll always be someone criticizing your actions. Same goes for happier decisions like which flavor of birthday cake to serve. When a counselor at a summer camp was accused of inappropriately touching a child, he was assigned to administrative…

Missing the full picture?Our minds will fill in the context.

Out of Context

Sometimes context is lost in time. In an episode of Star Trek, a cryogenically frozen 20th century human is discovered 400 years later drifting in space. Records identify her as a “homemaker” — a term long fallen from use. “She must have done some kind of construction work,” the Enterprise crew guesses. Other times it’s…

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I’d Rather Be Golfing

This is a tale of a man who’s risking his company by going DIY. A food-packaging company was rapidly becoming a heavy-hitter in its market and taking up serious shelf space in grocery stores like Whole Foods. The owner called in a panic on a Friday afternoon. A consumer was claiming a charred cigarette butt…

When is it best to
let sleeping dogs lie?

Attempt Failed: Burying the Bad

Burying bad news on the fourth page of a Google search? Good idea. Using public funds to do it? Bad idea. That’s Lesson #1, and UC Davis and Chancellor Linda Katehi learned it the hard way after being caught forking over more than $175,000 to polish their tarnished reputations involving the pepper-spraying of campus demonstrators…

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The Last Word

“Never pick a fight with someone who buys his data by the gigabyte.” ~ Modern twist on an old caveat It’s as true today as it was when Mark Twain, Will Rogers and others made similar observations about those who buy ink by the barrel. The media always gets the last word. And in today’s…

Asking "Why?" isn't just for kids.

Why? Why? Why?

Three people sit around a table chatting happily. Work. Family. Friends. Crazy adventures. Add a glass or two of wine. Stories get embellished, and you’re in a mood to solve the mysteries of life. Why is something the way it is? Why is it done a particular way? Why do we follow certain rules? Tall…

Don't let one bad prankspoil your reputation.

When Pranks Go Wrong

A tale of two pranks — with very different outcomes. April Fools’ Day pranks are often harmless and lighthearted. Sadly, sometimes well-intentioned companies get it wrong and end up hurting the very customers they live to serve. Have you ever tried to set up a troika via email instead of immediately after a ProVisors meeting?…

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Don’t Get Angry. Get Even.

Faint of heart? Avert your eyes. This is the dark side of Crisis PR. Other side getting under your skin? Take a deep breath. Hold it for 5 seconds. Calmer now? Good. Let’s think this through. What do you really want to achieve? A burst of anger may make you feel better — for a moment.…

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Love ‘Em, Love to Leave ‘Em

When tennis star Maria Sharapova was caught doping, sponsors rushed for the exits. While this article focuses on athletes, its lessons apply to all celebrities. Bottom line: You must protect your brand. If “the face” of your company does something that doesn’t align with your brand’s values and you don’t speak out, it looks like you…

Dose of reality can cure
unintended consequences

When Dreams Meet Reality

Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.  ~ Bible, Galatians 6:7 But what you reap, may not be what you hoped. Once a wheel is set in motion, inertia takes over — for good or ill. Beware unintended and unexpected consequences. Consider U.S. politics. Both major parties long whipped up passions of the…

What you don't know canbe damaging for everyone.

The Right Questions

You’re closeted with senior management. They lay out the problem. Their world seems to be crumbling. Tension is palpable. “Okay…What do you think we should do?” they ask anxiously and fearfully. You’re expected to know the right answers, right now. That’s why they hired you. But before you get there, you must ask the right questions —…

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It’s Not About the Facts

“It’s not about the facts. It’s about what the facts can be made to look like.”   ~ Eli Gold on The Good Wife Think back to the last time someone told you a story, and it wasn’t until later you learned that’s not what actually happened. When a couple breaks up, there are usually two…

Did you make the right choice?You may never know

Do the Math

Basic math is easy. Higher math is mind-bending. “Do the math.” That’s heard most frequently. Its meaning is simple: Add the positives, subtract the negatives, and voilà, you have the answer. We refer to it regularly to figure out who’s winning, to sort out options, and to find the best solutions to everyday issues. Do…

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Spin Your Way Out of Sin?

Everybody’s a spin doctor. You want to establish a certain tone, project a specific image, and elicit a desired response. From job interviews and professional networking to dating and 30-year class reunions. Even how you respond when a colleague or your friendly neighborhood barista asks, “How are you today?” It’s the same dealing with the…

That's not nice!
That's not the point.

That’s Not Nice!

“That’s not nice!” the young assistant frowned after reviewing a storyline being pitched to the media about a nasty lawsuit. “That’s not the point,” his boss explained calmly. “Our job isn’t to make the other side feel good. It’s to make sure our client wins in the public’s perception.” That, in a nutshell, is what…

When you're being intentional,
things end up on the chopping block.

Owning It

Chef Thomas Keller’s open letter in response to a scathing NY Times review of his flagship Manhattan restaurant Per Se is a case study in how to do it right. Usually, when chefs receive bad reviews, they become defensive and blame the food critic. Not Keller. He took the high ground, took ownership for shortcomings,…

Is this how you really feel?Or is it just a product of the times?

Snap Judgments and Quick Responses

We all make snap judgments. It’s part of our survival instinct. Our brains need a way of processing information quickly, especially if we perceive a potential threat. How well we control those perceptions — and how much they control us — says a lot. The same is true whether the threat is physical or to…

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It All Started with a Misunderstanding

“Drop whatever* you’re doing. Get over here and fix this shitstorm.” – Client Clients aren’t usually as direct as this one. But the gist is always the same. “Everything I’ve worked so hard to build is crashing down around me. Help!!!” How did we get to this point? Let’s go back 24 hours. A new…

Best way to save image?Consider all the moving parts.

Lost in Translation

You know what you said, and you know what you meant. How can anyone misinterpret it? Easy. Happens all the time. Even when you’re speaking the same language. Are words clumsily chosen? Do unintended connotations conjure starkly different imagery because of  generational, regional or cultural perspectives? Does your body language send conflicting messages? Is your…

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6 Bad Habits That’ve Become Common

Forget making New Year’s Resolutions. Instead, just stop doing these 6 things. Stop lying. The beautiful thing about telling the truth is that you don’t have to remember what story you told. You also don’t have to remember who you told or which version. Stop being cocky. You’ve heard the saying, “You’re not sorry. You’re…

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Ghosts of Goof-ups Past

Never any shortage of problems that threaten reputations. Nor any end in sight for the drama that goes with them. Some are foisted upon people by events outside their control: Lawsuits by unhappy employees. Disputes with business partners and competitors. Scurrilous allegations published by equally scurrilous tabloid and celebrity-focused “news” outlets — online, on air,…

When public is at risk,
there is no road too far.

Bringing Out the Best

Sometimes crises bring out the best in people. Even if not always immediately. When faced with threats to safety, you must reaffirm that protecting the public is your foremost commitment. Whether it’s consumers, donors, investors, or children at summer camps or schools. It’s a page out of the playbook that Johnson & Johnson used to…

In order to gain a client's trust,you can't miss the target.

Clarity & Trust

Why do some clients return again and again? Because Fixers are alchemists who turn chaos into clarity. They’ve earned their clients’ trust. They become indispensable members of the clients’ inner circle. Sometimes it’s all business. Disputes between partners. Intrigue in the corporate boardroom. Companies being investigated by government agencies or being sued by customers or…

Crisis PR team worries
so clients sleep better.

Don’t Relax Too Much

Problems create grief. The more you worry about them, the more anxious you become. When it seems they’re nearly resolved, you exhale gratefully. That’s natural. But don’t relax too much. This is the point where the other side will try to slip something past you. Red flags are everywhere. Some are easily visible. Others less…

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Not So Secret

“At the length, truth will out.” ~ Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, 1596 Some lessons are never really learned. Such as that secrets seldom stay secret for long. Certainly not forever. Hard as we try, they always leak. This month, three companies suffered the consequences: Reports surfaced that Takata, the Japanese auto parts maker, manipulated…