Give Them a Show to Remember (In a Positive Way)

The Disneyland fireworks show (really any show Disney does) is a thing of beauty. It’s controlled, intentional, and carefully choreographed. On the other side of the spectrum is a spontaneous fireworks show fueled by a tequila bender in Tijuana. It may sound like a good idea in the beginning but oftentimes turns into a dangerous…

We Regret to Inform You

We regret to inform you that “We regret to inform you” is a terrible opening line. Doesn’t matter if you’re delivering bad news by letter, email, speech, text, or anything else. Seems likes common sense, right? Nonetheless, so many people slip into that trap with such regularity. Think back to the last time you received…

Tea Leaves

Reading tea leaves is a national pastime. It infuses all aspects of our lives as we try to interpret the world around us. What’s the back-story when a company or non-profit announces that a longtime executive has resigned to pursue personal interests? What forces are at play, and what’s at stake, when 50-50 business partners…

He Said, She Said

A friend who owns several successful gyms throughout the city called recently and the conversation started in the usual fashion. “Hey, Eden. How are you? I was wondering if you could give me some advice….” Several of his trainers had gone out drinking to celebrate, and all imbibed a little too much. What happened next was…

Learning from Your Mistakes (United Edition)

In the end, United (finally) got it right. But only after days of excruciatingly bad publicity. Were its belated positive actions too little and too late to repair its image? United’s floundering also provided a case study of what not to do, and ultimately what to do. Initial statements are just that — initial. But…

Why Covering Up Sex Scandals Doesn’t Work

Elite East Coast boarding school Choate Rosemary Hall certainly wasn’t the first to be caught up in a teacher-student sex scandal. Nor, sadly, will it be the last. What’s more, trying to cover up such situations only makes the fallout worse. Even if it’s hoped that doing so will help protect the institution, the result…

Nothing to Lose?

Don’t believe it. No matter how bad things are now, they could be worse. (No Pollyanna or Dr. Pangloss here.) The more you see of life, the more hardened your perceptions become. Some may call it cynicism. But realism is more accurate. Consider these cases: The owner of a mid-size business treats workers like family…

Attorney-Client Privilege Under Attack?

The Ides of March came one day early this year. At first glance, a California appellate court ruling on March 14th seemed to imperil the concept that the work of Crisis PR firms is protected by attorney/client privilege. This would be a serious reversal of long-standing legal precedents. But not so fast. Don’t throw the…

Why It’s So Hard To Say You Screwed Up

This year’s Academy Awards were one for the books. Some are calling it a plot twist. Some, a publicity stunt. Still, others are just enjoying pointing fingers. Details and speculation have been rolling in all week about who’s to blame for last Sunday’s mix-up. But the bigger question is why many of us are so…

Is A Scandal Real If No One Notices?

Now is an excellent time to have a scandal. Regardless of who you voted for, we can all agree on one thing: With the media all atwitter about Donald Trump’s tweets, you now have more freedom to do bad things with less of a chance of finding yourself splashed across the front page. So if…

Too-da-loo, Resolutions!

At the beginning of the year, everyone is on their best behavior. You’ve made resolutions to quit bad habits and pick up good ones that’ll improve your life. You promise that this year is different and you’re going to become a better person. January comes and goes quickly. Why didn’t you make these changes years…

Opps. I mean…Oops!

You’re judged on everything you say and do. Your reputation rises or falls based on whether you’re perceived as wise and substantial, or shallow and ephemeral. If you only get one shot to prove your worth, you better make it count. A single misused word can spell trouble for your reputation. Doesn’t matter whether the…

No Broken Promises

You’re only as good as your word. If you promise the moon and fall short, you disappoint (and mar your reputation). But manage expectations and over-deliver, and you’re a hero. The pressure to perform is intense. As long as you succeed, your legend endures. Stumble and it shatters. This applies in your personal and professional…

Bad Holiday Habits

Holidays bring out the worst in people, especially in careless driving habits. As anyone with a set of eyes can see, there’s a significant rise in auto accidents around the holidays. Statistics from government and private organizations routinely issued this time of year prove the obvious. We’re over-committed. We’re anxious. We’re distracted. More people pour…

Fresh Eyes

Yes, wisdom often comes with age and experience. But so do the baggage and inertia that create blinders to new ways of thinking and doing. Consider these comments. They’re anathema to dynamic minds. “We get by.” “Business may not have grown much, but it’s been steady.” “We’ve always done it this way.” Youth has benefits.…

Creating a Safer World

“I protect my clients from their employees,” a labor lawyer explained, summing up how he spends his days. “Interesting,” chimed in a Crisis PR strategist. “We protect ours from everyone — including from themselves.” The same is true for virtually all professions: They’re protecting from something. Tax attorneys (from paying more than necessary). Investment bankers…

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…

You Should’ve Called Earlier

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…

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…

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…

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;…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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,…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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?…

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.…