No Margin for Error

In crisis, you must "know," not "hope."  Photo courtesy of

In crisis, you must “know,” not “hope.”
Photo courtesy of

In World War II, a new phrase entered the lexicon: “Good enough for government work.” At the time, it was high praise: If you could meet the government’s rigorous standards, you could pass muster anywhere.

After the war, the meaning got turned on its head. It became a pejorative: Barely acceptable quality.

But the mantra for Crisis & Reputation Management has remained constant: No margin for error.

The stakes are enormous. Everything the client has achieved is on the line. A single misstep can send it all crashing down.

Hesitancy isn’t acceptable. Neither is guesswork or wishful thinking. Any of those would be slipshod. All would be disastrous.

Consider sweatshops. For decades, the issue has reared its head. Consumers expressed dismay, but it was always short-lived because they weren’t willing to forego bargain-basement prices for clothing and electronics.

Then came Bangladesh — the collapse of a massive garment factory into which worried workers were herded by bosses even after the building was declared unstable. More than 1,100 died. The enormity shocked the world.

It was no longer adequate to put Band-Aids on the problem. Manufacturers and retailers rushed to protect their reputations with consumers. H&M, the Swedish-based global  retail giant, got several other big Western companies to sign a binding agreement to improve working and factory-safety conditions in Bangladesh and elsewhere. Wal-Mart and GAP are pursuing their own pledges.

This was damage control in its purest form. In Crisis & Reputation Management, the rules are simple:

First, you must act quickly to control the situation, or else it will control you.

Second, you must “know” what will happen, not “hope” it will work out. Is what you say or do crystal clear — or could it be misinterpreted? Is it credible? How will the media perceive it? The public?


“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”

Gillott Communications is a Los Angeles-based public relations firm that specializes in high-stakes Crisis & Reputation Management. If you don’t already subscribe, please sign up for our blog Insights on High-Stakes PR. You can reach Roger Gillott directly at 310-826-8696.


3 thoughts on “No Margin for Error

  1. Good point. Companies need to realize there is no margin for error when it comes to crisis management. A company or organization has to move quickly and credibly to meet a crisis head on. If not, it may be too late.

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