Everything Looks Like a Nail

Always prepare for the worst. If it happens, it's less painful.

Always prepare for the worst.
If it happens, it’s less painful.

“If you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” It’s a concept familiar to every schoolboy. If you’re only looking for one thing, that’s what you will find — every time.

Take lawyers. Whatever happens, they see potential legal downsides. Or risk managers who wring their hands endlessly about possible threats. Or profit-improvement advisers who look at business plans and see only where they fall short.

It’s the same with those who do Crisis & Reputation Management. Their first instinct is to suspect the worst.

Consider these examples:

  • A client we steered unscathed through an embarrassing situation received an anxious call from a reporter who wouldn’t tell the secretary what he was calling about.
  • A senior person left an organization soon after joining, citing “personal and professional” reasons, and others soon followed him out the door.

Were both incidents innocuous? Or did they hint at deeper issues that might be harmful?

Presume the latter, and plan for it. Complacency isn’t an option. That’s how things slip by.

The Crisis PR person is continually running what-if scenarios, because it’s better to pre-empt problems than scramble to patch them after the fact. Hopefully they will never come to pass. But it’s the PR person’s job to worry, so clients won’t have to. That’s what he’s paid for.

A lawyer who frequently finds himself in the same boat put it well, explaining to a roomful of businessmen: “Sometimes it’s best when nothing happens.” Amen to that.

But even in the best of worlds, problems do arise. A business dispute goes public. Disgruntled former employees sue you. Activists claim your pet project will cause environmental damage and seek to shut it down. A male executive is having sex and sharing secrets with a female subordinate — or vice versa.

Always anticipate the worst and prepare it. If it does happen, it will pass more quickly and with less pain.


“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”

Gillott Communications is a Strategic PR firm. We’re Fixers. Crisis & Reputation Management. Litigation. Media Relations. Crisis Preparation & Training. You can reach Roger Gillott directly at 310-826-8696.

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For a deeper glimpse into our world, see our book on Amazon, “A Lawyer’s Guide to Crisis PR: Protecting Your Clients In & From the Media.”

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net



2 thoughts on “Everything Looks Like a Nail

  1. Roger:

    My version of this truism, developed in response to fellow Provisors’ member use of it for family-law lawyer-bashing:

    “”To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. To a man who has tried to drive a screw with a hammer, a hammer looks less useful. Sometimes, however, you will actually encounter a nail, and if you try to drive it with a screwdriver, you’ll be equally unsuccessful. A good lawyer has a hammer AND a screwdriver, AND the ability to recognize which one is needed, when!”




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  2. Pingback: Wall of Worry | Gillott Communications | Protecting Your Reputation

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