Looking the Other Way

It’s a problem as old as time: People feel they’re entitled and aren’t subject to the same rules as the rest of us. Often it’s celebrities, the wealthy, and the politically prominent. Some parents jokingly argue their Millennial children fall into this category as well. It’s also true of those who attract major donors. Serious…

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…

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…

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…

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,…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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 —…

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…

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.…

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,…

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.…

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…

Size Matters. So Does Foresight.

FedEx made it clear this week, and UPS is expected to follow suit: Size matters. Delivery costs will be based on bulkiness, not just weight. Prices will rise for one-third of all packages. The decision sent tremors through the e-commerce industry. Suddenly it will be costlier to send everyday items that have become staples for…

Fast Is Good

Fast-acting isn’t beneficial only for Alka-Seltzer, Advil and diet plans. It’s also a basic rule for Crisis & Reputation Management. Nip the issue in the bud quickly, or you’re in for a long and painful slog in the pitiless glare of the media and public. It also lets you short-circuit potentially detrimental speculation. But timing…

Blame Game, Again

Blame is a subject we all deal with frequently. We hate taking responsibility. It’s always someone else’s fault — the airline that gets your seat wrong, the server who brings you a different meal than you think you ordered, the insurer’s computer that gets your coverage confused. On a larger scale, GM and Toyota for…

Last to Know. First to Go.

Historically, this one-liner was applied to basic PR people —  those who do marketing or general communications. They are routinely kept outside the inner circle. It’s a matter of need to know, and they don’t. What’s more, they’re considered expendable. But it pre-dates the rise of Crisis & Reputation Management — the realization that sensitive…

Affluence Made Me Do It

Justice for the super-rich is different from justice for the rest of us. Always has been. Always will be. They can afford to buy the best legal defense to insulate them. That’s why Wall Street banks, hedge funds and financiers historically paid nominal fines and rarely admitted wrongdoing. Only since the economic crash of 2009…

Battle of the Anecdotes

Anecdotes are an effective way to tell a story. We all use them every day, some better than others. Politicians. Preachers. Lawyers. Business “rainmakers.” They are among the best. Already know the conclusion you want to lead your listeners to? Plenty of examples to choose from to get you there. Some facts may actually be…

Gerrymandering the Mind

  “I don’t judge wine from a technical point of view, but from the pleasure it gives me,” Italian connoisseur Luca Maroni wrote in bestowing a near-perfect rating on an uncommon wine. That attitude works well for subjective things such as wine or music or movies, where “I know what I like” is the ultimate…

Felony Stupidity

If stupidity were a crime, our jails would be a lot more crowded than they are. Of course, we’re referring to things people do and say, not to the individuals themselves. These folks may be otherwise intelligent. From the perspective of Crisis PR, they’re either getting bad advice. Getting good advice and ignoring it. Or…

Everything’s Apocryphal

“Most history is guessing, and the rest is prejudice.”    ~ Will Durant, 20th century American philosopher & historian The same is true with the news of the day. In the best of times, it’s hard to get a straight story. It’s even more difficult when commentators pose as journalists and facts are inconveniences to…

Just a Little Bit Pregnant

The higher people are in business or social circles, the more they believe they can get away with. It’s hubris, writ large. When Scott London, a top Southern California partner of the global audit firm KPMG was feeding inside information to a golfing buddy, he reportedly reassured his friend not to worry — the amounts…

Cleaning House

Penn State got it right. Rutgers didn’t. Amid a sex-with-boys scandal involving assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, Penn State’s Board of Trustees took no prisoners. They fired everyone in the chain of command, from popular head football coach Joe Paterno, up through the bureaucracy to the university’s president. The rationale was simple: If they knew, they…

Election Edition: Wishful Thinking & Talking Heads

The two most influential newspapers in the country — the New York Times and Wall Street Journal — couldn’t have disagreed more. (I’m referring to their supposedly unbiased news columns, not their expectedly biased editorial/opinion pages.) Two days before the presidential election, both carried online maps breaking down their estimates of the Electoral College vote…

Memory Fades. The Internet Is Forever.

Truth is an early casualty in any dispute. Presidential campaigns are the worst. Half-truths are bad enough, but even they quickly give way to cavalier distortions and outright lies. People’s memories are notoriously short. Even when events and statements are remembered, they are softened  and reinterpreted by time and beliefs. Historically, this has allowed opposing…

Too Much Ado

Gimme a break! The flap about Chick-fil-A is much noise with little substance. Were comments by Dan Cathy, the company’s president and CEO, retrograde to a darker period of social development? Yes. Does he have the right to express his beliefs? Absolutely. Should government limit the restaurant’s ability to do business because his beliefs are…