Category Archives: crisis response

Are you an “expert” crisis counselor?

Recently, I guest lectured at UNC Charlotte, where the students continue to ask great questions, including:  “At what point in your career do you know you’re a crisis management expert?  When you know that your counsel is right?”

My stock answer: “I don’t have all the answers, but I’m pretty confident that I’ll make a good case for my counsel and that I’ll ask all the right questions.  That’s why I can say I’m an expert.”

Allow me to expand on that:

I don’t think any experienced crisis counselor can suggest they have all the answers to every situation.  There are too many judgment calls that need to be made, based only on information that is available at any given time.  The best of the best can be fairly confident that they’re providing the best possible counsel.  That doesn’t mean the counsel is always right.

Continue reading Are you an “expert” crisis counselor?

More Qantas/Rolls-Royce problems; more Jaques’ perspectives

Last November, Qantas was thrust into the spotlight for an emergency landing seemingly caused by one of its Rolls-Royce engines.  Recently, the airline has faced a few more incidents involving Rolls-Royce engines. 

Once again, I reached out to Australian blogger and crisis management expert Tony Jaques for more perspectives on the situation.  Following is a summary of our dialogue:

J.D.:  What is the media/public sentiment in Australia right now — any scrutiny pointed at the airline or the engine manufacturer?  Any notable public anger or fear of flying?

Continue reading More Qantas/Rolls-Royce problems; more Jaques’ perspectives

Buffett makes good

Like many, I was a little surprised by the initial under-reaction of Warren Buffett’s response to the David Sokol resignation.  In case you missed the full story, Sokol personally bought a boatload of shares of a company that he soon recommended get acquired by Berkshire Hathaway. 

Buffett responded with a rather vanilla quote in the initial press release:  “Neither Dave nor I feel his Lubrizol purchases were in any way unlawful.”  

Quite a flaccid response from the man who once reportedly opined: “Lose money for the firm and I will be understanding; lose a shred of reputation for the firm, and I will be ruthless.”

However, rather than rush to WordPress with a damning blog post, I decided to wait until more facts were made public.  On Monday, an article by Andrew Ross Sorkin restored some of my faith in the Oracle of Omaha.

Continue reading Buffett makes good

Deepwater Horizon: The Video (poll)

All crisis management pros and enthusiasts should take the time to watch the 20 minute video by BP, entitled BP:  A Year of Change

Regardless of whether the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico turned you into a BP detractor, supporter or somewhere in-between, the video will likely spur some opinions, questions and debate.  Was producing this video a wise move by BP?  Does it put the crisis – and the crisis response – into context?  Does it misrepresent any of the events or actions?

I have offered my opinions on the Deepwater Horizon situation in the past and I certainly have my opinions on this video.  However, I’m more interested in generating dialogue and debate through this blog post. 

Please take the poll and use the comments section below to share your thoughts after watching the video.



Presidential leadership lessons for crisis managers

Ketchum Partner (and my boss) Nick Ragone recently launched his fourth book, Presidential Leadership:  15 Decisions That Changed the Nation

Among those fifteen decisions, there are five lessons that are particularly relevant for crisis managers:

1)  Get out ahead of an issue.  Nick focuses on President FDR’s mission to move the United States from an isolationist to interventionalist nation to provide counterbalance as the threat of war became more evident.  FDR addressed the nation early and often to emphasize the possibility and importance of U.S. involvement – a wise foundation to set prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. 

  • Many organizations can begin to address emerging threats before they occur.  Set foundations for employees or address industry issues in advance of flashpoints.  These actions can help provide focus and context for an organization’s mission, should a crisis occur.


2)  Evolve thinking over time.  Nick’s chapter that focuses on the Civil War shows how President Lincoln evolved from a Unionist to adopt a greater mission for the good of the nation. 

  • Great crisis managers can learn from this.  It is important to properly “define the problem” in the early stages of a crisis.  However, it’s equally important to continually evaluate factors and re-define the problem and calibrate the approach to how a crisis is managed over time.

  Continue reading Presidential leadership lessons for crisis managers