Tag Archives: crisis management mindset

Two sets of keys for crisis communications

Bill SalvinFellow blogger and crisis manager, Bill Salvin, recently posted on three keys for crisis communications in the digital age.  The keys he shares are honesty, speed and images.

Here are excerpts from each key:

Honesty:  Let everyone on your team know that your integrity is the most valuable commodity you have in a crisis and it must not be compromised.

Speed:  The dynamics of a crisis can change based on external events. Once identified, empower your team to make the tactical decisions required to communicate events as they unfold.

Images:  People believe what they see over what they hear. You can have great talking points and a great spokesperson destroyed because the words are out of sync with the images coming from the scene.

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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.

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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.

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Tourism Pro Questions on Crisis Management

Recently, I led a breakout session at the Florida Governor’s Conference on Tourism.   My topic was “effective crisis management foundations” – a condensed version of a training program that we’ve built at Ketchum.  It’s our belief that you cannot have strong crisis management approaches, nor plans or systems, without the foundation of a strong crisis management leader.   SALES PITCH:  If you’re ever interested in learning more about this leadership training opportunity from Ketchum, drop me a line. 

During the Q&A session, the tourism pros asked questions that may yield lessons for others, so I’ve captured those here.  Disclaimer:  Everything below is paraphrased from memory, since I couldn’t take notes during the session. 


Q:   When an organization faces a determined critic, when should criticisms be ignored, and when is it time to address the critic? 

A:    This is difficult to answer specifically because so many factors need to be considered.  However, in general, begin by analyzing the critic…and the criticisms.  Is the critic credible to your audiences that matter?  Is the critic making an impact on your business?  How much traction might the critic or criticisms gain through social media?  Are the criticisms easy to defend, or do they require deeper explanation?  If the latter, is there a way to tell your side of the story in a compelling way?  These are just starter questions, of course – there are many more factors to consider before “getting down in the mud,” if required. 

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Where were the paid pessimists?

About a decade ago, I stopped getting invites to brand marketing and promotions brainstorms.  I suppose there’s concern that I’ll dump a bucket of cold water over any creative idea before it’s fully blossomed when that germ of an idea could lead to reputation damage for a client.  

“There’s no such thing as a bad idea in a branstorm,” the old saw goes.  Okay.  But what of the bad ideas that come out of a brainstorm?  A recent example:  

Source: AFP

Parachuting donkey advertisers face jail 

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