Tag Archives: leadership

Spin is Dead. Long Live Crisis PR.

I must heap praise on my colleagues at Ketchum’s Global Corporate Practice for their insights made available through the 2013 Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor.  Apparently, there are nearly 70,000 books available on leadership.  Yet, their work supplies much-needed data on the role of communications in leadership.

The Monitor covers much ground, but here I will stick to my knitting and probe its crisis management implications.


 KLCM:  Leaders are continuing to underperform on the very behaviors viewed as the most important to effective leadership – open, transparent communication, leading by example, admitting mistakes and handling controversial issues calmly.

J.D.:  In other words – spin doesn’t work.  As the findings suggest, good crisis PR usually applies a healthy dose of openness, leadership, humility and confidence.


Continue reading Spin is Dead. Long Live Crisis PR.

Who Owns Crisis Management?

I hope this is an obvious point — reputation management is just one facet of broader strategic crisis management.

Communications pros play an important part in the broader system, along with those in business continuity planning (BCP, which is a focus on minimizing business disruption), risk management (often a combination of insurance, legal, regulatory and fiduciary risk), and incident/security management (typically a focus on environmental, health, safety and security risks).

Which discipline should supersede and own this process?   Well, none.

A company’s senior leadership is ultimately responsible for a crisis – they own the system, whether they like it or not.  Sadly, far too many of these leaders adopt crisis management systems that cover only one or some of these disciplines. Continue reading Who Owns Crisis Management?

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

Crisis Management: Mastery and Proficiency

A few weeks ago, I participated in a Ketchum leadership workshop where we probed dependent, independent and interdependent leadership styles.  Respectively, this can be defined most simply as “you do it,” “I’ll do it,” and “we’ll do it.”   Neat.  

During the session, I raised the following:  “It’s tough to lead others if you’re not recognized as having mastered something.  And mastery can only come when you’ve pushed through the complacency of just being proficient.”

Okay, so this wasn’t an entirely original thought.  Just a few hours before the session I happened to have read this Forbes’ article by Amity Shales, which contains this nugget:

(My father, Jared Shlaes…) gave the best career advice I’ve ever heard: There will come a moment when you are bored with an area of study and will want to try something new. But that boredom is the signal you’ve achieved mastery. You’ll be quitting at the moment when it’s most costly to do so. Only a mastered trade can be properly monetized.

How do these thoughts on mastery and proficiency apply to crisis management?  It gets back to a statement I’ve often made.  “It takes about 5-7 years to learn all of the rules of crisis management and the rest of your career to challenge every single one of those rules.”  You have to constantly challenge assumptions and look beyond the obvious to be a master of your craft.  (That’s why I and others strongly favor experienced crisis managers and teams over plans.)  

I’ve recently stumbled on other viewpoints complementary to this one: Continue reading Crisis Management: Mastery and Proficiency