MASTER OF DISASTER
When somebody else faces a crisis is someone else disaster , but when you face a crisis , it is a disaster that you must master .It's like Reagan said about the economy when running against Carter-- when your neighbor's out of work . it is a recession ; when you are out of work , it is a depression .
When coming up in politics , we were taught never to put anything in writing that you would not want to see in the front page of The New York Times . Well , today , you should not say or do anything - anything- that you would not want to see boiled down to a 140-characters teewter blasted for all the world to read .
The Clinton campaign's fundamental insight was that there were at least three news cycle a day - morning , day , and night . We no longer have conventional news cycles but cycles within cycles , where platforms like twitter , YouTube ,blogs , and Facebook are akin to the small wheels of a clock that turn the bigger wheels .
When you find yourself in a hole – you need to stop digging and start restoring the public trust .
The reality of life in the Information age is that ;
- To err is human
- Mistakes are made
- Crisis do happen
Therefore , when responding to a crisis , the mission is to restore trust .The tale of what you do to manage the crisis – and in particular , how fairly you are treated going forward by those audiences who will be judging you – is called “Damage Control”.
The operational steps you must execute in pursuit of the mission of restoring trust are what we call the Ten Commandments of Damage Control .
However , before you can most effective use the operational guide section of this book , it is vital to understand the principles that govern the Ten Commandments . These guiding principles of damage control do not exist in isolation . They are complementary , with one building upon the others .These principles are the foundational blocks upon which all of the Ten Commandments of Damage Control are built . Therefore , to apply the Ten Commandments , you first must understand these three principles .
Damage control imperative of not engaging in action that is going to make a bad situation worse .
The three Principles of Survival , which will determine whether or not one survives in such a threatening environment .
1 Do Not Harm
2 Take a Disciplined Approach
3 Preserve Your Credibility
A crisis is like a knife fight in a telephone booth .And to come out on top , you will need to become your own Master of Disaster when it comes to the art of damage control .
The first principle of survival of damage control .DO NOT HARM .Therefore , the first principle of damage control - the crisis management expert's equivalent to the physician's Hippocratic Oath - Do Not Harm .
Time after time , those who find themselves in a hole not only do not stop digging - they take actions that are equivalent of calling in the backhoe so they can dig even deeper hole for themselves .
In the immediate moment of a crisis , this Do Not Harm principle is typically undermine in one of three ways;
1- It wilts under the inevitable extreme external and internal pressures to chase the story and provide an instant response that proves to be unsustainable and detrimental .
2- It's overrun by the instictive reflex to spin the story in the best possible way.
3- It succumbs to the desire to lay the blame on others .
- DO NOT CHASE THE STORY.
When you are in the throes of a crisis it is critical to remember ;
" It is not about winning the news cycle , it is about winning the wars of the news story –and the war of the news story is won by rebuilding trust ."
Chasing the news is a futile effort , because in this day and age you simply will not catch the news .
In the moments after a crisis hits , it is very unlikely that you can ever be in a position to understand what truly happened , be in possession of all the facts , appreciate the motives of all the parties ,or be able to ascertain variables of which that you may not even be aware . Even in a situation where you think you have all the answers , it is usually the case that you do not .
Communicating in a way that makes it clear you are not engaged in spin will help to rebuild trust Recognize the value of transparency .Commit to openness when you have information that is ready to be released..You do not win through spin .
-DO NOT LAY THE BLAME ON OTHERS .
If you choose to play the blame game ;
-You inflict harm on yourself by trying to duck whatever role you may have had .
-You loose the opportunity to be perceived as honest ,
-And you inevitably pick up a fight with whomever you blamed .
But also , it is very possible that as part of rebuilding trust – and because real fault does not often lie with specific individuals – you will have to hold people fully accountable for their role in what happened .
This actions required ;
-You are clear in admitting an organization-wide mistake.
-The top of the organization takes personal responsibility in a meaningful way.
-You make clear that the company is taking actions designed to put the best interest of its customer first , above all else .
-You initiate a credible review process to understand how a company took a wrong direction.
-You do not shirk from a crisis but step in aggressively to take charge of a situation and hold yourself out as the accountable party to solve the problem .
-You take specific , detailed , sound , prophylactic actions base on internal investigations designed to make sure the problem does not happen again .
Following these approaches will provide a bulkward against judging too quickly and accusing too soon , and allow you to hold both the organization and specific individuals responsible in a manner that will contribute to the rebuilding of trust .
Discipline . When under attack , no matter how extreme the situation , you can never personalize the situation , but rather must be committed to a disciplined approach. Its not personal , Sonny .It’s strictly business .
When a crisis hits , the Do Not Harm principle should not be interpreted as a license to have no response .Discipline demands a commitment to three dictates ;
- Thinking Long Term
It is demonstrated that when under attack , no matter how extreme the situation , you can never personalize the situation , but rather must committed to a discipline approach. It is not personal , it is strictly business .
The Basic Crisis Preparation Steps
1- Know who will be the principal decision makers in your organization
2- Identify the key targeted internal and external audiences whit whom you will need to re-establish trust
3- Determine how will you communicate to these targeted audiences
4- Consider what it is that these audiences will care about and want to know
5- And most significantly , get out ahead of a crisis by creating strategic plans to rebuild trust that address possible likely scenarios
Mental Toughness .
In war there is a adage that the best of plans are only good until the first shot is fired – at which point the fog of war often leads to confusion and disarray .
Similarly is the fog of a crisis . No matter how discipline you have been preparing , once in the throes of the crisis , you will also need the discipline to exercise mental toughness , so as not to become confused and lose your way .
Clinton White House showed the mental toughness to exercise discipline to not provide answers to questions for which it did not yet have answers – but rather , the Clinton team simply made the records public ; explained the chain of custody from the moment they were discovered ; and then told the media and investigators that this was all that was known , and the White House was not going to speculate or offer answers it simply did not have .. The White House could have created the far bigger , far more problematic crisis of “ It’s the cover-up . not the crime “ if they had refused to turn over the files or had offered inaccurate responses .
The second way we often see discipline break down is in responding to a third party offering a possible explanation ( no matter how outrageous )and the target of the crisis loses their cool and takes the bait .
Preparation is the name of the game , and it does not matter whether you are big or small.
In the fog of a crisis , you need to keep wits about you by exercising mental toughness
Rehabilitation is not a sprint – it is a marathon : Think Long Term .
In a crisis , the commitment to the truth is communicated by whether you are doing everything you can to protect , preserve , and promote your credibility . Every word you utter , every statement you release , every step you take , every action you complete , every tactic you execute must first be evaluated through the prism of how impacts perception of your credibility .
When the crisis hits , before doing anything , make sure you put your response to the test ; Does it bolster or degrade your credibility ?
Manage Expectations .
When confronting a crisis you can bolster your credibility and begin reestablish trust by earning credibility points when you manage expectations .
To successfully manage expectations you will need to ;
- Determine what information you control , how you can release it , and when you will be in a position to release it .
- Set the expectations with your targeted audience to what you know you will be able to deliver
- Meet or exceed those expectations .To do so you will need to put in place a process that allows you to get ahead of the story as it relates to controlling when information becomes available to your target audiences and how it is released .
- - And while doing the above , avoid over-promising and under-delivering.
The “Credibility Principle” is a key pillar of damage control , and you buster your credibility by;
-Understanding that accurate information is the coin of realm
-Controlling the flow of information
In a crisis , information must be deployed to ensure your key audiences will be fair when it comes to evaluating you in terms of what when wrong and why .To be in the best possible position to get a fair shake, you need to considered how to control the flow of information through the use of a “pivot-point” , so the information is released at the right time , and in the right way , and to the maximum effect when it comes to your credibility . And in turn , that credibility can be deployed to rebuild trust . If you are in a position to control the flow of information , you can establish credibility on key elements of the crisis , and then push off from it to significantly alter the course of the story .
- the timely release of good information can kill bad information.
- the smart dissemination of quality information can provide valuable context that bolster your credibility as well as being an intriguing hook to get key audiences to take a second look at the situation.
- putting out facts to which only you have access can increase your credibility .
A "pivot point" is intended to draw a bright line between the past and the future and change the course of the story .The pivot can alter how you are perceived , and how others in the crisis are viewed when it comes to credibility .And a successfully executed pivot point can fundamentally change the course or direction of a story .
Successfully finding and executing a decisive pivot point will often provide with the reason to upend previously settled views .
Successful pivots have these important characteristics in common ;
- The decision to make the pivot must come from the top
- -the pivot must be embraced by the entire organization
- - the pivot itself must be clear and unambiguous
- - the pivot must consist of more than words.
Pivot points can be executed in a number of ways;
- A comprehensive and self-critical report
- Management changes at the top of an organization
- An apology
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF CRISIS CONTROL
1- Full Disclosure .
Everything can and will come out .The issue is not if it will come out , but when it will come out , how long it will take to come out , who will put it out , and the greater damage that will be done if inevitable disclosure is not controlled by putting it out on your terms , with your context , and at the time of your choosing .
Full disclosure allows you to be ahead of the story.There is a reason why this is our first commandment . It’s the first step on the road to recovery . Effective damage control is built on the recognition that everything can and will come out .
To respect the first commandment ,follow this steps ;
- he or she who disclose first wins.
- give the whole story and nothing but the whole story.
- use full disclosure as a shield and a sword.
2- Speak to your Core Audience
By explicitly identifying your core audience , you can best determine what information they want to receive , while avoiding communicating unwanted information that would do more harm than good .Know how your core audiences receive their information and align your communication channels appropriately . Effectively targeting your core audience with the most reliable messenger will also support your efforts to rebuild credibility and trust by keeping you focused on directing the right information to the right people .
To respect the second commandment ,follow these steps ;
.identify the bulls-eye
.provide five star concierge service
.understand that communication start at the top .
3- Do not Feed the Fire .
Do not allow the pressure of the situation to result in taking actions that feed the fire and increase the harm . Instead , exercise discipline to determine what it is you should do , and what it is you should not do , to stop the fire from spreading .Extinguish the fire by using good facts to promote your credibility and smother bad facts ,which, in turn , will facilitate the rebuilding of trust
Once you are in the throes of a crisis , you cannot duck , dodge , or bob and weave. Disclosure to your audience is most effective when you admit your mistakes quickly .
The more time it takes to admit your mistakes , the more harm you will do .
The longer it takes you to get to the bottom line , the longer you will be in crisis .
And the harder you push back against those empowered by the public to review your actions , the harder it will be to establish the credibility you will need to rebuild trust with your target audiences .
When hit with a crisis , you need to determine What is the bottom line ? , What is it that I can say that will not implode , explode ,evolve , shift . or be effectively challenged over time ? ,Even a minimalist statement that appears substantive by using the right words without any real substance is a better approach than an explanation that will not hold , or that appears to be tone deaf .A minimal and effective approach might have been “ We are aware of the issues and are cooperating fully with the authorities , our first priority is the safety of our customers . Once we learn more we will make that information public .”
Operate to cooperate with any entity that is empowered tor responsible for reviewing or investigating the matter .We also know that too often entities point to legal exposure as a basis for not cooperating when , in fact , it is often possible to work with the lawyers to find a way to cooperate that protects your credibility as well as your legal flank .
In a crisis , refusing to communicate at all is guaranteed to create a “ failure to communicate” and can prevent you from exercising damage control .
To respect to the third commandment , follow these steps;
- if the mistake fits , be quick to admit it.
- know your bottom line and avoid drawing hard and fast lines
- operate to cooperate.
4- Details Matter.
In a crisis , whether or not you have a grasp on the details can be the difference between losing or gaining control of the story . You must have the discipline to have fully considered the situation , anticipated questions , and be prepared to address the details - because the failure to master the details can create discrepancies between answers provided and the actual facts - and the smallest discrepancy will be magnified into a major inconsistency and expose you to more harm . Demonstrating a complete handle on the details will promote your credibility and convey that you are trustworthy .
Finally , consider your body language . If you are not guilty , donot act guilty .Those soliciting information often try to read your body language to get a sense of whether you may- or may not- be a player in the crisis .
In any crisis - like it or not – you will get your close-up. There will be a swirl of activitiey – some of it not very pleasant- but you will have a goal of establishing that you are trustworthy. And the way to reach that goal is to keep your discipline , do your homr work , show the world you can be trusted , and always nail the details . They really matter – and how you handle the details makes all the difference.
To respect the fourth commandment , follow these steps;
-deploy good facts to beat the bad facts
-do your home work
-meet the burden of proof.
5- Hold your Head High .
A crisis will almost inevitably involve negative information that will be highly unflattering , but donot be so embarrassed that you do yourself even more harm by disclosing the fundamental basis of the crisis while withholding specific unflattering information . The unflattering information will inevitably become public and will take on more importance than it might otherwise warrant . Having the discipline to put out even the most embarrassing information , and then leveraging the act of putting out the unflattering information to bolster your credibility bona fides , puts you in a position to move on and re-establish trust .
Putting the information out , especially the most unflattering , most embarrassing , or most negative facts , allows you to pop the ballon to inflate your credibility .The mere act of putting out bad information communicates to your key audiences that you are dealing with the matter in a credible way , and further demonstrates that there is unlikely to be more information being held back or covered up . While your core audiences may not like what you are admitting , you are none theless conveying your commitment to , and interest in , restoring the public trust bu being upfront , straightforward , and honest .
To respect the fifth commandment , follow these steos:
- do not turn a mountain of as crisis into a Mount Everest of crisis
- once answered , do not deviate from your answer
- pop the balloon to inflate your credibility
6- Be Straight about what you know , what you donot know , and what you are going to do to fix the problem .
To limit the harm caused by a problem , provide only accurate information at the time the information is secured and avoid speculation , guesswork , or unproven hypotheses . Maintain discipline and be clear in distinguishing between what you know and what you do not know . Most importantly , when the answers are not known , establish credibility by explaining what you will do to make sure the problem is fixed , and then execute the plan .
In a crisis where you do not have the answers- and are being clear that you do not have the answers – you must identify how you plan to secure the answers .
Your core audience will understand the challenges of getting accurate ihformation , but their appetite will need to be satiated with details of the process you are using to obtain the information .
Therefore , when the answers are not available , identify a process to serve as a safe haven while you get the information and fix the problem .
Feed the beast .
In the opening moments of a crisis , your core audiences is going to be looking for information .They are like ravenous beast eating up everything that comes their way . And , frequently , in this moment , you simply are not in a place where you can get your hands around the issue and provide the information in a way you are confident will stand the test of time , giving the coming scrutiny . As such a moment there are good ways to feed the beast and there are bad ways to feed the beast .
Donot be the smarter person in the room .
In a crisis , provide a substantive answer to a question unless the answer is already confirmed .Human nature is such that there is a desire to provide information in the face of a challenging situation . Some people seek ways to shirk being held accountable . Othersfeel compelled to offer explanations . Thare are even those who want to take full responsibility – even if the facts are not yet known. And there are those who believe they are back in school and need to provide an answer to every question . In a crisis , have the discipline to avoid trying to be the smartest person in the room .A passing grade in damage control does not go to the person who answer s tha most questions but to the person who provides answers only to those questions to which they know the answer.
Demonstrate a seriousness of purpose .
In a crisis , your core audience especially wants to see that you understand the gravity of the situation and are committed to fixing the problem .
When making clear that you recognize there is indeed a problem , and you have established a process to fix the problem – you must demonstrate a seriousness of purpose .Your core audiences will be looking for tangible proof that you are taking action to address the issue .I cannot be a white wash. You can’t just check the box . Donot think people will just forget about it .
To respect the sixth commandment , follow these three steps :
feed the beast
avoid trying to be the smartest person in the room
demonstrate seriousness of purpose
7-Respond with Overwhelming Force .
Identify and stick to one bottom-line message in order to avoid doing more harm by confusing your core audience with different , multiple , or inconsistent communications . Be highly discipline in reinforcing and repeating the bottom line in every way possible , at every moment possible , through everybody possible , and everywhere possible . An organization-wide commitment to delivering a bottom-line message will enhance credibility over the long term by consistently communicating to the core audience accurate information and , in turn , contribute to the building of trust .
respond with overwhelming force
identify the bottom line
show message discipline
make sure everybody is singing off the same sheet of music
8- First in , First out .
Minimize the harm posed by the crisis through controlling the flow of information in order to transition out as a featured player in the storyline as quicly as possible . As there are often multiple other actors in a crisis that can become the "stars" of the scandal , have the discipline to execute actions designed to limit your time in the spot light . Minimizing your exposure to the spotlight will avoid protacted scrutiny and facilitate the building of credibility . And when you are not on stage performing a solo , it is easier to rebuild trust .
- make the isue bigger than just you
move on , it's old news
avoid creating a multiple-front war
In situations where there is a self-interested person or entity responsible for a crisis becoming public or pushing the story of the crisis , the harm can be limited by exposing the entity and their self interested agenda . A disciplined focus is needed to document and then reveal the unclean hands of such parties . One's own credibility can be enhanced by exposing that those behind a crisis have ulterior motives .
expose the hidden hands
no free layups
make the truth clear for all to see
10- They dissemble , You destroy .
Fight back when the opposition dissembles-- it will mitigate additional harm by shifting attention away from you and onto those who have prevaricated .In seizing upon your opponent's discrepancy , you must have the discipline to focus like a laser on the specific , provable inaccuracy , which in turn will allow you to change the storyline by calling into question all of their representations . By showing your opponents have engaged in a misrepresentation , you will undermine their credibility and , in turn , create a favorable compare-and-contrast dynamic with your own credibility .
- seize on a discrepancy
focus laser-like on a provable misrepresentation
pick a fight with the right enemy in the right way