Make the Problem Go Away.
Crisis is an opportunity for regulators looking for message cases; interest groups vying for causes; ambitious politicians looking for platforms; attorneys generals aspiring to be governors; activists investors looking for leverage; plaintiffs lawyers harvesting class litigants; and journalists competing for eyeballs. If you are really unlucky, you will get all of these adversaries in succession.
To make a crisis go away, reduce exposure and rehabilitate reputation, you have to be able to anticipate what’s next. You must understand what is causing the underlying problem and how to fix it. It’s not simply about message points and reporter contacts, but about understanding adversaries and what makes them tick. It’s about how information is shared, leaked, and escalated. It’s about what short term sacrifice will make the story go away and preserve value and reputation. What exactly is behind the campaign to cause disruption? If you don’t know that, you’re guessing.
Rebuild the Reputation.
Most crises present opportunities to show courage and leadership, fix the problem, re-earn trust and rehabilitate and even accentuate reputation. But they require solid intelligence, proper timing, a deft understanding of political machinations, and the echo chamber to write the first draft of history.
A good crisis should never be wasted. Once the wound is cauterized, rebuild the reputation and accelerate brand and share value. Johnson & Johnson built a veritable shield against treacherous news through heroic leadership and transparency they showed in the Tylenol cyanide crisis. Because their actions spoke of “putting customer safety ahead of profits,” it bought them three full decades of trust and value.
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