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Masters of Disaster by Christopher Lehane, Mark Fabiani and Bill Guttentag

This article was inspired by Christopher Lehane, Mark Fabiani and Bill Guttentag's Masters of Disaster . If you enjoy this article then consider purchasing or borrowing the book.

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How to be an Expert at Damage Control

“A crisis doesn’t have to be the make-or-break moment of your career.”

In an information age, a scandal can have worldwide consequences instantaneously. More individuals and organizations fail to address scandals correctly than incorrectly. When in a crisis, remember these three tips:

  1. Don’t shift the blame and don’t lie about what happened.
  2. Have a plan for such a situation before hand. Think about the long-term effects of this crisis, but don’t allow yourself to panic. Stay disciplined.
  3. Try to quickly release “good information.” Present the public with the truth and let them decide their opinions about it.

After a crisis has already affected you or your organization, control the damage by following these ten recommendations:

  1. “Full Disclosure” – Take responsibility for your actions and realize that word of this scandal will get out eventually. Release the information yourself immediately, and give people the complete story upfront. Adding new details to the picture overtime is detrimental.
  2. “Speak to Your Core Audience” – Address those who are the most the most important (have the most power over you) first, and keep them informed throughout the course of disclosure.
  3. “Don’t Feed the Fire” – Don’t lie! Toyota was the world’s top ranked car company, but the incident in 2010 changed that. If this company hadn’t sent a dishonest “no defects” letter to consumers, the scandal’s damage wouldn’t have been as bad.
  4. “Details Matter” – Expect all manner of questions from the media, so that you can ensure that there isn’t a discrepancy between your claims and the actual facts surrounding the crisis. Report “good facts” in order to keep peoples’ minds off the “bad facts.”
  5. “Hold Your Head High” – Release your information win it is likely to be ignored, but when you do so, tell the complete story. Withholding information will only worsen the problem. Present yourself as unashamed and not as someone who is embarrassed.
  6. “Be Straight” – Assume the media will do everything possible to destroy you. Don’t engage the media in uncivil arguments. Know the answer to any question you might be asked.
  7. “Respond with Overwhelming Force” – Create a statement targeted at your core audience and stick to this statement even in the face of media trickery. Brief everyone in your company on the official story and make sure they use it.
  8. “First In, First Out” – Do your best to control the flow of information, but keep yourself out of the spotlight as much as possible. If someone else or some other company can be thrown into the spotlight instead, put them out in the open.
  9. “No Swiftboating” – When your opposition inevitably tries to ruin you, shift the attention from yourself to their behavior. The Republican sponsored Swift Boat Veterans for Truth attacked John Kerry’s war record in the 2004 election, but he took too long to respond.
  10. “They Dissemble, You Destroy” – Any misrepresentation of you or your company should be used to your advantage. Use your rival’s mistakes to ruin their credibility.

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