Fallston Group, the Baltimore-based, global reputation agency, is celebrating its tenth year of building, strengthening and defending reputations. Outside of highlighting the basics – operating with integrity, taking responsibility and being decisive – chief executive Rob Weinhold offers his top 10, in-depth pieces of advice to successfully manage a crisis based on decades of experience helping people during their most difficult times:
- Be predictive. Organizations must be predictive and create organizational muscle memory through extensive assessment, policy development and training. Organizations who evaluate their company-based and industry threats cycle through crisis more quickly and are bigger, faster, stronger after their defining moment.
- Tell your story. If you don’t tell your story, someone else will. And, if someone else tells your story, it certainly won’t be the story you want told. A crisis rarely “goes away” – be transparent and get in front of the media and general public versus refusing to comment. The ability to tell your story is your most important growth strategy.
- Find the points of leverage. Understanding what motivates all parties involved in crisis will drive outcomes, and a win-win, if possible. This sounds simple, but it’s not. There are always points of leverage in an adversarial situation – find them and focus.
- Know what motivates people who behave badly. The five core primal drivers I’ve observed include power, control, money, sex and revenge. Be wary of people who are strictly motivated by one or more of these drivers. Or, use it to your advantage.
- Reframe your public remarks, if misunderstood. Every single person I know has at some point misspoken or has not articulated a point in an optimal manner – reframe vs. denying, debating or being offended. Remember, the general public, not a reporter, is the ultimate consumer of the information you are attempting to convey. Above all else, the most important message is the message received.
- Admit you are in crisis and connect to your trusted advisors. Most people don’t want to admit they are in crisis and steadily losing control – do this quickly as your window of opportunity will close quickly. Whether your personal obstacle is ego, complacency, embarrassment or uncertainty, get over it. Admit you are in need and seek the opinion of those you trust. Remember: tired + wired = fired! Spread the pain to those who are cerebral, not emotional.
- Command the facts. Too many times professionals make rash decisions and jump out on camera with either no substantive information or rely solely on the “I can’t comment on that” or “I don’t have that information” phraseology. Bottom line: if you decide to publicly address a crisis, have something important to say – and maintain a strong command of the facts.
- Remove the opportunists. I’ve seen it over and over again. When a leader is in trouble or wobbling due to crisis, there are very few who maintain a strong sense of loyalty to the one they serve while many others remain silent or work covertly to push the leader out the door, hoping they can sit in the big chair one day soon. When you are embroiled in crisis, it can be a very lonely, thankless road – you become a perceived liability to others who are not willing to embrace the risk, even though you may be 100% right. The DNA of the opportunist is such that their loyalty is stalwart as long as it is politically expedient to do so and ultimately advantages them and their careers. These are the wolves in sheep’s clothing. Find out who the wolves are and remove them – they are only there to facilitate your demise.
- Be direct. There is a tendency to soften words or not be direct with ominous news. While initially shocking, people prefer the bottom line right away. I call this bad habit “circling the messaging runway” vs. “landing the plane.” Do not circle the runway with negative or emergent news; immediately tell people what is going on. You will earn their confidence and trust more quickly.
- Have faith in a higher being or larger purpose. When a person is on the brink of or embroiled in crisis, keenly focusing on taking care of one’s mind, body and spirit is critically important. Spirit, in particular, becomes even more essential when people feel they’ve lost control of a situation. I’ve worked with many troubled leaders where their renewed sense of spirituality, or belief in a larger purpose, helped them navigate their storm.
To learn more about Fallston Group’s anniversary and services, visit www.fallstongroup.com/anniversary.