Category: Panel Discussions

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If You’re In a Pothole, Don’t Dig A Sinkhole! | Crisis Communications

You’ve probably heard this classic crisis communications chestnut: “If you’re in a hole, stop digging.”

Put another way, if you’ve already driven into a bumpy pothole, you must avoid turning it into a massive sinkhole that swallows your reputation.

Every crisis is different, but I’ve repeatedly seen certain patterns play out that unnecessarily turn potholes into sinkholes. This post breaks down five of the most common—and while some of these crises began as something much larger than a pothole, they were made that much worse by a bad response.

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“This Is Us” Actor Sparks A Fat Suit Controversy

On Tuesday nights, my wife and I look forward to NBC’s This Is Us, a tenderly written drama that tells one family’s story over two generations.

One of the most lovable characters is Toby (Chris Sullivan), who plays the partner to one of the family’s three siblings. If you haven’t seen the show, it’s relevant to note that both characters are overweight—and their struggles with weight make up a big part of their characters’ narratives.

When some fans learned that Sullivan wears a “fat suit,” a mini social media storm ensued. In this post, I look at four of his media messages in response: three good, one bad.

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Joel Osteen’s Hurricane Response: Days Late And Dollars Short

It’s an indelible image: the wealthy televangelist who fleeces parishioners with an inspiring message while emptying their pockets. Anyone who remembers Jimmy Swaggart tearfully confessing to his sins or Jim Bakker’s scandalous affair has seen a pious religious leader who wasn’t everything they presented themselves to be.

Fairly or not, critics of Joel Osteen—the Houston-based senior pastor of Lakewood Church—accused him of matching that archetype earlier this week for his apparent reluctance to immediately house victims of Hurricane Harvey. Here’s where he went wrong.

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Why Ryan Lochte’s Apology Was A Belly Flop

Last weekend, Ryan Lochte—the 12-time Olympic swimming medalist—claimed he was robbed at gunpoint.

Brazilian authorities quickly determined that Lochte had fabricated most of the story, embarrassing the host nation and taking attention away from the accomplishments of his fellow athletes.

He finally issued an apology. It was a belly flop that took only partial responsibility and rang of insincerity.

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A Soccer Star, A Drunk Driving Arrest, And A Perfect Apology

Abby Wambach, the U.S. soccer star who won two Olympic gold medals and helped her team win the 2015 FIFA World Cup, was arrested for driving under the influence on Saturday night after running a red light in Portland, Oregon.

Her apology stood out to me as a case study for exactly what to say when things go wrong. She acted swiftly, took an unequivocal claim of responsibility, and pledged to make sure this never happened again.

She deserves credit for at least not compounding her first bad decision with a second one.

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“American Pie” Singer Is Neither A Villain Nor A Monster

Don McLean, the singer-songwriter best known for his 1971 hit “American Pie,” was arrested last week on a domestic assault charge.

Last Thursday, he released the following statement: “This last year and especially now have been hard emotional times for my wife my children and me. What is occurring is the very painful breakdown of an almost 30 year relationship…There are no winners or losers but I am not a villain.”

As soon as I read the phrase, “I am not a villain,” I knew that unfortunate word ‘villain’ would find its way into headlines—and it did.

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Is Volkswagen’s CEO Following BP’s Disastrous Playbook?

It’s almost as if Volkswagen CEO Matthias Müller studied the performance of infamous BP CEO Tony “I’d like my life back” Hayward and said, “Yes, that’s how I’d like to respond to our own company’s crisis.”

VW, which is in the midst of an emissions-rigging scandal affecting millions of vehicles, has been accused by regulators of intentionally programming its engines to fool laboratory emissions tests. When asked whether his company had an ethical problem, he responded, “It was an ethical problem? I cannot understand why you say that.”

It gets worse.

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Should Subway Ever Have Used Jared As Its Star Spokesman?

Last week, Subway spokesman Jared Fogle admitted to having sex with minors and engaging in child pornography.

In light of his admission, many communications and marketing professionals are questioning the wisdom of putting a multi-billion dollar brand identity into the hands of one person. After all, there’s a reason why McDonald’s and Burger King use fictional characters instead of real people as their brand mascots.

Are they right? Or was the “Jared” campaign a good idea?

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