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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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How To Win When You’re Ranked Dead Last

I often get emails from readers saying something like this: “I know you post a lot of media disasters. Do you have a good example of a spokesperson doing things right?”

We’ve posted many good interviews through the years—but since there’s such interest in the topic, I wanted to post one of my favorites, a May 2013 interview with Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza.

At the time, his airline had been ranked last in customer satisfaction by Consumer Reports. Few executives want to go on television to defend such a dismal ranking—but Baldanza appeared energized by the challenge.

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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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Is It A Bad Idea To Delete An Offensive Tweet?

A public relations professional recently argued that people who tweet something offensive shouldn’t delete it.

Deleting the offensive tweet doesn’t make it go away, he argued, and sometimes the fact that a person deleted it only makes the story bigger.

That may be true, but I disagree. Deleting offensive tweets makes sense for several reasons. But there’s one mandatory step people must take before pressing the “delete” key.

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No, No, No: This Is Not How You Handle A Media Ambush

Last week, PR Daily and PR Newser covered the story of a St. Louis public information officer named Melanie Streeper, who attempted to thwart a reporter from interviewing her boss by shouting “No, no no!” repeatedly, as cameras rolled.

Local reporter Elliott Davis wanted to ask St. Louis Comptroller Darlene Green about her take-home car, which

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