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Friday, December 14, 2012

Master Disaster

Disaster can strike anybody in business -- from the publically traded company with accounting irregularities to the local business with a bad Yelp review, to the office worker who “Ooops! Shouldn’t have it ‘reply all’!” And, typically, a crisis sneaks up on us when we least expect it.

In their book “Masters of Disaster: The Ten Commandments of Damage Control”, Christopher Lehane, Mark Fabiani and Bill Guttentag give advice on what to do when crisis enters your work life. Here is some of their advice:
  • When a crisis hits, don’t act impulsively – like Representative Anthony Weiner, who tried to lie is way of of his Twitter scandal. “Had [he] not attempted to chase the news cycle, Weingergate would have been a survivable crisis.” page 27
  • It’s all about timing. After Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco admitted to having an affair, he was “reelected by a historic margin.” How? Newsom timed his apology perfectly at the “front-end” of his crisis. page 55
  • There is always a “core audience” that collectively controls your fate – such as a company board – and with them you should maintain your poise and “Demonstrate studied nonchalance.” page 84
  • Fight back “with overwhelming force.” In the 1990s, when author James Stewart accused Hillary Clinton of breaking the law, the Clintons found a discrepancy in is reporting. “It became a defining moment. The damage had not been controlled.” page 236

Reading a book like “Masters of Disaster” is a good reminder that preparing for all eventualities, maintaining flexibility, keeping calm under pressure and using the right resources for the situation are good characteristics for success-oriented businesspeople, whether in a crisis situation or not. The best advice, of course, is, when possible ,to identify and eliminate those areas of your business practice that might be setting themselves up to invite a crisis. Like Warren Buffet said, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it."
If you are interested in buying this book,

sources: Masters of Disaster – Lehane, Faiani, Guttentag (Palgrave MadMillian); Bloomberg Businessweek 12/16/12

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