Is 2017 Just a Bad Year? Or Is This the Golden Age of Crisis?

So, what was your favorite crisis so far in 2017? Was it the Presidential tweets which roiled entire industries – notably automotive and aerospace – and the odd department store? United Airlines and Dr Dao was a doozy, especially as American, Delta and Spiritall followed United into the harsh spotlight. Maybe it was the ‘luxury’ Fyre Festival with its tents, cheese sandwiches and porta-potties? Perhaps one of those clumsy brand social media forays – such as Adidas congratulating runners on ‘surviving’ the Boston Marathon. Or there was also Continue reading →

Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don’t. Brands Which Step Into Polarizing Issues

I love Target stores. I really like shopping there and so do my daughters. But I also find the company fascinating because over the past few years it has provided really interesting debating points for those of us who make a living managing issues and crises. Until United Airlines recently showed how to turn a crisis into a disaster and created learning points for years of lectures, Target’s handling of its 2013 data breach was the poster child for “what not to do in a Continue reading →

‘Cultural Blindness’ May Be Your Next Crisis

See anything odd about this poster? Some of you may recall this story. This illustration was for a swim safety campaign created by the American Red Cross. According to press accounts published at the time (, the poster was originally created in 2014 but only became a public problem for the charity in 2016 when a visitor to a pool in Salida, Colorado, looked more closely at it. At first glance, the children on the illustration represent a healthy mix of races. At second look, Continue reading →

Ten Biggest Pitfalls to Activating Your Crisis Team When the Worst Happens

It’s that moment you dreaded. Your organization’s reputation and business in under threat. But you have planned for this moment. You imagined worst case scenarios, developed responses, talking pointsand escalation protocols. All you need to do is to activate the crisis team. Straightforward, right? And then you realize that this might be the difficult part. The list of crisis team members and their contact details are months if not years out of date The only people listed are in PR, marketing and communications –now you have Continue reading →


When faced with a threat, first impressions might not count When the worst does happen, there’s a natural human reaction to minimize the problem. One way this happens is that you try too quickly, with too little information, to categorize the risk, deal with it and move on – but then it changes shape, takes on new context and suddenly the problem looks different and your response is inadequate. Many years ago I handled the crisis communications for the UK operations of a leading global Continue reading →


How planning helps you make the right call when the worst happens A large and well known movie house chain recently found itself facing reputation headwinds, despite having won a long running court case – which, one would think, should have been good publicity. Right? The legal victory was the denial of a series of lawsuits filed by the families and victims of a mass shooting that had taken place at one of the chain’s locations. The lawsuits alleged the movie house should have had Continue reading →


The roll call of high-profile companies whose reputation is still recovering following crises over recent years includes several who took on greater damage because of the inadequacy of their response to the initial problem. Think BP and the then CEO’s infamous observation that he “would like his life back”. Or Target’s attempts to wish away a major data leak that compromised its customers’ bank accounts. Or Sony’s stalled understanding that media coverage of the toxic content of the stolen emails made it the villain not Continue reading →