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Brian Williams in the Yo-Yo Zone

the giant head of Brian Williams, Sophie, Flickr, Creative Commons

the giant head of Brian Williams, Sophie, Flickr, Creative Commons

There has been a moderate amount of jibber-jabber about Brian Williams’ situation, probably about what the situation deserves. Lucky for him, there have been an enormous number of significant and newsworthy events about the news business during the week when he would have occupied almost all the headlines otherwise. He’s one lucky dude.

Let’s just talk about the things that really matter in the Brian Williams saga:

  1. He lied, probably more than once. It will all come out over time because of the clumsy, inept and personal agenda driven by the people he knows, trusts and cares about. Always remember Lukaszewski’s First Axiom of Crisis Survival:

    Neither the media, your toughest opponents, smartest critics, nor the government knows enough to defeat you. Defeat is almost always the work of uniformed or over-confident, overly optimistic bosses, co-workers and associates; well-meaning but uniformed friends, relatives, or from dysfunction in an organization.

  2. The situation was made immeasurably worse by his arrogant and clumsy bosses purposefully hanging him out to twist in the winds for six months or so until a “final decision” gets made by somebody.Advice to Brian: Resign today and start exiting the circus. You’re going to get a big check anyway, maybe several. The growing crescendo about your situation that will occur as the six months of NBC purgatory will begin to make the last couple of weeks seem tiny and foolish. You control the outcome of this play. Do it.
  3. What did your mom or your children tell you to do? You should have taken their advice. Do it now.
  4. This is what your life is going to be like for the foreseeable future from your own perspective, by yourself.
  5. Please don’t write a book about this. We don’t really care.
  6. Avoid the keystone principle of modern therapy, which says you minimize your problems and suffering by submerging them in the bigger problems of other people, organizations, institutions and cultures. Really dumb advice. All people who feel victimized, and you certainly must, suffer alone at their own velocity. Suffering in like-minded groups only prolongs the agony for you. No one else in the group really cares about you anyway.The rest of us don’t care about this unless you make us care, and then you’ll be sorry that you did. Some studies show that when it comes to recovery from extraordinary personal issues, working them through by yourself with a very limited scope of outside help, your recovery is likely to be much faster and more permanent. Makes perfect sense. If you join or create a support group, I guarantee you someone will write a book about it, you will rue the day and your suffering will continue at a different level and intensity.
  7. The only person learning lessons in this situation is you, Brian. Please avoid becoming an evangelist or oracle for something as a result of what you’re going through now. It only prolongs your personal agony and takes up time in our lives that we’d rather spend worrying about our own problems, which we’ll do anyway.
  8. I’ll bet you never imagined the amount of dumb, thoughtless, mindless advice (probably including what I’ve just mentioned here) that can be generated by human beings that you will never meet, see or care about.
  9. Somewhere, at least someone, is planning the symposia to talk about the Brian Williams phenomenon. Please discourage them. These events only prolong your agony, pick you apart and have no impact on journalism, the news media and most certainly not the rest of us.
  10. What is the lesson? It’s the one your mother already taught you, as mothers do for all of us: tell the truth, the real truth, and resist anyone’s attempt to alter it for any reason.
  11. You have joined the world of Yo-Yo. You’re On Your Own to resolve these issues and matters to your own satisfaction and then get on with it. In the Yo-Yo zone, all suffering and recover is lonely and local.


Lukaszewski’s 12 Axioms of Crisis Survival (2014 Edition)

By James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA

America’s Crisis Guru ®

Managing emergencies, crises, and disasters successfully means recognizing patterns of success and avoiding patterns of failure, and defeat. Understanding these patterns enables us to coach and prepare management’s actions, emotions, and expectations before and during emergency situations. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Neither the media, your toughest opponents, smartest critics, nor the government knows enough to defeat you. Defeat is almost always the work of uninformed or over confident, overly optimistic bosses, co-workers and associates; well-meaning but uninformed friends, relatives, or from dysfunction in an organization.
  2. All crises are local, at the beginning. Keeping the issues and focus tight and small will help you solve your problems and move forward. Your “industry,” outsiders, or the media cannot solve your problems (they don’t care), nor can you solve theirs. You must solve your own. It’s your destiny. Manage it or someone else will.
  3. Disasters and problems rarely kill products, brands or companies unless you let them. It is your silence, negative communication and attitude that cause tough questions, bad stories, and real damage. Silence is the most toxic strategy of all.
  4. Colorful and memorable language creates headlines that last forever, are impossible to live down and is among the most frequent causes for top executive dismissal during a crisis. Bad news always ripens badly.
  5. Twenty-five percent of your resources and fifty percent of your energy during emergencies go toward fixing yesterday’s mistakes. Crises are messy, sloppy, imprecise situations. Everything gets worse before most anything gets better.
  6. Positive, aggressive, assertive communication limits follow-up questions, focuses on the most important aspects of the problem, and moves the entire process forward to resolution despite a negative environment, an antagonistic news media or contentious social media, angry victims and survivors. Positive, constructive, compassionate actions always speak louder than words.
  7. There is no question you can be asked about your situation that will surprise you. You may get irritated, agitated or humiliated because a really tough or touchy subject is raised, but you aren’t surprised. Promptly answering every question is your ongoing opportunity to get your messages out, and calm things down.
  8. Preparation, rehearsal, and a certain amount of luck will keep you going and help you win.
  9. Luck is limited.
  10. The general public does not care about your problems until you make them care.
    • Fifty percent have no reason to care.
    • Twenty-five percent probably have troubles worse than yours, from their perspective, anyway.
    • If you get the attention of those remaining, they will probably be glad you have the trouble you have.
  11. Leadership that shows compassion, community sensitivity and ethical response strategies moves companies to victory and out of harm’s way. Timidity, hesitation, confusion and arrogance bring defeat and long term trust damage. Keep the positive pressure on to win.
  12. Destructive management communication behavior and language often leads to similar troubling behavior at many levels within an organization. Leadership has three principal responsibilities in crisis: Stopping the production of victims, managing the victim dimension, and setting the moral tone for the response.


James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, Fellow IABC; APR, Fellow PRSA, BEPS Emeritus

If you have questions, or would like to dive more deeply into the subject of this blog, you can reach me 24/7 at; 203-948-7029 (voicemail, email, text). I look forward, as a friend and colleague, to helping you achieve the objectives you’ve set for yourself for having a happier, more influential, successful and meaningful career.

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