The Ethical and Practical Principles That Guide Jim’s Practice – 2024 Version

  1. Wake up each day thinking “Today I may do the most important thing I will ever do.”
  2. Act ethically, strive to find ideal behaviors, promptly, and urgently.
  3. Be 15 minutes early, first in line, quicker than fast, smarter, sharper. Get the best choices.
  4. Consistently challenge the standard assumptions and practices of our profession, build its importance, and enhance the ability of all practitioners to better serve others from the other’s perspective. Raise your hand. Your most powerful change tool: be Inconsistent.
  5. Do the doable; know the knowable; get the getable; arrange the arrangeable.
  6. Expect to be helpful and useful. Teach Pattern recognition the source of most successes.
  7. Focus on what truly matters. Always through an ethical lens.
  8. Go beyond what those you work with believe or already think they know.
  9. Intend to make a constructive ethical difference every day. Ask better questions.
  10. Intentionally look at every situation and circumstance from different perspectives.
  11. Look out for the real victims. Act to protect them and prevent more.
  12. Remember, it’s your boss’s “bus.” They get to drive it wherever they want. If you don’t like it, or can’t deal with it, hop off and go to somebody else’s bus, or drive your own.
  13. Every issue, question, concern, or problem is a management issue, leadership question, concern, or problem before it is any other kind of issue, question, concern, or problem.
  14. Start where leadership or management is or you will arrive at different destinations.
  15. Recommend doable, sensible options. Help the boss build solutions. That’s what they do.
  16. Preserve being heard: If the boss won’t agree to or do your suggestion in 10 days, they never will. Give it up and suggest something else. New ideas get old fast.
  17. Do the Platinum Rule: help others help others achieve what matters to them from their perspective. You will reap the thanks and gratitude you almost never get acting alone. Greet enthusiastically, respond faster, suggest the ground rules, almost always win.

The Grand Crisis Response Strategy is READINESS

Five Crucial Time-Sensitive Readiness Steps
For Getting the Most Important Things Done
And describable
From the Start of a Crisis.

by James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, Fellow IABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, BEPS Emeritus
America’s Crisis Guru®

The most reputationally challenging time in crisis is at the start and very early crisis moments. So little is known and is very sketchy. The slightest awkward silence, whatever the reason, causes ripples of questions and trouble throughout your response.

Stop thinking, talking, and describing crisis…think, talk, and describe READINESS.

If your readiness preparations follow a grand strategy including speaking from the start, the danger of unexplainable and questioned silences can be avoided. Unfolding event patterns teach you what actual future responses will be required. Choosing to remain silent, whatever the reason, once discovered, is frequently a fatal management career error.

Because you will require some time to understand exactly what is going on you can immediately implement a strategic five-step first communication management response. The goal is to launch your response narrative, and your first response action intentions within the first 60-120 minutes of the crisis incident, whatever the crisis happens to be. Link to Jim’s Wisdom #47

When you don’t (and you often can’t) exactly know what’s happening you can describe and discuss the strategic, and incremental response action steps to be taken, and those already underway.

The Grand Response Readiness Strategies:

  1. Stop the production of victims. This is response goal #1. Continuous victim production and response mistakes are what drives media coverage, survivor and public interest, the emotionalization, the commentary and criticism from 1000 different sources focused on your reputation destruction.
  2. Manage the victim dimension. This is what leaders and senior managers should be overseeing rather than hanging around and second-guessing the command center. Link to Concise Advice #21.
  3. Calm and settle down employees and those directly affected. Communicate directly and frequently with employees, stakeholders, survivors, and those directly affected. Use frequent brief 50–150-word internal statements. These are more easily created, understood, approved, and released than news releases.
  4. Notify those indirectly affected, those who will have a problem or have a problem now because you have a problem; regulators, licensing authorities, neighbors, partners, collaborators, key stakeholders, those who need to know and who should hear from you very promptly.
  5. Manage the self-appointed, the self-anointed; the news media and the new media, those who opt in on their own, the critics, the bellyachers, the backbench bickerers, and the bloviators.
  6. Your message and statement content is the same information you have provided internally a bit earlier.

This is the strategy management needs to help everyone affected inside and outside focus on what matters most and first. Far too many response plans have only legacy media public relations-driven tactics. Readiness for crisis communication response is a management responsibility driven by simple, sensible, constructive, positive, and clearly achievable communication techniques. Communication that begins externally always conflicts with what insiders know. It’s problematic.

Always remember, the technically perfect response appears to be flawed if there is a failure to promptly speak in the early going. Silence always implies doing nothing while victims are being created. There is no credible, believable, or acceptable explanation. The toxicity of silence is completely predictable and preventable.

Key Snap Readiness Wisdoms:

  1. A crisis is defined as a:
    • People-stopping, show-stopping, product-stopping.
    • Reputation redefining events that create victims and/or explosive visibility. I’ve yet to find or see a more clear and concise crisis definition.
  2. “Crisis Management” is a PR term invented to scare managers and leaders into funding communication and other crises related activities. Stop using it.
  3. “Readiness” is a management term (from 9-11-01) that drives serious and often crucial activities that directly and promptly address serious problems.
  4. All organizations have problems. That’s really what management primarily exists to remedy. Crises are extremely rare. Crises are always crucial problems that need to be prepared for.
  5. Even the most technically perfect crisis response will be remembered badly, permanently if communication fails in the beginning. Regardless of the problem itself, the blame will fall on those that failed to communicate appropriately and strategically from the beginning.
  6. Silence always implies doing nothing while victims are being created. There is no credible, believable, or acceptable explanation.
  7. The toxicity of silence is completely predictable and preventable.
  8. Silence, stalling, blame-shifting, and other diversion strategies, if discovered and revealed, are often fatal professional errors by those in charge, however competent they may be.

Destructive Language Decimates Trust

Leadership language choices in difficult situations are often early indicators of dysfunction. In fact, their adverse behaviors and language choices are often diagnostic of their dysfunction. Here are some examples to watch for:

  • Denial
  • Defensiveness
  • Deflection
  • Denigration
  • Disrespect
  • Demeaning
  • Discrediting
  • Distain

Not only do these behaviors, attitudes, and language choices destroy trust, they create victims, critics and angry people, families and organizations. These groups will work tirelessly to make leadership pay the price for unwanted behaviors.

These negative examples are enormously time-wasting, often trigger similar even more emotionally negative responses in return, foster contentiousness, confrontation, contempt, confusion and consternation. These behavior choices are corrosive to trust.

James E. Lukaszewski (loo-ka-SHEV-skee) is widely known as America’s Crisis Guru. He is a speaker, author (13 books and hundreds of articles and monographs), lecturer and ethicist (Emeritus member of the PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards BEPS). His book Lukaszewski on Crisis Communication, What Your CEO Needs to Know About Reputation Risk and Crisis Management had dozens of examples of corrosive behaviors and what to do about them.

© Copyright 2023, James E. Lukaszewski. America’s Crisis Guru® Get permission to reproduce or quote. Contact the copyright holder, jel@e911.com.

Jim Lukaszewski – Snap Wisdom #4

Compassionate but with Caution

  1. Control your language and control your own emotions: Avoid taking personal criticism, inflammatory language, and emotionally charged words, such as “ashamed,” “embarrassed,” “humiliated,” “bad,” “ugly,” “weird,” “worried,” and “scum.” They are just words. Until you react. Then they become headlines.
  2. Instead, move to answer questions constructively and manage your emotional reaction by focusing on positive declarative responses.
  3. Compassion and empathy sometimes use Color (emotional) Words to emphasize that we understand the damage we’ve done, or that others have suffered, such as:
AshamedShocked
Concerned Tragic
DisappointedUnfortunate
EmbarrasedUnhappy
FailedUnintended
HumiliatedUnnecessary
MortifiedUnsatisfied
Regrettable

CAUTION: Be very careful how and whether you express empathy.
Empathetic sentiments can cause negative reactions from victims. Be
ready for that.

Do constructive, positive, helpful actions and deeds they will speak
louder than words.

Remain quiet. Let someone else speak, or simply, let your empathetic
actions and deeds do the talking.

© Copyright 2023, James E. Lukaszewski. America’s Crisis Guru®
Get permission to reproduce or quote. Contact the copyright holder, jel@e911.com.

Jim Lukaszewski – Snap Wisdom #3

The Liar’s Secret Evil Oath Revealed*
With a hand on someone else’s checkbook or reputation… 
I solemnly swear to avoid the truth;
The whole truth;
Any part of the truth;
Using every tool on the Liar’s List, and more; 
To lie, mislead, misstate, demean, humiliate, and subvert; 
To disparage the truth, and threaten pain and suffering to truthtellers.
 
* Note: These ideas came to mind while watching a number of far-out-there Congressmen working on destroying our democracy and blaming it on everybody else. If you have additions to this oath, I would be happy to publish them in an upcoming issue of Savvy. – Jim
© Copyright 2023, James E. Lukaszewski. America’s Crisis Guru®
Get permission to reproduce or quote. Contact the copyright holder, jel@e911.com.

Jim Lukaszewski – Snap Wisdom #2

During the First 120 MinutesActivate Your Crisis Response Checklist

  1. Stop the production of victims.
  2. Tend to the victim’s needs.
  3. Communicate frequently internally.
  4. Alert those outside your organization who are directly affected.
  5. Call your insurance company.
  6. Have an experienced crisis communication consultant nearby or on board.
  7. Hire an attorney competent to the situation.
  8. Call your Mom, do what she says, and things will get better by tomorrow afternoon.
  9. Deal with new media, old media, critics, bloviators, bellyachers, backbench complainers, and survivors.

Jim Lukaszewski – Snap Wisdom #1

Snap Wisdom #1: Truth

  • 15% Facts and Data
  • 50% Emotion
  • 35% Point of Reference (where you or the victim were when it
    happened).
  • Too many facts and too much data humiliate victims, makes
    them angry, deaf, and search for an attorney.
  • A single victim tear, especially in front of a jury or on television,
    can wipe out more data, and smart experts than you can possibly
    assemble.