I've always felt that people who work in the top echelons of political communications are aggressive, bright and great at what they do. It is pressure cooked, intense all the time, and work which is high-profile and cut-throat - so much so that if you do a bad job you’ll find yourself out of a job pretty damn quickly.
As such, I found Lanny J Davis’ new book, “Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping with Crises in Business, Politics, and Life” to be a very enjoyable read, and something I highly recommend to anyone who works in crisis PR. As White House Special Counsel to the Clinton Family, as he put it, his job was "to help reporters write bad stories as completely and quickly as possible."
Many years ago, I read "Spin" by Michael Sitrick, and as an author and PR firm owner, have to say that this book is the next best one I have read since then for people on the front lines of actual hands-on crisis PR work.
Davis outlines his starting point for good crisis management – tell the truth, and "tell it all, tell it early, tell it yourself." He then outlines his 5 Principles for effective crisis communications:
- Get all the facts out
- Put the facts into simple messages
- Get ahead of the story
- Fight for the truth using Law, media & politics
- Never represent yourself in a crisis
Was a gutsy move for Davis to spill the beans on many of his clients with the stories he tells of his work as a legal PR agency, with front-line, detailed stories on his work for clients ranging from Royal Carribean, Martha Stewart and Penn State to the Washington Redskins. While I don't agree with a few of the recommendations the man provided, I admire his gusto in presenting his clients stories, and his continued spin even until today as he details the background.
As he offers the soundbite on personal crisis management: "when you can't improve on silence, be quiet,” this too rang true. Get the book today if you work in crisis pr – or want to learn to get better at it.
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Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5wpr, and author of “For Immediate Release.”