Tooling along listening to podcasts earlier today I heard Mike Pesca, host of “The Gist,” kick one right past the goalie. “… It is not a good day to be the FIFA communications director. It’s somewhere between Duggar family brand manager and the guy in charge of organizing Jeb Bush’s rope line…” I laughed. Hard.
In that moment, I recognized the truth that every marketing and PR counsel knows. Working the rope lines, the crushing brand manager fiascos and, in my case, the trauma center builds professional muscle. Great counselors learn the difference between an issue that may affect a company’s reputation or bottom line and a real crisis. Let’s be clear that a crisis occurs when people are hurt physically or financially. Counseling leaders well and talking with people who are yelling at your client takes patience and repetition to make critical listening nearly automatic. It also takes mentors.
Imagine a group of 20 or so sign carrying protesters showing up outside your company protesting a medical incinerator that is nearly built. The project flew through permitting and open public hearings nearly a year earlier. News stories and editorials urging total shutdown began appearing nearly every day in print and on the airwaves. At the same time, other media outlets ran stories about medical waste washing up on beaches. One year later, those same protesters and the company gave reporters a glowing update. Working with the protesters, the organization had reduced and recycled its way to a significant reduction in red bag waste burned in the new incinerator. Jack Canfield master-minded that turnaround and showed me how to negotiate with opposition as we worked through that issue and so many other issues and crises.
Pictures have been important since the cave dwellers. Earning engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even LinkedIn requires great photos. I’m experienced enough to remember earning employee engagement using two-page photo spreads inside printed company newsletters. Gary Truman traveled hours all around southern West Virginia capturing people at home, at work and at play. I was fortunate to troop along. He taught me the difference between taking pictures and capturing an entire story in one click.
Gentlemen, you are great mentors. On the days we worked the rope lines together, I went home with a new lesson learned. Thank you. Happy birthday.