Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Welcome to the Institute for Crisis Management Crisis Consultant blog. Along with ICM Senior Consultant Dan Hicks' blog www.crisisexperts.blogspot.com you have two places to go to talk about crisis communications. Dan's been at this a while and I look forward to every one of his posts.

He is an excellent writer and has years of experience and a unique sense of humor to bring to an otherwise serious and often times sad and difficult subject.

Since Bob Irvine wrote the first major book on crisis communication When You Are the Headline and then founded ICM in the late 80's, our Senior Consultants have worked with all kinds and sizes of organizations ranging from international manufacturing, mining and transportation companies, to smaller local and regional businesses, telecommunications companies, healthcare providers and insurers, public schools and higher education, not-for-profits and national religious organizations.

When I'm asked what we do, I explain that we are just like funeral directors. Neither of us will ever run out of potential customers/clients. The funeral director is trying to sell you a pre-paid and pre-planned funeral. It's cheaper in the long run and less stress on the family when they need the service. ICM is trying to sell crisis communication plans and other risk management services. It's cheaper in the long run, and certainly reduces stress on the organization when a crisis hits. We and the funeral director have about the same success rate!

However, when Auntie dies or the company is in trouble, they want us there, right now, and they want us to make them look better than when they were healthy, and when that last spade of dirt is in her face or management thinks they have it under control, they want us out of the way until they need us the next time.

One of the things we'll do on this site is to pose a question, from time-to-time, and asked you to offer your opinion and then justify that opinion.

So let's see how this works.

This week's question: What could AIG do to begin rebuilding its reputation and public perception?

Go to the comment section and speak up.


  1. You know how the piano player at the bar always has a brandy sniffer with a few dollars stuffed in it. The idea is get other people to stick a dollar or two in, also.
    Well, I thought I'd do that with this first "comment."
    Now it's your turn to put your two-cents in!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. This will probably show why YOU run ICM... and not me, with my naive approach to resolving problems in the financial world: AIG should pass the hat... and return $165MM to the federal treasury... by tax day, at the latest.

    Start with the 71 guys who got more than a million dollars... including the 11-who left the company after collecting a bonus. Make it voluntary (well, sort of) but any who refuse to help AIG get out of this mess face consequencs: Those who balk... walk. Immediately.

    The top 20 fellows at the helm when the company fell on hard times make up any deficit not collected in the collection plate.

    Handling it this way will prove they recognize the errors of their ways... and demonstrate a good faith effort to do right by the (wronged) tax payers. Those who return their ill earned windfalls are then viewed as sufficiently paying for their mistakes and can save face for having been "rehabiliated."

    Colleagues who opt to keep the cash are rewarded with being fired and identified as part of the reason our economy is in trouble... and (despite industry claims that a blackballing system does not exist) will never again hold a lucrative position in the financial sector.

    This is the only way for that sector (in general) and AIG (specifically) to restore the loss in credibility, and get the recovery on track.

  4. ZapDuff, your plan has only one significant flaw. In my mind, the question is, who rewards "failure" with a bonus? I don't begrudge the executives who take the money and run. I DO begrudge the leadership, including a Board, willing to give bonuses to people who'se judgement has cost the company billions.

  5. From Albert Bozzo CNBC

    If the terror attacks of 9/11 represented a life-threatening blow to the American system, then we should certainly consider placing the current economic crisis in the same category.

    This will allow the President to declare a war on greed, much like his predecessor did with terrorism , and help us solve all sorts of problems, starting with the financial wizards at AIG [AIG 1.32 0.36 (+37.5%) ] whose exorbitant bonuses are driving the country to madness, if not vengeance.

    Forget about contract law, threats or moral persuasion. The war approach would allow President Obama, our commander in chief, to order people deemed to be dangerous captured and held without trial. They can sit in Guantanamo Bay and think about it.

    I’m sure we can persuade the Justice Department to go along with it, even if the current attorney general might waver a bit; based on his role in the pardon of the indicted-but-never convicted commodities trader Marc Rich during the Clinton administration, he seems unfazed by the excesses of capitalism).

    And, yes, there will be court challenges, but fortunately we still have the Bush Supreme Court in place and those will take months to play out anyway. During that time, we’ll be able to wear down the AIG bad guys, who’ll probably agree to forgo the bonuses—especially if we put their faces, addresses and bonuses payments on milk cartons and the Internet.

  6. Sometimes people have an exaggerated view of what communications, including crisis communications can achieve. While of course it's a crucial element, it is only communications, and if the problem is rooted in something fundamental, such as greed or a managemnt team that is ethically challenged, then communcations isn't going to fix the problem. As they say, you can put lipstick on a pig and it's still a pig.
    I have found that in crisis communications, the ethically right thing to do is inevitably also the right crisis communications thing to do. I expect Larry agrees with this, and from this base, someone with crisis expertise such as Larry could work to bring the proper focus to the issue, but if there is rot at the core of the company, a hundred Larry's wouldn't be enough to salvage it.

    I notice that AIG has now added a 4th heavyweight PR firm to try to get the job done. Good luck with that. Be interesting to watch it unfold. Love to be a mouse in the corner for those meetings.

    Duncan Matheson
    Bissett Matheson Communications Ltd.
    Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada

  7. Duncan cut to the chase with his observations. On more than one occasion the Senior Consultants at ICM have had to tell a potential client "we can't help you until you decide to fix the problem and initiate an action strategy, then we can help you explain it and sell it.

  8. Here's an idea I offer freely and demand no compensation. In fact, I hope this thought spreads like a plague:

    If breaking contracts is OK for the U-A-W... why not OK for the U-R-Crooks?