Read of the Week

When Crisis Strikes

Francis Herd and Nicola Kleyn

Pan Macmillan

Review: Lauren O’Connor-May

This little book picks apart the good, bad and ugly of how a badly handled crisis can affect the reputations of company leaders and public figures.

It’s what to do and what not to “when it hits the fan” – which happens to be an earlier working title of this book.

Written by financial journalist Francis Herd and business public relations expert Nicola Kleyn, the book uses case studies to examine how reputational damage could have been avoided or redeemed.

The lessons learnt from these studies are grouped under 10 rules of engagement – or as the book is subtitled: “Ten Rules to Survive (and Avoid) a Reputation Disaster”.

The book is aimed at “anyone” who finds themselves in “the glare of the public eye” or public relations companies, the preface says, but I think the book would also make good additional reading for public relations students.

When Crisis Strikes is a quick, concise read (240 pages) and its textbookish structure means it can be dipped into when necessary for easy reference.

The 10 rules are basic, common sense stuff, such as, stop the harm, respond quickly, be human, but the very nature of crises is that people are largely unprepared for them, and, as is seen in the examples in the book, common sense mostly goes out the window in the glare of the headlights of unwanted media attention.

For me the most interesting chapter was the last one: “Postscript: A Word on Covid-19”. In a revision of sorts, the authors looked at how the rules had been applied or misapplied in the information sharing about the pandemic.

This to me was a nice touch because it was using a live example that is still resonating.