Bloomberg: Burson-Marsteller Chief Mark Penn on How to Handle a Crisis

Burson-Marsteller Chief Mark Penn on How to Handle a Crisis

“As a leader, you have to balance the desire to say something right away with the need to get the facts,” Mark Penn, chief executive officer of Burson- Marsteller, says in Bloomberg Businessweek’s Sept. 26 edition. “People typically err on the side of saying something too soon and then have to eat most of what they said.

There are two phases: the hurricane and the cleanup. During the hurricane, you’re trying to keep the house standing and keep your organization functioning. Whether you win, lose, or draw, unless all the employees are on board and focused, you’ve lost. When the immediacy of the crisis is over, then you figure out what changes to make and how you rebuild your image. It can be a two-year process, but most companies recover.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton is the best crisis responder I’ve ever worked with. He’s a strong leader, and he’s goal-oriented to solve the problem, whether it’s the nation’s deficit or impeachment. He won by going against the conventional wisdom of crisis management. People think you should get out there and apologize and everything will be fine. That’s not always true.

In some industries you can anticipate what the likely crisis will be. You need a plan and the right person out there as the central voice. Don’t throw your chief executive officer in the middle of every story. In the BP Plc crisis, CEO Tony Hayward underplayed the gravity initially, and then he arguably overplayed it because he was on the defensive. Was there a workaround? Sure. He could have hired General Colin Powell. If there’s a massive incident in the Gulf of Mexico, the person you’d have the most confidence in is someone from the American military.”

The Huffington Post: Strategy Corner: Obama — Don’t Bring Back Class Warfare

Published Septermber 18, 2011

Barack Obama is careening down the wrong path towards re-election.

He should be working as a president, not a candidate.

He should be claiming the vital center, not abandoning it.

He should be holding down taxes rather than raising them.

He should be mastering the global economy, not running away from it.

And most of all, he should be bringing the country together rather than dividing it through class warfare.

When Al Gore faced a close presidential race in 2000, he abandoned running on peace and prosperity in favor of the people vs. the powerful, only to see his lead evaporate. When John Kerry was facing a tough race in 2004, he spent the last few months after the convention tacking to the left on the Iraq war and other issues to stimulate the base, only to fall even farther behind.

But when Bill Clinton was facing the fight of his political life in his 1996 re-election, he got rid of all the class warfare language used by traditional Democrats, got behind welfare reform and the balanced budget, and supported a strong, activist government that spent and taxed less rather than more. As a result, Clinton trounced the Republican nominee and was the first Democrat to serve a full eight years since Roosevelt. And the country got behind the president.

Read the Full Article at the Huffington Post

The Huffington Post: Finding the American Spirit After 9/11

Published Septermber 12, 2011

America continues to look for its true spirit in a post 9/11 world.

Just as the Vietnam war reset expectations about America in the world, so 9/11 changed America’s outlook in the opening of the 21st century.

Coming off of the Clinton administration highs of boundless peace and prosperity, the public was little prepared for the next decade that would be dominated by war, global strife, surging deficits and problems at home.

More than 2/3rds of the country sees the last 10 years as a decade of decline for America according to a TIME/Aspen Ideas Festival poll I conducted earlier this summer that probed Americans on the decade since the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The country is going through the longest sustained period of unhappiness and deep pessimism since polls started to measure the country’s mood. Today’s teenagers can barely remember a time when things in the country were on the right track.

A country known for its optimism through adversity is having trouble finding the determination and the spirit that has sustained it through everything from world wars to nuclear threats to space races. In fact, a startling 71% see America as worse off now than it was a decade ago, including a majority of every major demographic group other than African Americans

Read the Full Article at the Huffington Post