The Common Crisis: Every Word Matters

The old adage, “Actions Speak Louder Than Words” rings true for the vast majority of Americans. However, for public figures, this is often reversed. In many cases, the words they choose and how those words are received by the general public can greatly influence their brand – both positively and negatively.

We continue to see this played out on the national stage almost daily and our ‘quiz’ below looks at some recent examples.


Q: What do Lance Armstrong, Brian Braun and Anthony Weiner have in common?

A: “In each case, the individual issued numerous, aggressive pronouncements of innocence, only to be found thoroughly guilty,” says Caliber Group director of public relations Michael Dunne. “And as a result, the public became angrier with their pronouncements of innocence rather than in their original misdeeds.”

Dunne insists that a public figure’s role in the court of public opinion is not much different than a defendant’s role in the court of law.

“In the court of law, anything you say to stake your defense can be held against you,” says Dunne. “In the court of public opinion, anything you say (especially in a crisis) can and will be held against you forever and always in the permanent signature of digital and social media.”

The lesson here is that unless an individual or organization is certain that facts will fully exonerate an allegation; one should tread cautiously with any and all public statements.  It is always better to provide measured and cautious statements at the beginning and middle of a crisis than to provide bold declaratives.

Prior to joining the PR team at Caliber, Dunne practiced PR for national consumer organizations and for an NBA franchise. According to Dunne, the companies and public figures who best weather a crisis are those that understand words matter.


Q: Why is having a crisis communications plan so important?

A: Few people or organizations can successfully handle both the actual crisis AND the external and internal communications surrounding the event.  Having professionals handle key communications during and after a crisis hits can literally save a brand and reputation. 

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