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  D.F.'s Column Archive

December 18, 2006

The Crisis Team: We’ll Overreact to Anything!


It started out as an ordinary day for Wickman. As external marketing/communications liaison, he would keep himself plenty busy. He would tweak a three-paragraph press release 19 or 20 times, get feedback from 15 or so people, review the company’s web site at least 30 times (quality control, don’t you know) and of course, write an extensive memo to his supervisor discussing all of this.


Wickman was a man with a lot on his plate!


But today his routine would be thrown off kilter. The Corporate Crisis Response Team would see to that.


In the Monthly Monitor of Corporate Affairs, a story would appear about Wickman’s company. A pretty glowing story, at that. It would explain their recent sales growth, their CEO’s strategy for maintaining the trend and leading customers’ glowing reviews of the company’s newest products.


Wickman kicked back and read the story in the Monitor’s online edition. Score, he thought! This would buy him three or four months of memo writing and coffee breaks, at least, before anyone expected him to accomplish anything further. Every time someone strolled by Wickman’s office, he waited expectantly for the inevitable kudos. Oh, here came Schotzsky. Wickman tried to look like he wasn’t expecting the praise, but hey, could you blame him for the glow?


“Did you see this?” Schotzsky was waving a printed copy of the Monitor story. Hey! That didn’t look like a smile! “Look at this! Look at this, Wickman!


“What?” Wickman said. “The story’s great. Makes us look like the innovative geniuses we are. I should get a bonus for this.”


Schotzsky furrowed his brow. “Wickman! Look at the last paragraph!”


Wickman took the printout from Schotzsky and read it aloud: “The company attributed some of its success to a decision in early 2005 to sell off an unprofitable division for $15 million.”


Wickman thought about that for a second. “Yeah, didn’t we actually sell it for $15.5 million?”


“Yes! We did!” Schotzsky exclaimed. “And it was in May 2005! May!




“Look here!” Schotzsky pointed out. With his finger. “It says early 2005.That’s wrong!”


“May doesn’t qualify as early? It’s in the first half.”


“It’s second quarter, Wickman! The Corporate Crisis Response Team is meeting in the Founders Legacy Conference Room in 10 minutes, Wickman. You need to be there and you need to have answers.”


Wickman looked at Schotzsky like he had just kicked his dog, which come to think of it, he had actually done once at a company picnic. “You’re not serious. This is a crisis?”


“Wickman, the Corporate Crisis Response Team lives for this stuff. You better bring 26 copies of the press release you sent out, along with your notes from all your conversations with this journalist.”


Notes? Wickman’s only notes consisted of the guy’s phone number on a sticky note where he had also scrolled “Pink Floyd The Wall” six or seven times. This day officially sucked.


The committee members were assembled with looks of concern. The chairman sat at one end of the table. He was from accounting, and don’t ask me to explain that one. He motioned for Wickman to take the vacant seat at the other end.


“Mr. Wickman, as you know, today the company faces a public crisis. Information has appeared in the mass media that distorts our history and casts our company in an inaccurate light. This committee has been charged with preparing a report of the facts and a set of recommendations to executive management for the addressing of this matter.”


Wickman looked around the table. Just as Schotzsky had said, there were 26 people sitting around the table, apparently prepared to hunker down the entire day figuring out how to “solve” the crisis of the day.


Every department in the company was represented. There was no chance of the company getting any work done whatsoever, so long as the Esteemed Committee was in session.


“I’m not going anywhere for awhile,” Wickman thought to himself. “I need a Snickers.”


Next Week: The Investigation’s Shocking Conclusion!


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