A clever approach to crisis management

Instead of ostracizing a mysterious critic, a company’s board of directors steals a page from ‘The Godfather’ and brings him into the fold. It’s a move that could help you soothe an outsider’s rancor.

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I heard a story many years ago about a disgruntled ex-employee who became a thorn in the side of his former company’s board of directors. So many years have passed since I heard the story that I no longer know the source, nor whether the story was true or apocryphal. Nonetheless, the story’s moral is something we can all learn from.

After every board meeting, the story goes, the ex-employee would write about the board’s proceedings. The board members were confused about how he got the information—the meetings were closed—so they surmised that someone must have been leaking to him. Trouble was, no one could determine who the leaker was, and meeting after meeting, the ex-employee kept posting sensitive details to the Internet.

His postings were somewhat accurate, though not entirely, and he would add his own negative commentary to each of the board’s actions. The company’s current employees eagerly awaited each of his updates, and word of his latest articles spread through the company’s ranks by the next morning’s coffee break.

The standard crisis communications playbook might have sought to discredit the ex-employee, or to post a response that detailed his inaccuracies, or to file some legal action against him, or to take additional security precautions for board meetings.

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