Tips for Damage Control
An Interview with Author Eric Dezenhall
BY NANCY GRUND
Much of the conventional wisdom about damage control and crisis
public relations is self-serving, self-congratulatory, self-deceiving—
and flat out wrong, according to Eric Dezenhall and John Weber,
authors of Damage Control: Why Everything You Know About
Crisis Management is Wrong (Portfolio, 2007). Eric Dezenhall
is the founder and CEO of Dezenhall Resources, one of the
nation’s leading crisis management firms. He represents many
clients in industries such as consumer products, entertainment, law
enforcement, health care, and pharmaceuticals. He shares with
Leadership Exchange 10 tips for senior student affairs officers as
they consider their roles in campus crisis management.
1. Establish realistic objectives. Avoid the myth that
there are clever, cunning ways to turn bad situations into good
ones. There is no easy way out of a crisis.
2. Crisis teams must be small. They must also be benevolent dictatorships, not democracies. A crisis team with too
many people is not a crisis team, it
is a committee. Committees do not
3. Have access to a decision-maker. Not all situations should be
kicked up to senior management, but
don’t place yourself in a position to get
hung out to dry by senior management looking for someone
else to take the fall.
4. Appeal to what people intuitively understand in
times of crisis: Random tragedy is unavoidable.
Americans believe in acts of willful malfeasance easier than
they believe in acts of God. It is an unfortunate reality that
there is not a sure-fire way of preventing or predicting such
tragedies. We can only reduce their impact.
5. Individuals who are not comfortable with the
media should not engage the media. Some individuals
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