Lessons reinforced in a self-inflicted personal reputational crisis


No one wants or needs to pile on Kelly Blazek, head of the Cleveland Jobs Bank and the most recent person to suffer a personal crisis after reputational burial by a tidal wave of  social media. We feel sad, really, that what was once a one-to-one mistake is now available to millions.

But it’s worth a post about the worst of all crises — the self-inflicted one.

After the initial “what was she thinking,” reaction, we quickly realize she wasn’t thinking and that resulted in a highly embarrassing ‘outing’ by those she castigated. That there might have been a kernel of truth and/or guidance in her rants is lost. The whole focus of her argument, as Adweek tried to observe, shifts from coaching Millennials in a job search to inappropriately losing it in front of millions.

What can we learn from this? My managing partner urges me to take a deep breath, use spellcheck and re-read all emails. So I can empathize with the rapidly constructed and fired off email. That is good advice for all.

Even better advice is that if you are angry, wait a day to respond. And, don’t put it in an email. Don’t put it in a text or voicemail. And, if your reaction is that incendiary, maybe you ought to think about not making it at all. But of course we don’t think at times like this, we react. My yoga instructor calls it the time between stimulus and reaction, where we all live.

Come to think of it, the person who sent me this link, Tom Merrick, EMA’s executive creative director, has never had a cross word that I know of. His booming laughs and jokes ratio to anger is about 865:1. Be like Tom.

This is not to say Tom never gets mad, or that he’s never said anything he wishes he could retract. But he’s very thoughtful about how he interacts with people.

What should we say to Blazek, as The Cleveland Plain-Dealer reports,  “the self-described ‘Job Bank Mother’ and [named] the ‘2013 Communicator of the Year’ by the Cleveland Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators?”

Blazek surely wishes she were more like Tom. And it’s odd that someone whose job it is to help people would light in to job applicants doing what they are supposed to do: reach out for help to the Cleveland Jobs Bank.

For her part, Blazek apologized, profusely. But the Plain-Dealer found prior examples of this behavior with others back in 2012.

We all do stupid things. We must remember that now there is obvious potential to turn something private into a wildly public spectacle.

Maybe Blazek would be better working for a computer maker’s customer service center. Wait, did I really say that? What was I thinking? I’m so sorry.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at http://www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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