Jan 11

First, do no harm: On not creating your own crisis

I’ve handled a fair number of crises in my time, but two of the most impactful started with holidays cards.

Now, these companies didn’t offend because they said Merry Christmas rather than Happy Holidays or used religious imagery when they should have opted for winter white.  No, these two companies got into boatloads of trouble simply by trying – and failing – to make a statement.

Their efforts cost each a few clients – as well as some sleepless nights, internal distraction and general unease.

So when we started thinking about our holiday card and present this year, both of these instances were front and center.  Kristin Lynn had come up with another of her creative brainstorms: A circus-themed basket that would include gourmet caramel corn and peanuts, cotton candy, fudge and a clown nose.  We’d round it out with a circus-labeled bottle of wine and use the tag line: When life brings you a circus, let us be your ringmaster.

Perfect.  Great tone, fun theme that showcases one of our strengths, gifts that could be shared with the office.

All that was really missing was a whip.

When I suggested that we include whips in the baskets as a fun and funny add-on, my team gently said that it would be a bad idea.  Possibly a VERY bad idea.  Clients may take it wrong.  They may be offended – and we might need to avail ourselves of our own crisis services to deal with the fallout.  Had I learned nothing, they asked, from the two earlier holiday card issues?

But the idea struck me as funny, even after I took matters into my own hands and began scouring the Internet for inexpensive whips.  You can go so wrong so quickly with “whip” as your Google search, I have come to learn.  In fact, Amazon still suggests some interesting things in the “You might also like” category when I log in.

We found some inexpensive whips.  My team inhaled and quietly developed talking points – just in case.

I had my first misgiving when I delivered the first basket.  “Do you think people will take the whip the wrong way?” I asked one of our longtime clients and a dear friend.  “Oh, no,” came the reply.  “People know you would never hit them with a whip!”

So I exhaled and we delivered gift baskets, shared our video (which you can see here, if you haven’t already watched: https://vimeo.com/147326890) and enjoyed the reactions.  The process was almost like a Rorschach test – but with whips.

I want to share some of our favorite comments, although we are going to withhold the names to protect identities – after all, each of these people now has a whip:

  • This. Is. Awesome.
  • This shows a very, very creative team.  Mary Ann with a whip…very funny.
  • You cracked that whip with authority!
  • I’ll have you know this isn’t my first whip.
  • The circus basket is a hit. Especially the whip.
  • Can you bring that whip to our next meeting?
  • The staff enjoyed the treats and wanted to make sure that I got the leather whip (what’s up with that???).
  • Q: Everyone wanted to know where you found those whips. So exactly where did you get them? A: Amazon.  Q: Oh, we thought you might have gotten them at some (long pause) sexy…type…store.
  • For some reason, I am the only one who knows how to use the whip.
  • Is this an unfair labor practice?  I think it needs to go to the HR office.  Where are those forms?
  • Not the usual poinsettia and assorted nuts.
  • You look good with a whip.

This last one says it all, and was exactly the note we were hoping for: The whip is the most popular item in our office now.  You are truly ringmasters for us.

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