Flying without the seat of your pants

brand strategy crisis management.jpg

For as long as I can remember I am always the cool-headed one during a crisis. My mind goes into hyperdrive problem-solving mode and rushes through multiple scenarios and outcomes until a solution is found. Only when the crisis is averted do I have a total breakdown.

It’s actually quite handy.

Clearly, I'm gearing you up for story time.

Story time

It was a beautiful Spring day. Bag in hand, I rushed to get in my car on my way to a meeting with a potential client. As I sat down I heard a terrifying rip.

My pants had just split in the crotch.

Yeah, it's this kind of story.

It was laundry day and this was literally the only pair of jeans I had clean.

Luckily I am a total weirdo and was leaving 30 minutes before I actually had to be at the meeting.

Great, I had time!

I sped off and pulled in to the nearest Target, grabbed a pair of pants, checked out faster than Flo Jo, and hurried to the coffee shop for my meeting.


I checked my watch and realized I would still get there at least 10 minutes earlier than the potential client. That meant I would have time to run into the bathroom and change into rip-free new jeans. It was the perfect plan.

Practically flawless.

But they were already there, sitting there like the crazy punctual person I would later really appreciate when we worked together.

Luckily the rip wasn’t totally noticeable unless you were really looking (creep) so I just side-stepped off to the restroom with my bulging backpack full of pants, changed, and sat down like nothing was wrong.

I could’ve just sat through the whole meeting with a ripped out crotch because it wasn’t a glaringly huge rip, but I would’ve spent the entire time feeling a strange breeze and worrying that someone somewhere could see it. I would have been completely distracted.

At the time this was incredibly stressful as I was really hoping this person would like my work enough to hire me. Part of that involved me looking like I actually had my shit together and having ripped jeans most definitely wasn’t going to get me there.

Impressions matter.

What really matters though is adaptability.

I could have just fallen into a heap by my car back at my house, lamenting the loss of the meeting and my favorite pair of pants.

I could have tried to sit through the meeting all with a gentle bead of sweat dripping down my brow worrying about who could see my flaws.

I could have shown up with ripped jeans, told them, laughed really awkwardly about it, then be stuck in ultra-shy mode the rest of the meeting.

In the Ripped Pants Saga I kept my cool, noticed my time window, took action, and sat down to an important meeting like nothing happened.

Ok, now I’ll get to the point of this post.

How do you respond to a crisis? Do you have a plan for yourself and your business?


Are you adaptable?

Think about happens if your pants rip or your third-party app that drives your solution breaks down or your platform all of the sudden glitches like crazy and you have 5 million customer service calls.

We have all been on the other side of this equation, watching from a happy distance while another company just slowly spirals as they lose control.

Think Uber with the taxi protest.

Think United Airlines and...well...everything…

Think Starbucks in Philadelphia.


We as a public have generally not forgiven United. They are like an urban legend of terrible customer service now.

Uber is struggling on many counts.

Starbucks recovered by closing down all their stores to do implicit bias training with their employees.


That is how to not lose your head in a crisis.


Sometimes crises come about from things that are totally out of our control, like the fact it was laundry day and I just didn’t have another pant option.

What matters is how we respond to them.

A key component of that response is your brand. How would your brand respond to one of these PR nightmares?

Did you know that Southwest airlines had a somewhat similar situation to United of a customer getting dragged off an airplane? No?
That’s because they’ve spent decades honing their brand to be all about bringing people together and actually acting on it.

When they had a similar crisis their customer had a larger bandwidth of forgiveness for them.

We all need to work on developing that bandwidth for our own company.

When you are determining your brand strategy and crisis management I really urge you to not think of it as a band-aid or last resort.

Everything you do now when things are good is like money in the bank when something bad happens.

You’ve spent a lot of time and effort staying true to your brand and your message and your customers know that.

Keeping afloat during a crisis isn’t just about direct management, it’s about building trust with your customer base before it even (and hopefully never) happens.

If something terrible happens you want your customers to have more patience with you while you work to solve it. They need to trust that you will solve it.

Shameless plug- if you’re wondering how in the world to even begin to develop that type of trust and loyalty with your customer just through the magic of branding and voice, you’ve got me in your corner.

Sign up for my Branding Power Hour.

It’s one heck of an hour, but we’ll find the framework of your messaging going forward.

We’ll work to start developing trust within your customer base through consistent messaging and practice.

The biggest takeaway from the hour is your brand guidelines. Not only will we figure out your benefits, features, and the first draft of a value prop, but I’ll give you 3 questions to help make that brand strategy actually actionable.

It’s not just a dead PDF that you look at maybe twice more and be done with it. Nope.

This is guidelines to help you with all of your decisions going forward.

In just one hour.

Register for your hour now. Come with a full cup of coffee and a brand new pair of jeans.