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May 1, 2009


by stevenwyer

They did it again. The Obama administration forgot the first rule in a crisis. Never send Joe Biden to calm people’s fears.

Is it true that we are one heartbeat away from his type of leadership? What were we thinking?

If you didn’t hear, Biden had another attack of his trademark foot-in-mouth disease. During a television interview on April 30th, he shared that he’d told his own family that — while some people are steering clear of Mexico — they should be extra cautious and not even get on airplanes or, for that matter, go into any “confined place” like the subway where germs could spread.

“If you’re out in the middle of a field and someone sneezes, that’s one thing,” Biden said. “If you’re in a closed aircraft … or closed car or closed classroom, it’s a different thing.”

He’s not alone. Many people react rather then respond. Chicken Little had this problem. This “sky is falling” mentality is purely reactionary. No measured thought, no plan.

It happens in just about any area of life. A work crisis or unexpected consequences from poorly thought out actions can punch every button you have. Panic and fear find the deep pit in your stomach and your mouth dries up. Or, in Mr. Biden’s case, you just open your mouth and listen to what comes out, as surprised as everyone else.

The same is true in business. I was self-employed for 27 years before I was involved in a lawsuit. While I prevailed, it was traumatic. Some business owners get hit by something even more unexpected than a lawsuit — slander on the Internet. They’ve never considered their exposure until a complaint finds its way onto one of hundreds of online complaint sites. It’s not until business falls off or a new account being courted goes another direction that they make the connection.

Sites like and make their living from disgruntled consumers. Anonymous postings on the mother of all complaint sites,, are added without an attempt to verify what’s being said. And BAM! someone’s business takes a hit.

React or respond, that is the question. I’ll file a lawsuit! Against whom? Don’t be reactionary. Analyze the options and seek a professional’s help. Many times well intentioned efforts actually exacerbate the problem.  Responding with a well thought out strategy will yield a much better long term solution. Substance over drama will always win the day.

So take a deep breath, forgive your attacker and deal with the need to repair your online reputation. Or, hire Vice President Joe Biden as your spokesperson and stand back. If you do, the one thing you can count on is that you’ll be surprised. (Along with the rest of the world.)

–Steven Wyer

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