Ken Scudder

Writer, Communications Trainer, Crisis Communication Consultant, Message Development Expert

Ford vs. Radel – Handling Your Drug-Related Crisis

November 21st, 2013

Rob Ford argonauts jerseyAP_Trey_Radal_DC_131119_16x9_992

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I have been tempted for a week now to write a post entitled “Can Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Save His Job and Reputation?” And have the entire text read “No.”

Obvious, maybe, and not particularly enlightening. But when Florida Congressman Trey Radel was arrested for buying $250 worth of cocaine (for $260, apparently), and then did every correct step to handle his embarrassment, the comparison between the two became impossible for me to ignore.

Crisis Advice from a Man Facing His Own Crisis

October 23rd, 2013

“Tell it early. Tell it all. Tell it yourself.”

This is the advice from crisis counselor Lanny Davis, who has helped everyone from Bill Clinton to Penn State to, most recently, Alex Rodriguez, deal with their public image problems. And it’s what I’ve been telling my clients for the past two decades.

Former White House Counsel Lanny Davis

The rule is “bad news comes from you.” This allows you to appear (and be) open and honest, and have some control over the tenor of the story. And, as the Public Relations Journal article I discussed here pointed out, getting all of your bad news out at once lessens the amount of time and space spent on the story, which limits your damage.

Davis is facing criticism for his work with the government of the Ivory Coast. You can read a good analysis of Davis, and his work for that government, in this Washington Post article.

The most interesting part of this story, to me, is how Davis reacted when he was asked questions about his own crisis. From the WaPo story:

“One thing I learned is never, ever mislead the press,” Davis says. “I spent a week misleading every reporter about what I was doing. I had the naive belief that this would be easy to accomplish, it would all work out and I would have served a good cause. . . . I was more than naive. I was stupid.”

As a crisis counselor, it’s important to remember that my client really, REALLY wants the story to “go away.” And there is an instinct that a lie, a really REALLY convincing lie, can perform that magic. But it’s just not the case.

While I am sure there are lies that have gotten public figures out of trouble, I am also sure that at least 80% of the time the truth does win out. And when it does, all credibility is shattered. We may be living and working in an age of easy forgiveness, but it is better to not need that forgiveness in the first place.

Customer Service is More Than Just Replacing Your Divot

October 8th, 2013

I am, for the record, an atrocious golfer. What I did to the Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club  should be punishable by a fine, and maybe jail time. My goal is to break 100 on each nine. Basically, I stink.

But, one thing I’ve always known is that when you tear up some sod with a shot, creating a divot, it’s your job to replace your divot.

divot repair

I don’t know much else.

Discussing Twitter and Crisis with International Meetings Review

August 13th, 2013

IMR story

In her article for the International Meetings Review website, “How Twitter Can Help With Damage Control,” Jena Tesse Fox and I discuss how meeting planners, and everyone else, can use Twitter to alleviate problems during a crisis. We covered how to handle a rogue complaint at a conference, using Twitter to provide updates during a natural disaster, and the “do’s and don’ts” of tweeting in a crisis. I recommend checking it out, along with her other articles (especially the interview with Peter Shankman, author of Nice Companies Finish First.)

Read My Thoughts on Twitter and Crisis at PR Tactics

August 12th, 2013

The August 2013 issue of PR Tactics includes my article “Social media anxiety: 140 characters into, or out of, a crisis.” In it, I analyze how Twitter was used during the Boston Marathon bombing; offer tips on using Twitter to avoid, or recover from, a crisis; and examine the great job KitchenAid did when their official Twitter account attacked the President.

When “Off the Record” Goes Off the Rails

August 1st, 2013

While the returns of Elliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner have been grist for every comic, attempted comic, Tweeter, and pundit, they have been painful for communications professionals and crisis consultants (with the possible exception of those who focus on right-wing candidates and issues). I plan to give a full analysis of what these two fallen idols should have done, and how they might still successfully return to the public spotlight someday.

But today we have to talk about Weiner’s Communications Director, Barbara Morgan.

Barbara Morgan, far right, with Anthony Weiner trailing in the red tie

Morgan, far right, with Weiner trailing in the red striped tie

Lisa Aldisert and I Offer Vacation Tips in PR Tactics

July 11th, 2013

Empty Beach Chairs on Tropical Beach

This month’s (July’s) Public Relations Tactics, the newsletter of the Public Relations Society of America, includes my article ”Take a Break: Steps to Relax and Recharge.“ In it, Lisa Aldisert of Pharos Alliance gives her tips on how harried businesspeople can truly get away and not only enjoy their time off but use it to be ready to meet the demands of work as soon as they return to the office.

Perhaps the most interesting, or shocking, advice she gives is to only check your email twice a day while on vacation. “If you’re checking your email all the time, you’re not on vacation,” she says. “You’re still at the office, just with a better view. You’re having a constant conversation about work and you’re not getting away.”

I also suggest some PR-specific ideas, including examining the local media for what stories they are covering, and how. I also suggest that, “you may see a historic site that inspires a campaign or find an old tavern or hotel that would be the perfect location for an event.”

You can read the article on P. 11 of this month’s issue, or at Tactic’s website here.

Pictures and Thoughts from the 2013 Big Apple Awards Gala

July 8th, 2013

It was my pleasure and honor to be the co-chairman, along with Henry Feintuch of Feintuch Communications, of this year’s Big Apple Awards Gala. The event, held at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on May 23, hosted over 200 of the New York area’s best PR professionals, and recognized campaigns and elements in 40 categories.

I had an absolute blast working with the great Big Apple committee. And it was great to get up and use the public speaking skills that I impart to my clients. Great chance to practice what I preach.

Many of the participants live-tweeted from the event, using #bigapple13, often celebrating their victories. These great shots by Conor Harrigan of the event should give you a sense of the fun, glamour, and excitement of the night.

Chapter President Lea-Ann Germinder gives an overview of PRSA-NY and the year

Chapter President Lea-Ann Germinder gives an overview of PRSA-NY and the year

Lynn Germinder, me, Big Apple Journalism Award Winner David Ushery, Lea-Ann Germinder, and Henry Feintuch before the awards get started

Lynn Appelbaum, me, Big Apple Journalism Award Winner Channel 4′s David Ushery, Lea-Ann Germinder, and Henry Feintuch before the awards get started

World Class Communication Now Available as an Audiobook

May 9th, 2013

I’m very happy to report that Virgil Scudder & my book, World Class Communication: how great CEOs win with the public, shareholders, employees, and the media, is now available as an audiobook at

World Class Communication Audible


I haven’t downloaded the entire book, but from the sample available on that page it seems that Brett Barry has done a good job with his interpretation. And I’m always glad when someone pronounces “Scudder” correctly.

The experience of listening to this book being read aloud reminds me of the first read-throughs I’d have with my sketch comedy troupe The Mistake. I would hear the sketches I’d written in my head; then I would turn them over to an incredibly talented group of actors and listen as they took my words and turned them into a product hundreds of times better than I could have imagined it. There’s a combination of pride, wonder, and astonishment at how words, phrases, and sentences that you know so well can sound so different, and so much better, when performed by another.

Ken Scudder

Writer, Communications Trainer, Crisis Communication Consultant, Message Development Expert