Calvin and Hobbes on…Crisis Communication

Editor’s note: This guest post from PR pro Brian Adams is fantastic, relating some sage childlike wisdom from the human half of one of the greatest comic strip duos ever to our world of crisis management.

Two weeks ago I spent the morning sifting through quotes from a favorite character of my childhood. The resulting blog post, Winnie the Pooh on…Social Media, was so much fun to create that I decided to take a look back on another publication that provided me with wisdom during my youth, Calvin and Hobbes.

It seems as if young Calvin was always in crisis mode while Hobbes fanned the flames to watch the meltdown. The mistakes of these two characters contain valuable lessons for anyone facing a media crisis. After all, can’t we all sympathize with a child that so succinctly states what we all think when a crisis occurs: “Reality continues to ruin my life.”

Here are a few more bits of crisis wisdom from author Bill Watterson:

On Ignoring the Crisis
“What state do you live in?”
“Denial.”

On Setting Expectations
“To make a bad day worse, spend it wishing for the impossible.”

On Luck
“You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don’t help.”

On Pity
“Its no use! Everybody gets good enemies except me.”

On Planning Ahead
“You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.”
“What mood is that?”
“Last-minute panic.”

On Keeping Your Cool
“Life’s disappointments are harder to take when you don’t know any swear words.”

On Picking a Competent Spokesperson
“I’m not dumb. I just have a command of thoroughly useless information.”

On Knowing Your Facts
“As a math atheist, I should be excused from this.”

On Crafting Your Soundbite
“If something is so complicated that you can’t explain it in 10 seconds, then it’s probably not worth knowing anyway.”

On Misdirection
“This one’s tricky. You have to use imaginary numbers, like eleventeen…”

On Offering a Scapegoat
“Dad, how do soldiers killing each other solve the world’s problems?”

More On Offering a Scapegoat
“Nothing I do is my fault.”

On Owning Your Mistake
“Don’t walk away! I’m trying to apologize you dumb noodleloaf!”

More On Owning Your Mistake
“I love the culture of victimhood.”

On Quoted (Gloating) Competitors
“In my opinion, we don’t devote nearly enough scientific research to finding a cure for jerks.”

On Elevating the Crisis
“A little rudeness and disrespect can elevate a meaningless interaction to a battle of wills and add drama to an otherwise dull day.”

On Cutting Your Losses
“Where do we keep all our chainsaws, Mom?”

On Keeping a Positive Perspective
“Life is like topography, Hobbes. There are summits of happiness and success, flat stretches of boring routine, and valleys of frustration and failure.”

On Recent Crises:

On Mitt Romney’s Binders Full of Women
“Girls are like slugs – they probably serve some purpose, but it’s hard to imagine what.”

More On Mitt Romney’s Binders Full of Women
“She didn’t even give me credit for my professional clear plastic binder!”

On the Gap’s “Manifest Destiny” T-Shirt
“How rude.”

On Google’s Early Release of Financials
“Another genius foiled by an incapable assistant.”

Brian Adams consults with nonprofits, including Komera Project (www.komeraproject.org), regarding communications strategy. Brian was previously Senior Director of Communications at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley (www.supportunitedway.org) and the head of Media and Community Relations for the MSPCA-Angell (www.mspca.org). A version of this story first appeared on the author’s blog (http://brianadamspr.wordpress.com/).

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