8 Crisis and Reputation Lessons From Benjamin Franklin

With the rapid growth of technology, social activism and increased transparency, brands face risks like never before. Given evolving circumstances, we are told we must change and adapt to the times.

Well, yes and no. There are values that are timeless.

To wit, the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin, born 310 years ago come January 17th. Franklin was a super hero back when our republic was born. I’ve noticed that his profile is diminished of late, but Franklin’s deeds and activities as an author, scientist, statesman, inventor, communicator and diplomat could be compared in breadth and depth to the likes of Da Vinci. So, in anticipation of his birthday, I celebrate Benjamin Franklin, a Founding Father of the United States.

Ben Franklin’s proverbs are embedded in our nation’s lexicon, among the most famous:

  • Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
  • In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.
  • God helps them that helps themselves.
  • Fish and visitors stink after three days.
  • A penny saved is a penny earned.
  • An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
  • Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle.
  • A friend in need is a friend indeed.
  • No gains without pains.
  • Haste makes waste.

Did you know, too, that he published a number of adages that serve as the basis for reputation management and crisis communications? Here are a few:

Ben Franklin's Crisis Communication

Benjamin Franklin – 8 Crisis and Reputation Lessons

  1.  By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.  Plan for crises. Get media trained. Review scenarios that can hurt you and have responses ready in advance.
  2. It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.  Establish a foundation of trust with your audiences. It is not wise to try flying under the radar. Don’t brag or gloat. If you make a mistake, say so and tell how you will do better moving forward.
  3. Never ruin an apology with an excuse.  If an apology is appropriate, make it clean, succinct, unequivocal and heart-felt.
  4.  He that speaks much is much mistaken. Don’t run on, especially when speaking with media. Know what you need to say, say it and stop. Once you’ve said too much, you can’t take it back.
  5.  Humility makes great men twice honorable.  Let others sing your praises. What others say about you (your brand) is so much more powerful than what you say about yourself.
  6.  If you will not hear and obey reason she will surely rap your knucklesListen carefully to outside counsel; they are not as emotionally attached as you are.
  7. There is no little enemy Arrogance and inadvisable comments can only hurt you. Know all your stakeholders and what is important (and concerning) to each of them.
  8. Silence is not always a sign of wisdom, but babbling is ever a folly State your point, provide evidence, conclude, and stop talking.

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