I was watching TV with my dog the other night. She likes to watch. The movement fascinates her and she can actually tell what’s happening on the screen. Her favorites are sports, movies and of course, commercials with barking dogs.

It was a dark and stormy night. Thunder shook the clouds. A yellow moon peeked through a purple sky.  Suddenly, there on the screen walked a pale, ghostly character in a white t-shirt, stumbling along a railroad track, mumbling to himself. My dog went nuts. She stood on her hind legs and barked fiercely at this apparition. She was scared crazy and she wanted to send this ghost back where he came from.

After I stopped laughing I realized how startled and frightened she must have been. Even though she forgot about it quickly, I thought about what could make me scared enough to scream bloody murder. And why it is that humans find it much harder to deal with their fear than dogs do.

Humans are scared of almost everything. We are scared of failure or success, of being alone or being loved. We are scared of being embarrassed or being praised, scared of too much pressure or not enough direction. Scared of being ignored and scared of being yelled at. Scared of being bossed around and scared of being too bossy. Scared of terrorists and scared of the law, scared of change and scared to change, scared of heights, scared of clowns, scared of life and scared to death.

As The Band sang, some people get stage fright, some are scared of the spotlight and some are scared with all their might. Woody Guthrie said that some people rob you with a six gun and some with a fountain pen. If Woody was around today he might include the Internet, because that’s where the fear really flies.

We’ve got governments fighting cyber wars and media hacking cell phones. We’ve got people carrying on affairs and posting the most intimate details of their personal lives for anyone to see. We’ve got brands being tarred and feathered with unsubstantiated rumor and innuendo and politicians spreading negative noise about their opponents that sticks whether it’s true or not. 

Which finally brings me to my point, which is that I like crisis communications.  Crisis communicators put out fires and calm frazzled nerves by gathering the facts and delivering them with honest transparency and compassion.  It is our job to keep our cool and remind our clients to keep theirs too. We need to temper our passion with precision and face our fear with the fierceness of our convictions.

Like my dog, it is the job of a good crisis communicator to help their clients learn to look fear in the face when they feel threatened or attacked. When we find ourselves stuck in a ghost story, how do we want it to end? Like my dog, can we make that ghost disappear? Can we make that spirit fly? 

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