This is the sixth episode of “Interviews with Lynn” a seven-part series from Culloton + Bauer Luce on the issues facing public affairs and crisis management practitioners and their clients.

Lynn Holley, senior consultant at CBL and a former financial news anchor, interviews founding partners Dennis Culloton and Natalie Bauer Luce. These communications strategists offer a behind the scenes glimpse of guiding clients through all manner of crises from global pandemics to boardroom scandals. They’ve helped clients navigate cultural changes and political turmoil with an eye toward rebuilding reputations and renewing purpose.


Lynn Holley: Do you foresee new threats on the horizon to the reputation for big business and prominent people? What is your best guess here?

Natalie Bauer Luce: Let me give you the short answer yes. You know we live in such a dynamic time. There are so many problems, climate, political, social justice, and social equity, and it’s easier than ever to communicate your viewpoint on an issue. It’s the click of a button, and that can be a very dangerous combination.

Dennis Culloton: I would agree. You know social media isn’t new for sure, but it plays an outsized role and grows every day in terms of how stories play out. Let’s face it, a lot of social media is negative. So you’ve got a news media dealing with continued cutbacks, so sometimes you see the news media covering the social media reaction to a news event, and that’s something that we would have never seen before.

So everybody’s a reporter, and everybody’s got an opinion. And that makes it difficult for brands and for people to respond or not respond to, react to or not overreact to, so it’s something that’s difficult to navigate.

The other thing is the socio-political issues. Brands are under increasing pressure, top executives and celebrities are under increasing pressure to take a stand on a social-political issue and you know we all know there are all these hot buttons we talk about, it could be climate, it could be reproductive rights, gender rights, there is a long list, voting rights.

And I guess the best advice that I could give is make sure that your decision as a brand or as an individual is something you’ve thought through and thought through all the way through and across the whole curriculum, so that you’re prepared to carry it out consistently. Because there’s going to be blowback no matter what, no matter which side of any of the divisive issues you’re on. Make sure you’ve thought through in terms of its impact on shareholders and customers and employees and the communities in which you operate.

After that analysis if you still want to take that stand then carry it all the way through.