This is the second 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: In the larger picture, what is the biggest mistake you see clients make when they’re confronted with a crisis?

Dennis Culloton: Usually before they hire us there’s three things that we see happen at least in my experience. Number one, there’s a grieving process and so what they do is often go deep into the bunker and do nothing.

The second thing they often do is double down on what’s already been proven not to work to prove that they were right with whatever occurred or whatever was said to prove that that was not a mistake. 

And the third thing is to panic and make things perhaps worse by making a panicked decision.

You know stepping down or resigning an office often can be something that happens in a worst case scenario, but there are things that you can do along the way to get yourself back into positive territory. So that’s usually  something that should be a last resort, not a first. 

But we see that a lot before we get brought on. Natalie, what are you seeing?

Natalie Bauer Luce: I think that there’s a strong sense of of denial or sort of shock that you’re in this situation in the first place sort of your worst nightmare has has actually come true and so we find a lot of times that clients are simply in a state of denial. They’re sort of wanting to bury their head in the sand and just wish the problem to go away. As opposed to implementing a plan to actively address the problems.

Second to that sort of state of denial, we also see clients that just simply want to explain away the problems. As opposed to taking proactive steps to to change the root cause of the issue. 

Dennis as you like to say, if you’re explaining you’re losing. So those are two of the the key issues that I see with clients that come to us with crisis matters.