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Mastering a Crisis
Episode 691

Bill Coletti, Founder of Kith

Mastering a Crisis

Have you thought of what you could do to protect and grow the reputation of your health care company? You’ve worked so hard to built it. Why not be prepared for those what-if moments?

In this episode, we are privileged to host the outstanding Bill Coletti. Bill is the founder of Kith, a reputation management company. He is also the author of the best-selling book Critical Moments: The New Mindset of Reputation Management. 

Bill discusses how Kith Academy builds the mindset and behaviors of corporate communicators in enterprises, teams, and individuals in terms of crisis communications.

He talks about the importance of simulations, kinds of risks, and the more damaging type of risk, how Kith Academy helps someone be the still spot in a spinning wheel in a thoughtful and considerate and thoughtful manner. He also shares about ensuring organizations are resilience-ready through crisis readiness and risk acuity. 

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Mastering a Crisis

Episode 691

About Bill Coletti

Bill is a reputation management and crisis communications leader. He’s also a professional development expert. Additionally, he’s a keynote speaker, Wall Street Journal risk and compliance panelist, and a best-selling author of Critical Moments: The New Mindset of Reputation Management.

Bill has more than 25 years of managing high stake crisis, issues management, and media relations challenges for both Fortune 500 companies and winning global political campaigns. He has provided senior counsel and crisis management, corporate communications, and reputation defense to numerous clients, including AT&T, Target, American Airlines, and many other big names. 

Mastering a Crisis with Bill Coletti, Founder of Kith: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Mastering a Crisis with Bill Coletti, Founder of Kith: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Saul Marquez:
Hey, Outcomes Rocket listeners, Saul Marquez here. I get what a phenomenal asset a podcast could be for your business and also how frustrating it is to navigate editing and production, monetization, and achieving the ROIC you’re looking for. Technical busywork shouldn’t stop you from getting your genius into the world, though. You should be able to build your brand easily with the professional podcast that gets attention. A patched-up podcast could ruin your business. Let us do the technical busy work behind the scenes while you share your genius on the mic and take the industry stage. Visit smoothpodcasting.com to learn more. That’s smoothpodcasting.com to learn more.

Saul Marquez:
Welcome back to the Outcomes Rocket, Saul Marquez here. Today, I have the privilege of hosting the outstanding Bill Coletti. He is a reputation management and crisis communications leader and he’s a professional development expert. Additionally, he’s a keynote speaker, Wall Street Journal risk and compliance panelist and a best-selling author of Critical Moments: The New Mindset of Reputation Management. He has more than twenty-five years of global experience managing high stake crises, issues management, and media relations challenges for both Fortune 500 companies and winning global political campaigns. Bill has provided senior counsel and crisis management, corporate communications, and reputation defense to numerous clients, including AT&T, Target, American Airlines, big names. You get the point. He’s doing some amazing things and I’m really privileged to have him here on the podcast today to talk about the importance of relationships and how we could do a better job of dealing with a crisis when it shows up, because everyone knows crisis management, especially around this time, is critical. And so, Bill, really privileged to have you here with us today.

Bill Coletti:
So am I. I’m excited to be here. Looking forward to a great conversation.

Saul Marquez:
Likewise. Likewise. So before we get into the meat and bones of what you do, talk to us a little bit about why you do it and really, in particular, why a lot of the focus of your work happens to be in health care. Yeah.

Saul Marquez:
So I started my career doing political campaigns. So I ran. I did politics for the first half of my career until around 2000 or so. And that was really a logical transition over into crisis and reputation management. As you can recall in most campaigns, is that you’re just trying to have one less crisis than the other guy, or you’re trying to create crises for the other guy. And so that was an easy transition. And so in doing that and when you think about just the market place in the United States, is that health care lends itself to a lot of crises, whether it be provider issues, reimbursement issues, quality of care issues, labor issues, any number of issues that impact health care, both the delivery as well as simply just the execution of health care. And so that’s sort of brought us to really sort of an area of focus on health care because there’s just so many different challenges that impact lots of different types of institutions relative to the topic of health care.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, I love it. And so you went from politics where obviously your reputation management is huge crisis aversion, and it’s the same in health care. So talk to us a little bit about how exactly you do what you do in health care.

Bill Coletti:
You know, people come to us in a couple of different states, sort of four different states the way we serve people. We serve the enterprise by helping them actually build a reputation and transform their reputation over the long term. That’s typically borne out of the second way, out of crisis response. People have a crisis. And so it could be classic liability issues of a doctor performing a procedure and that impacting the reputation of the hospital or the provider group that he’s a member of. Or it could be adverse outcomes in a pharmaceutical context of bad drugs. And all of the litigation revolves around that. Or it could be labor unrest where nurses union or other unions are organizing either for or against an employer.

Bill Coletti:
So lots of those types of crises, that’s the primary way people come to us is crisis response. We then serve the organization long term and then we work with individuals on a product that we call Kith Academy, which is really teaching the mindset and behavior of great communications for individuals. And then we do simulations and the simulations are for the teams and for teams and groups of organizations within an organization to help them respond better on their own to these crises. So we serve the situation, the enterprise, the team, as well as the individual.

Saul Marquez:
Fascinating. So let’s hone in a little bit on Kith Academy. What exactly is it? Tell us a little bit more about that. Yeah.

So, you know, there is a lot of belief among communicator’s people that are corporate communicators and or leaders that have a communications responsibility, but not necessarily day-to-day. So think of a Chief Operating Officer or Chief Executive Officer and sometimes general counsels are involved in communications, in particular in those litigation things that we talked about. Well, too often found is that there’s an overreliance by the C suite on outside expert experts like myself is that they are they do not lean on their head of communications or head of PR head or mark. Whatever they get called in their organization. And so what KITH Academy is, it is an eight-week training program where we are actually working with communications leaders and a cohort of about 20 of their peers to actually build the skill sets, but more importantly, the mindset and the behavior of great corporate communications and in particular, great crisis communications, because too often the C Suite doesn’t look down within their organization and find value or and appropriate respect for the communicators in their organization. So this is an opportunity to level up those communicators. It is not how to bake a cake. It is not a crisis one on one. This is much more about the mindset and the behaviors of really strong corporate communicators in crisis.

Saul Marquez:
That is fascinating to me. And you’re right, when we get into these situations, oftentimes money out the window right? Like and you have the people to do the work. So it’s more about that mindset, the philosophy, giving people that courage, whatever it takes to to to handle these challenges. So give us a sneak peek. I mean, talk to us about how some of the work that you do and how you’re helping business improve for some of the companies you work for.

Bill Coletti:
Yeah. So it’s you know, we think that the way we improve companies, the single best way we improve companies, not in a crisis, I think the best way we serve people is when they find themselves in a crisis. We come running from the outside is really through simulations, is that we can work with a leadership team and a communications team to actually simulate an event or series of events and a stress test, how you’re going to respond. And so after having done this for some time now, about 20 years, is that I’ve found that the key differentiator in crisis, the key differentiator between success and not failure, but lack of success is speed, the ability to get messages into the marketplace quickly. And the way you get speed is by being crystal clear on your mission and values and then being equally clear on chain of command. And so simulations force you to test both of those, test your mission and values. What do we stand for, who really matters and who’s our chain of command and how do we make decisions and how we make decisions quickly. So by teasing out those two things, mission and values, and chain of command, that the sum equals speed. And one of the best ways to test that is through simulations. And so that’s a great resource where we actually sit, whether it be a four-hour session, a day-long session, whatever the context that we work out for the client, where we actually will model a concern or an issue that we’ve dealt with to actually test and examine how does the actual organization respond to identify gaps and then begin a process of solving and filling in those gaps?

Saul Marquez:
Man, know, this is super interesting because, I mean, you think about it, we do the stuff for hurricanes. We do it for tornadoes, for I mean, shooters now,

Bill Coletti:
Mass casualty, mass casualty shooting events. Absolutely.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah. So but yet we don’t do it for.

Bill Coletti:
Reputational issues.

Saul Marquez:
I mean, this is a great example of cross-pollination. They say, go to work, go to a conference that’s completely unrelated to what you do and you’re going to pull something. We’ll you’re offering us really something unique here. And it’s not rocket science, but it’s beautiful in how simple it could make an executive team prepare for something like this.

Bill Coletti:
Yeah. And we talk about risk in three different ways. So there’s strategic, preventible, and external. Well, you and I just described those were external. Those are things that happen to us. Big weather events, mass casualty events, those types of things. Quite frankly, the public is remarkably sympathetic and remarkably accommodating when those things happen because it’s impacting everybody, these external events. So if there’s a weather event that knocks down the hospital, let’s say, or something happens to the hospital in there and they’ve got to triage their response. Home Depot’s dealing with that as well. The school system’s dealing with that as well. So people are really patient. And so we exercise these things that actually reputationally have the lowest cost.

Bill Coletti:
But if a nurse didn’t follow COVID protocols and infected people, much more reputational. Obviously, there are some health care concerns about the impact that the individuals got impacted. But that is much more about quality of care standards. That is much more relevant to policies and procedures. Those reputational issues have far more impact than this active shooter or natural disaster events that we train on. I would much rather, let’s focus on the thorny, difficult things. I don’t want to say natural disasters and shooters are easy and they’re not, but they’ve relatively prescribed playbooks. These challenging issues or a doctor that is involved in sexual harassment. Let’s pick the topic. It doesn’t really matter.

Saul Marquez:
Some of the things that happen with the COVID vaccine. Right?

Bill Coletti:
Like we’re in it right now. We’re watching it in real-time. Absolutely.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, absolutely. So, folks, strategic, reputational, external.

Bill Coletti:
The middle is preventable. Strategic yep, strategic things you’re meant to do.

Saul Marquez:
Preventable. Oh OK. Got it. Got it.

Bill Coletti:
Pretty bad things you’re prevented you meant to do. Preventable things you should have zero tolerance for. You know, you should not leave a scalpel in a patient that should have zero tolerance for that. External are things outside of your control. But we decided to close the oncology department. We decided to open a rural campus. Whatever the case may be, those are strategic decisions, preventible zero tolerance, external things outside of our control.

Saul Marquez:
Awesome. Thanks for correcting me. Strategic, preventible, external. It’s great to put handles on things so that you know how to manage them. And Bill and his team do such a great job of this bill. Why do you think you’re good at what you do? What is it about your experience? Is there anything you could point to? Maybe a learning experience. We learn more from our failures than our successes. Talk to me about maybe one of those, but also, you know, wrap it up. And why does it make you better?

Bill Coletti:
Yeah, so with a lot of self-discovery and personal work post-divorce, I tried to figure out some of those things. And so, you know, professionally, I’m absolutely at my best and fully engaged and energized when I am the still spot at the center of a wheel. So there’s a big wheel spinning. The easy personification is that’s a crisis going on around me and I’m still-spot in the middle. And so I’m good in those situations. I try to be pretty unflappable. I try to be pretty steady in those types of situations. That sort of lends itself to crisis response. I think what we’re trying to do now and what we’re doing a nice job of is how can we bottle that and share it? And that’s some of the things we want to try to do in Kith Academy. Because Saul I’m sure you would agree, not everybody is built that way. Not every leader thrives and becomes the still spot. Sometimes they become one of the flying spokes off the side of it. And so that’s my gift and my unique ability is the ability to be that that still spot. Additionally, it’s about pattern recognition. I’ve been doing this long enough. If I see a circle square triangle and then I see the circle, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a square triangle is what I’m going to see next. And so having pattern recognition. So I think that’s what makes me good at what I do. I also think to the heart of your question,. The personal emerging is that I don’t have to be a jerk to deliver really good strategic advice. There are a lot of consultants that fly in from big cities and just sort of start shooting it up and saying, you know, do this, do that, do this, do that.

Bill Coletti:
I mean, I’m really clear and direct when we’re in a crisis moment on what needs to be done. But you don’t have to deliver it like some sort of cocky guy from New York. You can kind of deliver it in a really thoughtful, considerate because I’m typically finding leadership teams, the folks that are listening to your podcast, I’m finding leadership teams on some of their worst days and they’ll take advice from anybody because they’re sinking in and anybody that throw a life preserver at them they’ll take it. But I can deliver it with a sense of humanity and understanding that this is probably the worst day of their career that they’re having to deal with or among the worst. And I should I can deliver what I do in a bedside manner to your audience. I can deliver with a bedside manner that’s a little more family doctor and a little bit less brain surgeon.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah.

Bill Coletti:
I don’t know any brain surgeons. No offense to the brain surgeons that are listening, but I know very few of them have a great bedside manner.

Saul Marquez:
I hear your point. And certainly, it’s important. Right. You don’t want to deal with some jerk, especially when you’re in a tough spot. So really, really great. And by the way, thanks for sending your book. Appreciate that. And there’s this concept of reputation, resilience. We all want to be resilient. But talk to us about reputation resilience and how companies can focus more on that and become more resilient.

Bill Coletti:
Yeah, great question. You know, so for us, most people find us in some state of crisis. Either they’re in a crisis, they want to prepare better for crisis, or someone that they benchmark or observe has been in a crisis and they’re like, man, I don’t ever want I don’t want to do that, so how do we avoid that? So they find us in some state of crisis. It’s my experience that companies choose two options for a leader. One is that they can just do better crisis readiness. They can make sure that their spokespeople are ready, make sure they’re clear on chain of command that we talked about earlier. So all of the things that we call crisis readiness, they make sure they’ve got talking, talking points. They’ve got plans in place. The other aspect of that is, is what we call risk acuity. How can we understand the reputational risks that are going to impact us and what can we do to mitigate that? So I believe that reputation resilience comes by A- being crisis ready, but B- actually having fewer crises and actually mitigating the risks and the reputational impacts that they’re going to have.

Bill Coletti:
And so it’s just like if you were I were to go see our doctor, our cardiologist. And, you know, the cardiologist has got a handful of tools in their tool kit to try to help if we’ve got a history of heart disease or something like that. One of the primary tools is they’re going to say you need to improve your diet and your exercise. Diet and exercise are the same equivalency of crisis readiness and risk acuity. How can you limit our risks, which is exercise? And then how can I improve my diet, which is crisis readiness, and that leads to resiliency as a human. That’s what my doctor said to me. I’ll make you more resilient if you diet and exercise. We want to make corporations more resilient in the same way with crisis readiness and risk acuity.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, well said. I think it’s it’s a great opportunity for anybody listening as you think about what you do this year, how you take your company to the next level. It’s a great opportunity to think about this simulation, what you could do to protect and grow the reputation of your health system, of your health care company. You’ve worked so hard to build it. Why not be prepared for those what-if moments, just as you would like to be prepared if you live on the coast of Florida for a hurricane? It’s important. And so I love this bill. This has been an incredible conversation. What are you most excited about?

Bill Coletti:
You know, in 2021, we’re most excited of having fewer crisis responses. I am excited about KITH Academy and that mindset and behavior. I think that the pandemic has forced everybody to think about what I call black swans are not what I call but what are called black swans. These sort of these crazy events that we can be prepared for. I think it’s illuminated a lot of leaders’ eyes, and I think you compound that with George Floyd and sort of the Black Lives Matter issues of the summer. I think I’m excited that leadership doesn’t view reputation as a cost center, but views it as something to really grow and augment their reputation.

Saul Marquez:
Bill, I think you’re right. And we have to look at reputation management as an investment that has a large ROI because it does in the end. And so I’m really grateful that you really just came on the podcast, then shared your knowledge. This is the tip of the iceberg, folks. If you want to learn more, obviously there’s an opportunity for you to do it. It’s Kith.co. KITH.CO. on the website OutcomesRocket.Health, type in KITH.CO. You guys know we got that updated search bar. You’re going to find all of the things that we talked about, links to Kith.co, a link to Bill’s profile on LinkedIn, and different ways to get in touch. Bill, why don’t you tell us what’s the best way to get in touch with you if somebody, what you said resonated with someone listening and a closing thought for us to to take away here today?

Bill Coletti:
Yeah, great. You know, the simplest way is we’re going to create on our website Kith.co./rocket outcomes. Just a landing page for you guys to just have all that information. So if you want to share that, that’s easy for your audience and a very clear place for people to land. But it’s Kith.co. We’ve got all the doors and the channels open if you want to reach out and find us there, as you mentioned, LinkedIn. But I think the best places to go to that page specifically for the podcast. You know, the final thought and we talked about it a little bit, it’s just you don’t have to invest in somebody like me. And it’s probably best if you don’t invest in somebody like me to do a simulation. It’s simply at your staff meeting, your leadership whenever you do it, daily, monthly, weekly, quarterly, whatever is, pull out the newspaper and say, what if this had happened to us? What would we do? How would we respond? And it’s basically it’s a very simple ten minute simulation. And you’ll learn a lot about your organization very quickly. And you also learn a lot about your chain of command, who gets to make a decision. And it’s a simple, simple way that organizations can actually really learn. And then if you want to go further, happy to talk to you about a more fully immersive simulation. But the simple thing is pull out the paper and ask, what if this had happened to us?

Saul Marquez:
I love it. What a great place to start, Bill. And again, folks, make sure you do this right. I mean, you heard this. Great idea, and you probably thought, yeah, you know what, wow, he has a point. Well, do something with that point and practice. And if you find that it got you to a certain level and you want more, obviously Bill’s here. He’s ready to help. Bill, really, really, really appreciate this message today and grateful for you, my friend.

Bill Coletti:
Awesome Saul. Thank you for what you do. It’s a great podcast and I really appreciate what you do. So thank you.

Saul Marquez:
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Things You’ll Learn

  • Leadership doesn’t view reputation as a cost center but views it as something to grow and augment their reputation.
  • You don’t have to wait for a crisis to be crisis-ready. Do simulations of possible crises your organization may face and establish rules on who makes the decisions and learn more about your chain of command. 

 

Resources:

https://kith.co/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/billcoletti/