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Masters of Disaster: The Ten Commandments of Damage Control Hardcover – December 11, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


Masters of Disaster is the perfect playbook for how to respond when you're under enemy fire…a vital and fun read full of back-room tales for those who want to learn from America's greatest corporate and political scandals.” ―The Huffington Post

“A how-to brought to you by the guys who defended Clinton on impeachment.” ―The National Journal

“The go-to manual...Lehane and Fabiani are well positioned to distill the lessons of the baseball steroid scandal, Tiger Woods's infidelities, and Anthony Weiner's obscene tweets into clearly articulated principles.” ―starred review, Publishers Weekly

“If you are a public figure, or even a private citizen who might engender controversy, read this book and put its authors on your speed dial. These guys are truly the masters not only of avoiding or minimizing disaster, but of dealing with the kind of crises faced by ordinary people when they first encounter the media, the law or the blood sport we call politics.” ―Alan M. Dershowitz, author of The Trials of Zion

“In a hostile climate where reputations and markets can be capriciously destroyed in seconds, the old chestnuts about crisis management don't apply. What's needed is perspective from the seasoned Masters of Disaster who understand that damage control is a temperamental art, not grade school science. A valuable addition to the modern crisis canon.” ―Eric Dezenhall, CEO Dezenhall Resources, Ltd. and author of Damage Control: The Essential Lessons of Crisis Management

“Every board, every manager and now almost every individual now faces the possibility of being swept up in a firestorm of media and mangled message. Masters of Disaster provides both sound rules and great examples of both the positive and negative kind to guide us all through to the best possible outcomes. The only danger is that you won't read it in advance. I recommend it to all my board colleagues and CEO friends.” ―Howard Stevenson, Sarofim Rock Professor Emeritus, Harvard Business School

“Today crisis is common, and news of scandal, whether large or small, spreads rapidly. Through detailed case studies that focus on both those who have successfully overcome a crisis and those who have failed, Masters of Disaster offers essential insight into crisis management.” ―Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitols and Washington Wizards

“Managing the world's most famous sports franchise is never dull, and there are times when I've turned to and found valuable tactics from this crisis management playbook.” ―Jeanie Buss, president, Los Angeles Lakers

“Think if you are not in the public eye, this book does not apply to you? Think again. Disaster will happen to all of us, when we least expect it. And if you are in the public eye -- this is mandatory survival reading!” ―Guerrino De Luca, CEO of Logitech

About the Author

Named a "Master of Disaster" by Newsweek and the "Master of the Political Dark Arts" by The New York Times, Christopher Lehane is a partner in the strategic communications firm Fabiani & Lehane, which provides high level counsel to corporate, entertainment, political and professional sports clients facing complex challenges typically involving some combination of the law, finance, government affairs and communications. His firm has represented the likes of Goldman Sachs, Lance Armstrong and Hollywood studios. Lehane, whose career began in Democratic politics and who continues to be active as a political consultant, served in various positions in the Clinton-Gore Administration during the 1990s, including Special Assistant Counsel to President Bill Clinton, Press Secretary for Vice President Al Gore and Counselor to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo (now the Governor of New York). A Lecturer in Management at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Lehane is a regular commentator and speaker on the art of damage control. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1994 and from Amherst College in 1990 and lives in San Francisco, CA with his wife, Andrea, and two sons, Dominic and Quincy.

Bill Guttentag is a two-time Oscar-winning feature film and documentary writer-producer-director. His films include the dramatic features Live!, starring Eva Mendes and Andre Braugher, and Knife Fight starring Rob Lowe, Julie Bowen, and Carrie-Ann Moss. His documentary features include Nanking, which premiered at the Sundance Film and Festival and Soundtrack for a Revolution Soundtrack for a Revolution which had its international premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.

In 2003 he won an Oscar for the documentary Twin Towers. He has also has received a second Oscar, three additional Oscar nominations, a Peabody Award, three Emmy Awards, two Writers Guild Award nominations, and a Robert Kennedy Journalism Award. His films have been selected for the Sundance Film Festival three times, and have played and won awards at numerous American and international film festivals. They have also received a number of special screenings internationally and in the US, including at the White House.

He was an executive producer and creator of the non-fiction series Law & Order: Crime & Punishment which ran for three seasons on NBC. His first novel, Boulevard, was published by Pegasus Books/W.W. Norton in 2010. He was a John S. Knight journalism fellow at Stanford University and since 2001 he has been a lecturer at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (December 11, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230341802
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230341807
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #794,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 30 people found the following review helpful By James D. Crabtree VINE VOICE on April 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The need to control situations which threaten to overwhelm individuals and organizations is important, no doubt about that. And yes, there are certain strategies which do help mitigate these situations (release first, be honest, stop digging). However, I find the choice of examples to be... interesting.

Authors Lehane and Fabiani worked for the Clinton administration and were employed to deal with "investigations." The third author is listed as a writer-producer-director. His contribution could explain why there are so many pointless movie references in this book.

Almost every negative example is a Republican (George W. Bush's name appears on 20 pages). Every positive example is a Democrat (Bill 12, Hillary 5, Obama 9). The book actually uses the term "Republican Apparatchiks" to describe the sailors who served with Kerry during Vietnam (many of whom are lifelong democrats). When talking about the dangers of not coming out with the truth, it did NOT mention Bill Clinton's affair with an intern (Lewinsky 0).

This book wasn't even that well written. I found myself continually thinking about other books I had NOT read while leafing through the pages of this book. The "ten Commandments" are actually 4 or 5 repeated in different ways. The bottom line is, get an unbiased book on this topic. I'm sure they're out there.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Brad Phillips, Author, The Media Training Bible on January 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover
It's difficult to write a "how to" book on crisis communications. Each crisis has its own set of unique challenges, and what works well in one case may cause a company's demise in another.

But authors Christopher Lehane, Mark Fabiani, and Bill Guttentag--the first two former high-ranking White House officials and the third an Ocsar-winning filmmaker--do a wonderful job of arming readers with critical information they need to know to survive a personal or professional crisis.

Their book, Masters of Disaster: The Ten Commandments of Crisis Control, rightly points out that "we no longer have conventional news cycles but cycles within cycles." In today's media age, they write, crises "have become the normal state of nature," and that "scandal is an endlessly self-renewing resource."

Therefore, preparing in advance for crisis is more important today than ever before. Masters helps readers do that by detailing "Ten Commandments" of damage control, the purpose of which are to help restore trust to companies in crisis. Those rules include admonitions to speak to your core audience, avoid feeding the fire, respond with overwhelming force, and "destroy" opponents who dissemble.

But the greatest strength of this book is its case studies. The authors went into great detail on numerous recent scandals--ranging from those affecting Toyota, British Petroleum, Penn State University, Tiger Woods, baseball's steroid users, and a few politicians. The case studies read like good fiction, and I found myself flying through those pages. Even as an author
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By George Bush HALL OF FAME on April 1, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
A crisis is something that puts you or your organization's trust at risk with those audiences whose trust must be maintained to survive. Crises are everywhere and impact everyone - in fact, they're the normal state of nature. Underlying drivers are the vast proliferation of outlets communicating information and the speed with which information moves today. Moreover, during the past 50 years there has been a steady breakdown of public trust in political, business, education, and religious leaders. The public believes we are on the wrong track, wants answers, but lacks faith in the ability of traditional gatekeepers to provide useful and accurate answers.

The first rule to remember - 'It's not the crime, it's the cover-up,' a lesson forever imprinted by Watergate. Responses to a crisis must demonstrate that, despite the crisis, you can be trusted. Accomplishing that requires adhering to what the authors describe as the Ten Commandments of Damage Control built around doing no harm, taking a disciplined approach, and preserving your credibility.

The Do No Harm principle is often undermined by a desire to blame others (creates new enemies, does not appear forthright), provide instant responses to make 'the problem' go away (usually prove unsustainable and detrimental), and trying to spin the story (excuses, downplaying the seriousness).

Taking a disciplined approach requires preparation, mental toughness, and thinking long-term. 'Pivot points' are a key objective, achieved by drawing a line between the past and the future - they must include more than words (eg. a comprehensive and self-critical report, management changes at the top, an apology). Sooner is better.

The authors then introduce their 'ten commandments of damage control.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By JYK on December 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The book provides very practical advice based on real-life examples of individuals and companies that managed or mismanaged career or reputation-destroying moments. Some handled crises well and came through stronger. Others fumbled and made mountains out of molehills.

The ten commandments are:

#1: Full disclosure
#2: Speak to your core audience
#3: Don't feed the fire
#4: Details matter
#5: Hold your head high
#6: Be straight about what you know, what you don't know, and what you are going to do to fix the problem
#7: Respond with overwhelming force
#8: First in, first out
#9: No swiftboating
#10: They dissemble, you destroy
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