Michael Sitrick Book Review: When Your Reputation Is on the Line
Michael Sitrick (with the help of Dennis Kneale) released his new book in early January 2018 – The Fixer: Secrets for Saving Your Reputation in the Age of Viral Media. This is Sitrick’s second book about crisis communications, though the first – Spin: How to Turn the Power of the Press to Your Advantage, was released in 1988, so the update after 30 years is timely. Especially with the addition of social media and the internet becoming so much a part of crises for CEOs and celebrities alike.
Over the years, Sitrick And Company has represented some pretty big names and brands and has a reputation with media for his style. Some of the cases he talks about in the new book include his work for the estate of Michael Jackson, Papa John’s Pizza, and working for Roy Disney (Walt’s nephew) on a couple of situations over the years, including the one that led to Michael Eisner resigning from Disney. Not mentioned in the book are some of his current cases, or ones that confidential privilege has not been waived.
In the book, he shares his Ten Rules of Engagement and what he thinks about using “no comment” on social media and elsewhere. He believes that it is most likely that brands and celebrities will face some sort of media crisis over time. It’s too easy to say the wrong thing, or barring that, someone else says something about you or your company that isn’t even true. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to face the fallout though. The good news, Michael Sitrick really loves what he does. In an interview in 2006, he said: “I love this. It charges me up. I feel like I’m getting justice for the people I represent. I like the battle, the challenge, the intellectual stimulation, and when it works right, I like winning.” He wins a lot. And he’s done it very effectively for decades. Enough so, that one of the characters in “Pulp Fiction,” is said to be based on him.
When it comes to some of the advice he gives to people when approaching a response to a crisis – Focus on the Fix and if you don’t tell your story, someone else will. The book gives some great advice for people who could never afford the services of his agency, but even in the first chapter there is a warning that tells that crisis communications is not as easy as it may appear, it’s all in the nuances and fine points. Drafting a press release to address a crisis situation may need professional help.
By the way, one of the clients he’s helping currently with a communication crisis – Harvey Weinstein. Some clients love him – others claim he charges much much too much – and he’s an ego-maniac.