Eden Gillott | Celebrity Sex Scandals, Breaking News, and More: How to Manage Crisis PR
Smart Business Revolution

Eden Gillott, aka the Dumpster Fire Fixer, is a crisis communications expert and the President of Gillott Communications. She has more than a decade of expertise in crisis and reputation management. She resolves issues both inside and outside the media’s glare — from celebrity scandals and corporate fraud to criminal and civil litigation. Educated at Harvard, NYU, Sejong University, and other institutions, she’s worked in Manhattan, Seoul, and Los Angeles.

Eden is a Forbes contributor and has appeared in many publications including The New York Times, LA Times, Wall Street Journal, and The Associated Press, among others. She is Co-author of three best-selling books: A Business Owner’s Guide to Crisis PR, A Lawyer’s Guide to Crisis PR (Second Edition), and A Board Member’s Guide to Crisis PR.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Eden Gillott, a crisis management expert, about how she helps celebrities and business owners handle scandals and crises. Eden also explains how she picks reporters to work with, shares her strategies for handling information already known by the public, and explains how to prevent future crises. Stay tuned.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • How Eden Gillott helped a company’s board evaluate and make a decision about its founder’s actions 
  • Eden’s strategies for dealing with information already known to the public 
  • Eden explains how she works with reporters and handles unfolding cases when she doesn’t have all the facts
  • The risk of sharing different information or messages to different groups of people
  • The types of clients Eden works with and the different ways they handle crises
  • Eden’s advice to business owners on preventing future crises
  • Does Eden often face pushback from companies as a crisis management expert?
  • Can letting time pass make scandals go away?
  • How social media has been impacting crisis management
  • Eden talks about the people she respects and shares her contact details

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:10

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

All right, welcome everyone. John Corcoran here. I am the host of this show and every week I get to talk to smart CEOs, founders, entrepreneurs of all kinds of companies and organizations ranging from you know, Netflix to Kinkos’, YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, LendingTree, OpenTable, Ace Software, and many more. I’m also the Co-founder Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. And my guest this week is Eden Gillott. And she is a crisis communications expert. She’s been called the Dumpster Fire Fixer, which I’ve just absolutely love that description. How memorable is that? She turns out a strategic communications firm manages the optics and messaging both in and outside of the media’s glare from celebrity scandals and corporate fraud to criminal and civil litigation. And she works with business owners, board members and attorneys to tell their side of the story when the proverbial shi T hits the fan. She’s written three books on crisis management and also done TEDx talks. And she frequently appears on TV and in print, including ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, Access Hollywood, and a host of other locations. 

And of course, this episode is brought to you by Rise25 Media, where we help b2b businesses to get clients referrals and strategic partnerships with podcasts and content marketing. And if you’re listening to this and wondering whether you should do a podcast, I’ve told everyone that I think they should as well. So go check out rise25media.com, or email us at [email protected], and we’ll be happy to help you out. Alright, Eden, pleasure to have you here. And yeah, I’m excited to talk to you about this, what’s more fun and celebrity scandals and crises and all that kind of stuff. And you got clients that call you and they’re pulling up to their house. And there’s a bunch of media cameras out front and crazy stories like that. But let’s start with, you had a client that was a founder of a company and kind of a classic case of a founder, where they kind of start to use the the company like a piggy bank, but then the company grows them, then you got a board and then the board start looking at it starts looking at things. And it turns out there’s a lot of kinds lining their pockets. I think we’ve all seen stories like this in the news. And you were brought in by the board to help figure out how to navigate the way forward. Tell us how that played out. Yeah,

Eden Gillott 2:55

so this is actually something that’s super common faults with for profit companies and nonprofit companies. But as you’re saying, we were brought in by the board, and it was trying to figure out, you know, can we keep this person? If we do? How does that look? If we let that person go? How are we able to do this? If we do that, you know, do we file suit against this person? Like how we do so actually one of the interesting things about the founder was and actually this happens quite often is when the company is built around the individual, right? It’s kind of hard to imagine if you keep that individual way or that company or organization be able to exist without that person. Yeah. Donors

John Corcoran 3:26

or donors, right. You know, like, is that gonna crumble? Because everyone had a relationship with this person? Even if, right, you know, they thought that person was on the up and up.

Eden Gillott 3:35

And so it’s interesting, actually, with the board, because you get something like this, where you get some people who are like, Oh, of course, they did this, I knew something was kind of fishy. I just didn’t say anything. Like we have to get rid of this person. Don’t be like one part of the board and the other part of the board, like, but I’ve known this person for

John Corcoran 3:50

so long, right? brought in by that person.

Eden Gillott 3:53

And yeah, and even if they get the report back, you know, the investigative report, and they go, actually, you know, this person has been lining their pockets, you know, they spent $4,000 on a shuffleboard table and called it biz dev. You know, even though they have these cold, hard numbers in their face, they’re still alive, but I go golfing with this person, our kid grew up together, we’ve known them for so long, it’s actually really hard to get all of the board to align and go, This must be the best path forward. So we always start with what is the goal of the organization? Right? So working with the board, you know, we weren’t going like what is the goal and the goal is for this one was to protect the company. And so when we were going through, you know, do we keep this person? Do we not keep this person? How do we let the person go? I was like, if the goal is to protect the company or the organization, what is the best path forward so that you always have to tie it back for mine when they start straying off? And glacial but I don’t know. It’s and bring them back to protect it.

John Corcoran 4:48

Yeah, the goal is to be why. Right. Right. Right. And, you know, I wanted to ask you about, you know, when you’re dealing with things or in the media or things that are in the public narrative, everyone has a different opinion, everyone has a different subjective belief about, you know, what is out there and what information is out there. And that can make it really challenging to debate with people when they have strongly held opinions about into the way that something is discussed, which is influenced, especially these days, by where we gather our information, you know, you might have some board members, who are Fox News watchers and other board members who are CNN watchers, and they have a completely different perspective on the world. So how do you navigate those paths when you have people with, you know, that need to come together wildly different worldviews of what the media narrative is, or can be? Yeah, I’ve

Eden Gillott 5:42

actually just talking about that with somebody else in my industry recently, because it used to be you know, there, no matter what happens, there’s going to be people who will not believe you, no matter what happens, you can say, you know, the sky is blue, but it’s actually blue, unable to like, I don’t think that right, so you’re never going to convince the people who are just out to disco, no matter what you do, they’re going to be the people that absolutely love you, no matter what you do, unless you do something completely egregious, and you’re usually playing towards the middle or that people haven’t made up their mind. But recently, just everyone is so divided, it is becoming increasingly hard to kind of play towards that middle. But what I have found is if you can start with one’s listening, and not getting super defensive about stuff, to listening to where they’re coming from, because usually it’s a combination of some sort of commonality or middle ground, and if you can get the other side or some not necessarily that it’s the other side. But if you can get people to agree that you know, you do have commonalities, you can work based on that data, basically just coming out straight from the gate, you’re wrong, this thing, you know, people start getting really defensive, and they’re going to shut down and not listen to anything else you have to say. 

John Corcoran 6:44

And now when you’re trying to help, you know, a board or company or a law firm to figure out what that goal is, we can all agree on what the goal is, from a crisis communication standpoint. Imagine one of the big pieces. First is Is this realistic? You know, is this a realistic goal? Like, if it’s already out in the news, we can’t just completely wipe it away, will it completely go away? So how do you you know, get them to understand what’s realistic, and what’s not,

Eden Gillott 7:16

based on experience from past client work that I’ve had, right? So for example, if somebody comes to me, and they’re like, you know, actually, somebody just called me yesterday, and they were like, you know, the story came out last week, I want it to go away. Well, the reporter had reached out to you before it was even published, they were going, you know, these are some things that we’ve heard, these are some things that we’ve seen, do you have a comment on the situation? Yes, the questions are slanted a little bit towards, you know, this organization being made out to be the bad guy. And then they refused to answer the reporter. And then it came out. And they were like, well, we wish it would be taken down. And I was like, Well, you have the opportunity to shape the narrative to tell your side of the story when they reached out to you. And yes, reporters had their like, list of questions that, you know, based on what they’ve read, I can understand why they have these questions. So in terms of shaping the narrative, and coming out and going, like, you know, Is this realistic? No, you cannot undo a story that came out a week ago. But you can go right, well, based on what we have now, it’s, you know, for this organization, it was like, Well, how is it impacting the current employees that you have? How is it impacting the donors? The investors, right, the people that are your various stakeholders, you know, have they read the story? Are they upset about it? Do they need reassurance? It’s trying to figure out, you know, you can’t undo the past. But going forward, what do you have control over?

John Corcoran 8:35

Right? And, of course, you know, with these fast moving types of stories, a lot of times you don’t have all the facts, so you don’t know everything yet. How do you navigate those waters? When you have a story that’s unfolding, and you want to get information out there, but you don’t have all the facts?

Eden Gillott 8:53

Yeah, so it’s reminding the clients that it is not necessary reminding them but working with them and going okay, right. So you want to keep people informed, you don’t want to have an information void, because when you do, people don’t start filling it in with their own thoughts and opinions and speculation. You know, you want to make sure it’s based on facts. And sometimes when crises do hit, there are things that you don’t actually know what the answers are to everything. And that’s okay. You just have to go, you know, the situation is ongoing. We’re developing and letting managing the expectations of the listeners and say, you know, this is ongoing, we expect to have information at whatever the reasonable amount of time is, and then making sure that when you say, you know, like, if you’re expecting something back report back on Friday, that you get back to them on Friday. Same thing you do with reporters, right? If you tell a reporter you know, when is your deadline, I’ll get back to you and then you don’t get back to them. It burned the bridge. You want to make sure that you keep your promises.

John Corcoran 9:46

Right now, if you have different reporters that are covering different angles on the story, how do you leverage those different relationships in order to shape the narrative? Do you know to go round To the more friendly reporters, do you kind of have in mind who’s the right one to talk to? Right? How do you navigate those waters?

Eden Gillott 10:09

Generally, right, because it always depends, as a former attorney, I’m sure you can appreciate that. But usually it’s going, you know, it’s always beneficial to go after, or work with a reporter that is friendly for you, instead of going after that 01, I find that you know, if you are limited on time and resources, you know, going after the lead sphere, right, like, which is the newspaper or outlet, that if you speak to them, everyone else is going to start following, right, you don’t want to start giving very similar to other stakeholders, you don’t really want to tell the media, different sets of facts, because they both figure it out. And your story is going to start to fall apart. If you know, yes, PR stakeholders like your employees have different interests, then your investors might then your other board members might, but the media, I mean, you can’t, you can’t lie to anyone. Yeah, definitely not to the media.