Oh, D.E.A.R. — How to Respond to Crisis: Eat the Whole Bug

I spent the last weekend, as I do a couple of times a year, leading ethics and leadership sessions at the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership’s Candidate Training Program. This is a bipartisan, intensive boot-camp for new candidates, delivered within an ethics framework. It has been proven to work and numerous grads are now holding office.

Over the years I’ve learned a lot through osmosis, as I listen to expert after expert, year after year. I can tell you all about message development, strategy, research, fundraising, get out the vote, and more. One segment last weekend featured a new speaker who talked about crisis communications.

The speaker was full of great sayings. Here are two:

Look what i found, richie sensei!! by Flickr user ninja gecko
'Look what i found, richie sensei!!' by Flickr user ninja gecko

“When you are hit with a crisis, the forest is gone — you’ve run headlong into a tree.”


“Admitting it and getting everything — all the information — out there is like eating a bug. You can eat the whole bug all at once, and get it over with. Or you can take little bites and keep eating bits of the bug. Just eat the whole bug.

He was full of great , concrete advice. This one was my favorite:

As a political candidate, when a crisis hits, you have four choices, illustrated by the saying “Oh, D.E.A.R.“. (Get it?)

The choices are:

  • Deny — “No, it didn’t happen, you are wrong, they are lying.”
  • Explain — “Yes it looks bad but there is more to the story and when you know all the facts it’s really OK.”
  • Admit — “Yes, it’s true and we are very sorry.”
  • Respond — “The real issue is my opponent’s terrible record on x.”

It’s an interesting construct, and you can look at a number of current political crises and see which path the subjects are choosing to take.

(And, if you think about it, this same idea applies to organizations in crisis, too.)

Published by

Brad Rourke

Executive editor of issue guides and program officer at the Kettering Foundation.

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