Book Review: “Glass Jaw”

“Glass Jaw: A Manifesto for Defending Fragile Reputations in an Age of Instant Scandal” by Eric Dezenhall
 
2014, Twelve                   
$27.00 / $30.00 Canada                                
288 pages
 
Sometime overnight, your world exploded.
 
Everything was fine when you left work yesterday. Never was heard a discouraging word all evening. But while you were sleeping, some snarky comments were posted on social media, and it went viral. Now you’ve got a mess to tamp down, apologies to make, and a reputation to protect.
 
But where do you begin?  Can your business survive this sudden scandal? Author Eric Dezenhall says yes, but you need to proceed with caution. In his new book “Glass Jaw,” he explains.
 
Your business is not indestructible.
 
Maybe it used to be. Maybe, in a world long gone, it would’ve been iron-strong but today, your company is more fragile than you think it is. It’s altogether too easy for someone to hurt what you’ve built – and if, as they say in pugilistic circles, you can’t take a punch, then you have a glass jaw. 
 
For the most part, we can thank the internet for this.
 

“Prior to current media conditions,” says Dezenhall, “we sinners could deny things, discreetly repent, or move on and reinvent ourselves.”  Today, mistakes and rumors live online permanently, comments can be posted anonymously, web-based criticism may be unnecessarily vicious, and scandal-lovers really don’t care if the allegations are true or not.
 
Dezenhall calls it the “Fiasco Vortex,” in which the rumor or scandal whirls and circles like a cyclone until it’s uncontrollably “spread beyond the reach of available treatments.”  And by “treatments,” he doesn’t mean you should hire a spin doctor or PR team to make the problem go away; those “experts may not be experts at all,” says Dezenhall, and employing them can backfire spectacularly.
 
Starting today, when it comes to your business’s reputation, remember that electronic communication lasts forever, “your challenge is someone else’s meal ticket,” and that “there are cameras everywhere.”  Understand that social media can be your enemy as well as your friend.  Ignore the clean-up clichés; they’re “baseless” and they won’t do you any good. Know the “ingredients of a scandal,” and forget about trying to “manage” a problem. 
 
Above all, remember that “Realism is the main ingredient in a survival cocktail. Getting knocked down can be healthy, provided that the experience frightens but doesn’t destroy.”
 
I can’t think of a whole lot of things worse than waking up to a scandal – especially if it was a groundless attack from out of the blue. What’s perhaps scariest is that it can easily happen – and “Glass Jaw” explains what to do.
 
Dezenhall once worked in the White House, where spin is in, and that gives his words a definite weight. He’s blunt and commonsensical here but with a sureness that’s almost calming, and that absolutely helps when you’re in the thick of things. He then goes on to offer advice on standing up, shutting up, and cleaning up.
 
It’s frightening to think about your business’s vulnerability but since, of course, you’re best forearmed, you’ll want this on your office bookshelf. For anyone who runs a business today, having “Glass Jaw” is good ammo.