Steve Adubato’s What Were They Thinking? Crisis Communication: The Good, the Bad, and the Totally Clueless is a fantastic read for crisis communication students and practitioners, while representing a solid case study option for crisis communication courses. For starters, Dr. Adubato has a strong portfolio that he makes sure to tie into his introduction as well as the many cases he discusses throughout the book. He’s a four-time Emmy Award-winning television anchor with experience as a commentator on prominent networks including MSNBC, CNBC, The TODAY Show, CBS/2 in New York, and the FOX News Channel. In addition, his company “Stand & Deliver” holds many accolades for its efficiency in training and producing compelling communicators and prominent leaders.
Moving to the book itself, What Were They Thinking? is a dynamic teaching tool that could be used in both academic and professional settings. As Dr. Adubato introduces the book, he makes it clear that everyone, from individuals to massive corporations, is susceptible to crises and the trials that accompany them. He even gets the ball rolling by touching on one of his own “personal introduction to crisis communication,” pointing out that even a small action like parking your car in a handicapped spot for no more than five minutes can lead to horrible publicity for not just an individual, but for their personal and professional associations as well.
The book is comprised of 22 different brief case studies, running the gamut of potential crises organizations could face. From the Johnson & Johnson Tylenol scare in the early 1980s to the failures by FEMA throughout Hurricane Katrina, Dr. Adubato delves into situations where some parties acted correctly while others did not. Two helpful text boxes are provided at the beginning of each chapter to give readers the opportunity to learn about the tone and outcome of the situation before diving in. The first box - “What were they thinking?” - gives a brief background of how each party decided to handle the crisis. The second box - “The Lesson” – relays the author’s opinion on whether the choices made were smart or ill-advised.
This book is a highly effective instructive tool because, as it is in most crisis communication publications, case studies of actual situations serve as the primary teaching ground. Dr. Adubato separates his book from the rest of the pack by filling it with concise information, conversational language, and solutions for the good, the bad, and the totally clueless.