We’re living in a time when reputations are at stake, publicly and personally. Many a crisis is happening with both.
I came across Michael Toebe, a reputation management specialist (the short version) while sifting through HARO (Help A Reporter Out), an online site that proves a valuable tool for reaching out and submitting to those who may find my book message of interest. I contacted Michael about the topic listed. Although he had already found the answer to his query, he thought my submission was worth a reply, and I thought his industry was worth noting.
Michael’s business also seemed like an excellent fit for infidelity, so I asked if he’d do a Q&A, he kindly accepted. The man goes deep. Here’s our exchange.
EML: You’re a Reputation, Relationship Communications, and Wiser Crisis Management Specialist. That’s quite a mouthful. What exactly do you do?
MT: What I do is present myself as a solution to either high-profile individuals or organizations. Since most people and organizations consider themselves “doing fine” even when they aren’t in a reputation crisis, I wait and act as the “emergency room doctor,” so to speak.
Most individuals and organizations are surprised their reputations are being assailed when, if they were not to entirely blame for being exposed and condemned, they certainly contributed to their crisis with their unintended mistakes along with their conscious decision making and behavior.
I don’t work with people who commit horrendous crimes. I work with people who end up in the news and the media: social media, public, etc., who get torn apart for poor business decisions and questionable or harmful practices, or a professional who commits a terrible mistake or purposefully selfish behavior. That’s who I serve.
EML: That’s a lot to take on. A fixer of sorts. I imagine you stay busy! What prompted you to pursue this type of business?
MT: It was a circuitous path. Initially, it was very painful and long-suffering personal experiences that pulled me in the direction of psychology, then conflict management, mediation, negotiation, and eventually reputation. What’s interesting is my past communication skills working in media, public relations, and media relations combined with those new skills on that long and winding road resulted in providing me the unique ability to serve in reputation and crisis management.
Funny how life builds you into something stronger even when you travel through heartache, hopelessness, depression, deep pain, and suffering. I ended up in this niche as the intensity of my pain and the passion for it drove my commitment.
EML: “Out of adversity comes opportunity.” Very relatable. I imagine it’s a case by case scenario, but what general principles do you apply for resolution?
MT: There is some complexity to this answer. In reputation work and crisis management, whether its a higher-profile person or an organization, the principles and commitment remain the same: to do the critical research to learn best about them and clearly understand their challenge and depth of pain, empathize sincerely with compassion, ask and observe where they feel they are right now in their struggle, clearly determine where they want to end up, find out what type of improvement they could live with, even if not perfect, and then ask, listen, and learn of their ideal outcome.
From there, analyze the situation and converse about what will most likely need to be done to accomplish any of their successful outcomes, ask what they are willing to do, and, committed to doing, as well as what they won’t do, to get to that greater peace and problem-solving.
The reality is people often want big problem solving yet are not willing, mostly psychologically but also financially, to do what the situation will call for to experience any of their desired outcomes.
EML: The last paragraph sounds like a common, running theme for infidelity. As a matter of fact, your work seems very apropos for someone in the throes of infidelity discovery. Have you ever assisted anyone with this issue?
MT: Infidelity is definitely a personal reputation crisis and one that is explosive in nature in most relationships. I have not assisted anyone with this issue. While it is not a situation that I pursue, it would be one I could help. The quality of outcome would be determined by different factors: a person cannot control all of them, but the ones that they can, they will have to decide if they are willing to do what is necessary, and expected, by other people who are involved in the relationship and problem.
EML: Would you consider helping someone with an infidelity crisis? Why or why not?
MT: I would certainly help someone in need. I’m drawn to do such if what is needed and wanted are within my scope of competence. Also, if I’m reasonably confident I can help them achieve a better outcome than they are experiencing, or could achieve on their own, and how collaborative they would be by 1) trusting me and allowing me to lead 2) doing what is necessary to achieve their goals, and of course, 3) having the ability to pay and the willingness to do such, without doubt, or conflict.
EML: Do you consider your strategies beneficial tools for life overall?
MT: Absolutely. A good life requires the ability to learn from our mistakes or errors, regain our poise, maintain it, and then focus forward while tending to the big challenges. Some are mandatory, others just smart to do anyway, with relationships and people, in general. We have to “make right” in this life, some of us more frequently than others, and on a grander scale, to wisely, morally navigate through our lives. To not only be trustworthy people but also to build, restore, or rebuild our reputation to the extent they will protect us and also allow us to pursue our goals.
EML: So much goes into your business. What do you find most satisfying about your work?
MT: I know this will sound terribly cliche, but helping someone, helping relieve pain and suffering, seeing the light of relief in their eyes and faces, and see hope return is a beautiful thing. Solving challenging problems while working with people who recognize your ability to help and will follow you as a trusted professional is rewarding.
EML: Do you teach any online courses or do you prefer a more personal approach?
MT: I do not teach any online courses. I get asked on a semi-regular basis, so maybe I need to do such. I much prefer helping people and organizations one-on-one, whether that be face to face, over the phone, in email, or video.
EML: Michael, where can we find you and your invaluable service?
MT: I don’t do much marketing outside of the articles I write on LinkedIn, Medium, and occasionally, online magazines, but people can find me through the Red Diamonds Newsletter on the Medium platform. I write weekly and also do the bite-sized Red Diamonds Podcast with Michael Toebe. Someone can best contact me directly by going on LinkedIn, looking me up, and sending a message.
So interesting, right? There are numerous moving parts to manage before reaching resolution, just as it is with infidelity. It takes a tremendous amount of patience, time, and energy. Michael offers a much-needed service. Don’t hesitate to contact him for a consult.
Project Consulting, Ongoing Advisory, Communications Coaching, and Communications Leadership
Serving Organizations and High-Profile Individuals