Lindsay Bell

Three Business Lessons Learned from Bell’s Palsy

By: Lindsay Bell | May 15, 2013 | 

Three Business Lessons Learned From Bell's PalsyDuring the recent Boston Marathon tragedy and ensuing chaos, a friend of mine made a comment about content.

It went something like this: “The first time I see a blog post titled ‘What I learned about business from the Boston Marathon Tragedy’ I’m going to gouge both my eyeballs out with a dull spoon.”

I’m paraphrasing, of course.

I’m pretty sure there were lots of swears.


Whether it’s a high profile death, a world tragedy, the Oscars, a sporting event, or a political firestorm, you usually have about .02 seconds before it’s time to get that spoon out of the cutlery drawer and commence gouging. Let’s call it event-jacking.

There are many reasons it’s done. And yes, some are sincere. Many people find writing cathartic after hearing bad news. But if I were a betting man (er, woman?), I’d bet money the majority of the people writing those posts have something to sell, and are capitalizing on the raised profile of certain keywords, as well as the increased share’ability of any content relating to the current calamity du jour.

Readers are getting pretty fed up with them. As one online commenter said about a recent Boston themed post: “Analogies are only good when they are accurate. Linking…this terrorist bombing to some silly social media scare is disrespectful and insensitive, but it’s also a testament of what’s wrong with the SEO-driven conversations.”

Real Business Lessons Learned

One post I haven’t seen yet is ‘Three Business Lessons Learned From Bell’s Palsy,’ so I decided to write one (ok, there’s probably one or two out there, I didn’t actually do a search). It’s not disrespectful, nor insensitive, and I figured it was just kooky enough to work. I also figured most of you wouldn’t come down too hard on me for writing it. Because, hey, you can’t make fun of a gal with Bell’s Palsy, can you?

So, without further ado, and for a bit of fun, here are three business lessons learned from Bell’s Palsy:

1. You never know what a new day will bring. Bell’s Palsy is a sneaky little ailment. You just…wake up with it. You go to bed thinking everything’s hunky-dory. And you wake up  having lost movement in half your face. Business can be exactly the same. For argument’s sake, imagine this scenario: You’re humming along, tickety-boo, only to wake up one morning to find your latest ad campaign has tanked overnight.

It hasn’t only tanked, it’s causing outrage across all digital channels. Do you sit there, paralyzed? No you don’t! You deal with it – immediately. Not tomorrow. Not later in the afternoon. Because like Bell’s Palsy, there’s a very narrow window of time when it comes to addressing a problem. And the faster you ‘medicate’ it, the faster it will heal.

2. Go public as soon as you can. The minute I realized my face was oddly disabled, I posted a snappy status update about it. Because I’m a card-carrying hypochondriac, I was about 99 percent sure I wasn’t having a stroke. I know all the symptoms of stroke (doesn’t everyone?). But, it was helpful to have people showing concern, giving guidance and advice, and recommending a course of action to take.

In business, it’s no different. Your social channels will help you respond and react to a brand fiasco directly and in real-time. Heck, FedEx might be the all-time winner of the “fall on your sword” award, when their senior vice president of U.S. operations took to YouTube to apologize for a rather creative delivery method. It was real, honest, and spoke directly to their customers. Responding quickly to online negativity soothes the savage beast consumer – you might even find some folk who are on your side and want to help. It will also buy you a bit of time to get your disaster plan up and running.

3. Sh*t happens. ‘Such is life’ is pretty much my motto: So much so I’ve inked it on my left wrist, as a daily reminder. When something happens to upset the apple cart, deal with it, learn from it, and move on. With Bell’s Palsy, I decided to just maintain perspective – I’m not dying! – and attack it with humor. I encouraged people to laugh at my expense, and joke with me. Yes, I was embarrassed, and felt I looked and sounded hideous, but the only option was to face it head on, be open and upfront about it, and share the process.

Same with a PR nightmare. It happened, it’s ugly, but now you need to quickly deal with it, learn from it, and move on from it. Humor helps (as long as you’re careful). Rally the troops, get support and advice from friends and peers, talk to other people who’ve been through the same thing, be open and upfront about what happened and why, and share the steps taken to address it with your customers and others.

The healing process involves being patient (which I most certainly am not), and waiting it out. It might take awhile for your particular marketing mistake to heal, and your brand to recover, but be patient, the tides will soon turn. In my case, improvement has been slow but steady. And slow and steady wins the race.

About Lindsay Bell

Lindsay Bell is the content director at V3 Marketing, and works in Toronto. A former TV producer, she’s a strong advocate of three minutes or less of video content. She has a cool kid, a patient husband, two annoying cats, and Hank Dawge, a Vizsla/Foxhound/moose hybrid. Ok, maybe not moose.

  • What a fabulous idea Lindsay. I have admired your plucky attitude about having the Bells Palsy from the first minute you mentioned it (and through the subsequent weeks and iterations of facial contortions). Turning it into a post with business-related applications is just so good. And, so you. I think the Spin Sucks community will have a field day with this one!

    • allenmireles Thanks Allen, I was mulling over how to approach my distate with the “What I learned from…” posts – and I though – HEY! That would be hilarious!! I hope the absurdity shone through. 🙂

  • Awesome analogy here!  You really have handled your Palsy brilliantly, and it makes perfect sense that you would write this post.  I especially appreciate #3’s reference to maintaining an appropriate sense of humor … and viewing unplanned events as opportunities.

    Now, about Botoxing the other side of your forehead …

    • dwaynealicie HAHAHA! I know! My dermatologist is shaking in his boots right now – 50% deal!!

      • belllindsay dwaynealicie why do your comments always want me to think you gangsta as D-Wayne-Money?

  • Lindsay you are so fantastic. I really respect how openly you’ve dealt with this ailment. This post is bang on! Take care of you.

    • RebeccaTodd Meh, what can you do, right? I figured I would have a little fun with it, and jump on the “event jacking” train with everyone else! LOL

      • belllindsay RebeccaTodd I agree Rebecca considering we are all virtual. I am actually an Ostrich in real life but have a very hard time coming clean.

        • Howie Goldfarb belllindsay RebeccaTodd That I could believe (the ostrich part).

  • DenisPoitras

    Just Awesome!  Being able to relate Bell’s to a Business was so well done.  I love your attitude and I might just get inked “Such is life” too.  You are a great inspiration.  Keep it up!  Looking forward to the full recovery.

    • DenisPoitras Sic Vita Est my friend! 😀

  • Love love love Lindsay! Only you could write this 🙂 I too love #3 and I tend to deal with uncomfortable situations with humor…or tears, then humor. But the way you’ve handled this whole thing is really inspiring.

    • yvettepistorio Thanks Yvette, what the heck, right? I hope no one thinks I’m being serious about the lessons learned though. LOL

      • belllindsay yvettepistorio now that I am thinking of it. I saw this exact post somewhere else posted two weeks ago! 8) So what did you get inked on your wrist Yvette?

        • Howie Goldfarb belllindsay yvettepistorio HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! EEEEEEE-vil!!!

  • I heart you so much.

    • jasonkonopinski The feelings mutual my brothuh!

      • belllindsay jasonkonopinski jeez how can you hurt her Jason? She is the sweetest ducati rider in Canada!

        • Howie Goldfarb jasonkonopinski I’d settle for a Vespa.

  • This is awesome — I did not know this.

    • RobBiesenbach I am a riddle wrapped in an enigma Rob! 😉

      • belllindsay All wrapped up in a crunchy shell, Gordito™ style. Also, for the record, I thought the post and your outlook were awesome, not the Bell’s …

        • RobBiesenbach HA! I figured. 😉

        • belllindsay  RobBiesenbach oh man we will soon be having brand wars here. Taco Bell vs Chobani  . Gloves coming off Lindsay. Spin Sucks is only big enough for one brand.

        • Howie Goldfarb RobBiesenbach Chobani My friend calls me Taco. For obvious reasons. 🙂

  • Love, love, love this! belllindsay Wish I could hop a plane to Canada right now and give you the biggest bear hug. I adore you and so admire the way you’ve handled your run in with Bell’s Palsy.  I’ll never forget that status update and being so worried about you…silly me should have known no silly little paralysis would keep you down!
    PS – rain check on that bear hug until our irl meetup – where I look forward to discussing tattoos & chicken dancing! 😉

    • lizreusswig HA! I had to do it – for the fun factor alone! Thanks Liz. xo

      • belllindsay lizreusswig wish I could hope a plane to canada but I really need just a canoe and come camouflage 😉

        • Howie Goldfarb lizreusswig And a passport. 😉

        • rdopping

          Howie Goldfarb belllindsay lizreusswig If you are going to refer to Canada then use the damn CAPITAL. Jerk! Oh, and if you do drink the 50. It’s reeeeeeeeal good.

  • susancellura

    Way to go! You rock this!!

    • susancellura Thanks! Can’t wait ’til I can close my right eye! LOL

      • susancellura

        belllindsay LOL! You crack me up!

  • Love, love, love this….almost as much as your chicken dance belllindsay. Sending big hugs and many laughs! 🙂

  • Because, hey, you can’t make fun of a gal with, can you?
    No, we would never send you pictures of the giant Canadian Newfie Spider, the one that has 9 legs instead of 8 and weighs 2.5 pounds.

  • rdopping

    What do you say to a girl who has EVERYTHING?

    • rdopping LMAO!!! I feel so blessed. 🙂

      • belllindsay rdopping my daughter turns 2 next month. The word ‘Mine’ is her primary word. Second is Mooooo because she wants to see the cows next door. She doesn’t have a cow…..yet. Lindsay do you have a cow?

        • Howie Goldfarb belllindsay rdopping No, but I *am* a cow.

        • rdopping

          belllindsay Howie Goldfarb rdopping I really want to do my best Bart Simpson…..but I won’t.

  • Inspiring, honest, real and just GD amazing. Thanks for sharing your story Lindsay.

  • I was going to comment belllindsay but figured dive bombing the comments section was enough work for one morning 😉

    • Howie Goldfarb It’s not the same without you Howie. 🙁

  • You seriously crack me up! The thing that strikes me as so strange during this experience with you is it LASTS SO LONG! Unlike a crisis that erupts online that people forget about in a few days, this has been weeks and weeks and weeks. The good news is, you can see progress every day. But man.

    • ginidietrich Right? And now, with this small backslide I’ve been experiencing this week – very very frustrating. But, again, there’s nothing you can do about it so if you let it get you down, you’re toast. Onwards!! 🙂

  • Man, I love you and I love this post and I adore how you’ve handled this entire situation. One of my pet peeves (in life, business, marketing, etc.) is people who let themselves be victims. As you said, ‘sh*t happens’, life doesn’t always go the way we want it to….but hey, that’s what makes it fun, right? 
    I’ve totally loved how you have embraced this entire situation! Just as you should always aim to do in crisis communications, you totally OWNED this sucker…and thus, you won! 
    Bells Palsy: 0, Lindsay Bell: 100000000

    • LauraPetrolino I’ve had my moments, Laura, I won’t lie. But over all, have tried to just let what happened, happen, you know? Thanks for the kind words my friend. xo

  • Nicely done, my dear.

  • I tattooed the “official” definition of PR on my wrist, but like boyfriend-name tattoos on your butt, things change. 
    Also, this is a great post and a testament to the good character of the writer.

  • Brave, hilarious, insightful and useful… all at the same time. The perfect post!

  • Loved it, Lindsay. Beats the heck out of News Jacking…which frequently makes me want to beat the heck out of someone.
    First person perspective is awesome…scary…touching…and absolutely sincere with a great dose of humor along the way.

  • MoreInMedia

    My friend Jayme Soulati mentioned your blog post title in a talk on Friday at #NSD2013 and I had to find it and read it myself. I have had (and recovered from) Bell’s Palsy twice, as a child. I sure hope you are doing better now. Kudos to you on being upfront, personal and sharing the ups and downs with your online audience. I wish you a speedy recovery and many blessings along the way.

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