Hundreds of planes left idle. Thousands of passengers left stranded. No one envied the American Airlines execs who had to tell customers their flights were grounded for safety inspections. Kathy Bloomgarden, co-CEO of Ruder Finn, sees in their predicament lessons for all of us in how to communicate during a multiday crisis. Lesson 1: "Communicate right away, do it sincerely, and do it from the top."

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