Category Archives: crisis communication

Chase’s (ineffective) Compassion-Free Crisis Management

Lack of much-needed compassion leaves bank’s communications falling flat

Having a debit or credit card charge declined is both frustrating and embarrassing no matter who you are or what you’re buying, something we would expect a bank to be aware of.

That’s why, when we spotted the below email from Chase bank, we knew we had to share it as a particularly bad example of crisis communications:

Chase bank bad apology false decline

The natural reaction is to assume one of two things is at work here, and neither one leaves a good impression of Chase as an organization. The utter lack of compassion creates the appearance that Chase either:

1) Has company leadership so out of touch that it has no idea how having charges declined for no reason makes its customers feel, or…

2) Simply doesn’t care

While we have no way of knowing if either of these are actually true, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that customers who received this email will be thinking along the same lines, and that means many little dings on Chase’s reputaiton, dings nobody in the financial sector can afford right now.

We repeat this often in our blogs because it’s incredibly important, and overlooked 90% of the time when it comes to crisis communications – you absolutely MUST show the Three C’s, Confidence, Competence, and Compassion, or you risk not only failing to get the message across, but also incurring further damage.

The BCM Blogging Team

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OOPS! White House Accidentally IDs CIA Spy Chief

Double-checking is never a waste of time when it comes to crisis management

Late last month the White House made headlines when it accidentally exposed the CIA’s top officer in Kabul, Afghanistan. In case you missed the story, here’s a rundown, from a Washington Post article by Greg Miller:

The CIA officer was one of 15 senior U.S. officials identified as taking part in a military briefing for Obama at Bagram air base, a sprawling military compound north of Kabul. Others included U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James B. Cunningham and Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., the commander of U.S. and coalition forces in the country.

Their names were included on a list of participants in the briefing provided by U.S. military officials to the White House press office.

The list was circulated by e-mail to reporters who traveled to Afghanistan with Obama, and disseminated further when it was included in a “pool report,” or summary of the event meant to be shared with other news organizations, including foreign media, not taking part in the trip.

Believe it or not, the Washington Post reporter tasked with assembling the report on the briefing actually noticed the odd inclusion of someone labeled “station chief”, typically a position which includes one’s identity remaining classified, and asked White House press officials if it was intentional, something they initially confirmed.

After the list went live, senior White House officials noticed the mistake, and we’re certain a frantic scramble to remove it ensued. Although the media was largely cooperative, the list had already been published in some places, and the damage was done, placing this high-level CIA officer and his loved ones in serious danger.

What’s the crisis management lesson here? Simple – check, double check, have a trusted colleague check, then check again a few more times before publishing ANYTHING that’s going to the public. Especially in a crisis situation, you can not afford to have bad or confidential information making its way out, and believe us when we say that the news media is not going to pay your slip-up the same respect it does one from the White House and CIA. Once it’s out it will stay out, and if it makes for a juicy story you can even expect it to be amplified.

The need for rapid communication is real, but the damage you can do by putting out information you shouldn’t have is immense, so be very, very careful.

The BCM Blogging Team


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Crisis Management Quotables…on Why Hiding Doesn’t Cut It

Duck and cover is not a crisis management strategy

Leave it to a legendary college football coach to understand dealing with the media! Paul “Bear” Bryant spent 25 years as the University of Alabama’s head coach, amassing an absolutely incredible 323-85-17 record and chalking up an immense number of press interactions on the way, stats we think qualify him to deliver this week’s Crisis Management Quotable:

“In a crisis, don’t hide behind anything or anybody. They’re going to find you anyway.” — Bear Bryant

We’d bet Bryant would be astounded, and probably quite satisfied, to see that his statement is true today to an extent he could have never imagined.

The media has always been quite tenacious when it comes to uncovering a crisis, but now they’re not the only ones chasing the latest scandal. Thanks in large part to social media, and of course the ‘net in general, there are legions of amateur e-reporters out there hungry for the next big story to share. They will dig up dirt, they will figure out who’s responsible, and if you duck for cover until you’re forced into the open you’ll be left with an even bigger crisis management hole to dig yourself out of.

Erik Bernstein
Social Media Manager
Bernstein Crisis Management

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Crisis Management: 30 Lessons from 30 Years

Decades of crisis management experience at your fingertips

Bernstein Crisis Management president Jonathan Bernstein has been in the trenches of crisis management since before “crisis management” existed as a clearly defined field. Along the way he’s learned many, many lessons, sometimes the hard way, and now he’s distilled that knowledge down into 30 powerful thoughts that could help our readers avoid some of that pain themselves.

Here’s just a brief glimpse of the newly published “30 Lessons from 30 Years of Crisis Management”:

1. Not planning for crises is the same thing as planning to have a crisis.

2. One hostile and/or ego-driven person with a computer and some Internet savvy can do a huge amount of damage to any organization.

3. Damaging information present on the Internet spreads virally, being reprinted by other websites and/or even news organizations regardless of accuracy. Ignoring it will only make matters worse.

4. All legal threats – e.g., threatened lawsuits, regulatory investigations – are potential threats to reputation and should be brought to the attention of whoever is responsible for reputation management/PR as soon as they’re identified. Typically, however, legal counsel and even senior company management delay notifying their PR advisor, internal or external, until the stuff hits the fan or will do so imminently. Rushed consideration of PR strategy and messaging is seldom as good as that which can be produced given more lead time.

5. There are PR agencies and consultants who – out of greed or ego – fail to consider how much damage they do to their clients by claiming to have more crisis management capabilities than, in fact, they do.

Hungry for more? You can read the rest of the article, here, and of course access the full Bernstein Crisis Management library, here.

The BCM Blogging Team

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Crisis Management Quotables on…Nobody Likes a Lecture

Communication is a two-way street

Many of our Quotables come from celebrities or famous philosophers, but how about one from a man who’s been in the trenches of the crisis management field for decades?

Communication that isn’t interactive is lecturing — Jonathan Bernstein

Already reconsidering the value of your past crisis communications efforts? You’re not alone. This quote holds more weight than ever today, where social media has produced the widespread expectation of a constant two-way conversation.

Lectures bring back memories of mind-numbing hours in a dusty classroom, but interaction, ahhh, that’s a whole different, and far more exciting, avenue! Whether it’s providing a Twitter handle people can contact, an email address (that you’ll actually monitor and respond from), or a phone number where stakeholders can get ahold of a real, live person, allow for the possibility of interaction and watch as your communications serve their intended purpose more effectively.

The BCM Blogging Team

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