© 2002 Jonathan Bernstein
JUST A THOUGHT
There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance - that principle is contempt prior to investigation.
AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION
Editor's Note: since editors proof copy often, typos tend to jump off the page at them (except our own, of course). Likewise, those of us in crisis management are often able to spot vulnerabilities more quickly than others, the heart of crisis prevention. Two such vulnerabilities are mentioned below -- the first already starting to get some media attention, the latter, to my knowledge, heretofore unknown. It's the kind of thing we look for when conducting a vulnerability audit and, if you are in the industries mentioned, or serve them, you now have the opportunity to be proactive, before you're in "breaking crisis" mode.
The Enron Hangover
Prevention Alert to Professional Service Firms
In a recent Reuters story, the head of corporate credit research at T. Rowe Price said, "We're really suffering from the Enron Hangover."
He was referring, of course, to the downstream impact of the Enron affair, the crisis of confidence in professional service organizations -- NOT JUST ACCOUNTING FIRMS.
Companies in the professional service/consulting category should be employing attorneys and crisis-savvy PR pros to conduct a combined legal/PR analysis and discussions to determine (a) if their system of operation makes them more vulnerable to an "Enron-like" situation, or even if it could be PERCEIVED that way; (b) the best possible way of positioning any issue with which they're currently faced that COULD be interpreted as resembling the Enron situation, whether or not it is yet public knowledge; and (c) how to answer questions that are going to be faced by all professional service organizations in the weeks and months ahead.
Hotel Bellmen Create Gap in Airport Security
Alert to the Travel & Hospitality Industry
First, I regret the need to bring this up. The second-to-last thing any traveler wants right now is yet another security related delay. But the last thing a traveler wants is to be blown out of the sky.
The travel industry appears to be doing a vastly improved job of blocking terrorists from their front and back doors, but unfortunately a side door is still wide open.
Anyone who has access to or controls our luggage between when we pack it and when we check it in creates risk. The most obvious two possibilities are bellmen and taxi drivers, to the extent either has access to our bags for a period of time that we're not around or not paying attention. Most luggage locks, if we have any, are essentially useless, so we can't count on them.
It's up to travelers with this kind of exposure to do a final pre-check-in inspection of their luggage and for airlines to ask us if others have handled our bags on the way to the airport.
In every crisis there's an opportunity: in this case, for hotels and airport transportation services that are particularly good about employee security to brag about that; for luggage manufacturers to sell more products with locks that are actually secure; and, if this isn't too shocking a concept, for airlines to get out AHEAD of this threat before they're forced to.
CRISIS MANAGER BUSINESS ANNOUNCEMENTS
Branding Crisis Manager
You can arrange to distribute "Crisis Manager" to your own email list with a "Brought to You By" credit in the masthead. There is no charge and only some reasonable restrictions to preserve the integrity of the publication. Several organizations are already doing this and finding that it is appreciated by their contacts. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
Crisis Manager Presentations & Workshops
Want to REALLY get some of this information into the hearts and minds of your organization? Your ineffable ezine editor and crisis communications consultant and his talented associate, Phil Cogan, are available to make presentations and lead workshops. Their presentations can often be certified for the continuing education credits required by a number of professions. Write to email@example.com or call (626) 825-3838.
Editor's Note -- from time to time I learn of products and services that could have particular application for crisis management and bring information on them to this ezine. News Talkers is a service from MDS that looks particularly promising. I'm hoping to get a case history on how News Talkers has been employed for a future issue.
Crisis communications just got a big helping hand with the launch of "News Talkers," the high-speed, low-cost alternative to conventional PR audio and video. You and your colleagues can now add audio and/or video to emergency communications for a fraction of what VNRs and satellite media tours cost and in no time flat.
Developed by Media Distribution Services (MDS), the country's largest PR distribution service for more than 25 years, "News Talkers" are interviews with spokespersons, 2 to 10 minutes long, produced by phone or in person by MDS and posted within one hour for access via the Internet. During crises, they can be directed to employees, investors, customers, the media and other key audiences. They can serve as stand-alone commentary or supporting material. They are promoted by fax or e-mail. Audio "News Talkers" are $495. Video "News Talkers" are $795.
For $300 more, "News Talkers" can be announced to up to 300 editors and reporters by name and "beat" from MDS's daily updated database of 250,000 editorial contacts at the more than 50,000 print and broadcast media in North America, plus all daily newspapers worldwide and the U.S. Congress and its staffs. The list research and delivery report are free. MDS can also provide recipient names and phone numbers for follow-up pitches.
For a description and demonstration of "News Talkers," visit www.mdsconnect.com, or call Don Bates or TJ Walker at 800-MDS-DATA (in New York City, 212-279-4800). E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What Makes a Good Spokesperson?
by Karen Friedman
While a spokesperson that has experience inside a news organization or political campaign is probably better equipped to deal with pressure and deadlines, it is not a prerequisite for the job. All spokespeople however, regardless of past experience should be able to put the following tips into play:
- Believe in what you're saying.
- Eliminate industry jargon if you're not talking to an industry audience.
- Attitude creates a lasting impression.
- Give sincere and honest answers. If you don't know, say so.
- Opinions don't count. Be able to back up statements with facts.
- Off the record is not advised.
- Deliver clear concise messages in terms audiences can relate to and understand.
- Show care and concern during difficult situations.
- Put your audience first and provide information from their viewpoint.
- Only provide information that is confirmed.
- Know what you want to say in advance and deliver that message regardless of what questions are asked.
- Examples, anecdotes, visual images, stories and metaphors make your message memorable.
- Show energy and enthusiasm.
- Proactive is better than reactive. Don't wait for someone to come to you.
- Easily accessible and available.
- Remember not to lie or speculate.
- Smile when appropriate so people think you want to be there.
- Own what you say and give it meaning.
- Never say "No Comment" even if you have nothing to say.
Karen Friedman brings 20 years of on-air television experience to media and communications training and consulting. Her Philadelphia area company, Karen Friedman Enterprises prepares people to take advantage of media interviews, presentations and public appearances. Friedman is a frequent speaker and can be reached at: 610-292-9780 or through her website at www.karenfriedman.com.
CRISIS MANAGER ON THE SPOT
Q: Jonathan, I've not had a lot of luck selling my management on the idea of creating a crisis communications plan. They seem to look at it strictly as an expense. What can I tell them to change their minds?
A: I can't guarantee this will change their minds, but try these rhetorical questions:
- What's the cost of one lawsuit that could be prevented by learning the type of information collected during the vulnerability audit portion of crisis planning, or of having a lawsuit make a REALLY big stink in the press as opposed to a minor smell?
- What's the cost of facing criticism from some or all of your important audiences for "bungling" crisis response?
- When do you make better decisions about what to say and do during a crisis -- on the fly, under fire, or when you have the chance to carefully think through potential scenarios in advance?
- What's the value of the organization's goodwill, brand names, general reputation? Take 1/10 of one percent of that. It will far exceed the cost of developing and maintaining a crisis communications plan.
- How many employees have won the lottery, won a casino jackpot or a new car? Are you willing to bet the company that the same amount of luck will get you through the next crisis?
I can give you a lot more like this but, frankly, if the above doesn't move 'em at all, then the only thing likely to is a crisis of sufficient magnitude -- assuming the organization survives it.
PLAIN ENGLISH DISCLOSURE
Bernstein Crisis Management has formal or informal co-promotional and mutually beneficial business associations with PIER Systems, Inc., PR Newswire's ProfNet service and CustomScoop. No, we can't go into details because that's confidential, proprietary, etc. But our relationship is NOT "arm's distance" and you should know that, since we regularly write about how we're using these services for crisis and issues management. That said, you should also know that Bernstein Crisis Management sought the relationships because its staff is convinced that these services are the best of their kind for Bernstein Crisis Management's needs and those of their clients. If you have any questions about these relationships, please contact Jonathan Bernstein, (626) 825-3838.
ABOUT THE EDITOR
Jonathan Bernstein is president & CEO of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., a national public relations agency specializing in crisis response, issues management and litigation consulting. It is also the only national PR agency able to create crisis- and issues-specific websites for its clients in as little as five minutes by employing proprietary PIER System technology. Information on the firm's services can be found by Clicking Here or by calling (626) 825-3838. Information on its PIER capabilities can be found at www.crisiswebsite.com.
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