© 2008 Jonathan Bernstein
Estimated Readership: 15,000+
JUST A THOUGHT
Deferring crisis preparedness planning and training for yet another year isn't an April Fool's Joke.
CRISIS MANAGER UNIVERSITY
Editor's Note: One of many things I like about Jerry Brown's writing is that he follows the famous K.I.S.S. rule. However, as we all know, "simple" doesn't always equate to "easy!"
Treat Your Audience Like Adults
By Jerry Brown, APR
Treat your audience like adults. Sounds simple, but it doesn't happen nearly often enough.
The reason Barack Obama's speech last week on race struck such a responsive chord with the American public is that he spoke to his audience about a difficult subject like we are adults:
- He talked about the bad along with the good.
- He was honest.
- He didn't pander to his audience or take cheap shots at his opponents.
In the days of gotcha politics and journalism and the four-second soundbite, talking to your audience like adults can be hard.
It's hard because the media isn't good at telling complicated stories. It's hard because much of your audience won't pay attention long enough to hear the nuances of what you have to say. And it's hard because most of us aren't very good at talking about the bad with the good, especially when discussing difficult topics.
Yes, it's hard. It's also important to do. It's especially important to do with people who hear your message a lot or who are paying close attention to what you say because they believe what you do will have a big impact on them.
How do you treat your audience like adults? Four ways to begin:
- Be honest. Tell the truth as best you can.
- Be consistent. You're entitled to have a point of view. But don't change what you said yesterday because it isn't convenient today.
- Be authentic. Pandering to an audience that knows you're insincere may work some of the time. But it won't work with people who pay attention to what you say and do over the long term. And once you lose their trust, you'll have a hard time winning it back. If they like and trust you, they'll help tell your story to their friends and families. Lose their trust and they'll tell that to their friends and families, too.
- Do what you say. Ultimately, the people who are paying attention will judge you by whether your words and actions match up with one another. They'll give you more credit for saying things they don't like if they know you're being honest than for saying things they like if they don't trust you to do what you say.
Jerry Brown is Senior Counselor, Public Relations, at Corporate Advocates and author of "A Practitioners Guide to Media Relations." He also writes the "Monday Morning Media Minute" email newsletter, to which you can subscribe by writing to Jerry at email@example.com.
Editor's Note: Now read this timely article from Rich Klein in the context of Jerry Brown's advice.
Stonyfield Farm and "Tiny Beads" of Truth
By Rich Klein
There's a major disconnect between Stonyfield Farms' recall announcement of its blueberry yogurt and early news reports about the recall. Stonyfield's press statement never mentions glass or plastic fragments that have reportedly been found. Instead, the company refers to "tiny beads the size of mustard seeds in these particular batches of fat free blueberry yogurt." [Editor's Note: The current version of the Stonyfield Farms news release has the words glass and plastic. Maybe they read Crisis Manager.]
In a crisis that involves public safety, it's critical for a company to not tell half truths. In this case, if these tiny beads have been identified as glass and plastic, then the company MUST quickly reveal that information instead of downplaying it by calling them "tiny beads." If consumers are telling the media that they found glass or plastic in their yogurt, then it's up to the company to either dispel the inaccuracy or confirm that the consumers are correct and that the company is taking prompt action.
There's a big emotional difference between eating yogurt with "tiny beads the size of mustard seeds" vs swallowing glass or plastic fragments.
The other lesson here is that companies need to stop burying the bad news. The company did the right thing by at least putting the recall information on its homepage, but the recall information is mixed in with hundreds of other marketing messages and could easily be overlooked if people don't read carefully.
Rich Klein, President of Riverside Public Relations, LLC in New York City and Bethel, NY, has nearly 25 years of journalism and public relations experience.
New Edition of Keeping Cool on the Hot Seat Available
There's a new edition of "Keeping Cool on the Hot Seat - Dealing Effectively With the Media in Times of Crisis," Judy Hoffman's popular tome. All new examples and a brand new chapter that talks about Hurricane Katrina, the Sago mine disaster, Duke University lacrosse team, Chinese toy recalls and the Virginia Tech tragedy. Learn more at www.judyhoffman.com.
Crash Course on Crisis Communications for Law Firms
Rich Klein, as featured in this issue of "Crisis Manager," is conducting a series of programs (available by teleconference or on the Internet), a "Crash Course on Crisis Communications For Law Firms. Your editor happens to be his guest lecturer for the first session, which takes place on the anniversary of the Virginia Tech tragedy, April 16. Click here for more information
CRISIS MANAGER BUSINESS ANNOUNCEMENTS
Internet Counter-Intelligence CD-ROM
In a one-hour teleseminar recorded in December 2007, search engine optimization expert Diana Huff interviewed Jonathan Bernstein, a pathfinder and innovator in the field of Internet-centered crisis management, who described how a wide range of companies have been damaged by the Internet's virtual terrorists, and how some companies have been responding effectively.
In this one-hour session, you'll learn how to conduct your own Internet vulnerability audit; develop strategies for identifying your foes -- activists, disgruntled employees, or unhappy customers -- and tracking Internet chatter; build the case within your organization for ensuring someone is monitoring the blogosphere, news, and Internet forums every day; plan for an Internet crisis and, when one hits, assess the situation to determine an appropriate response; develop the action steps you can take to neutralize attacks, including starting your own blog and developing collateral such as brochures, video, podcasts, and Web links to other reputable and informative sites; and effectively use search engine optimization tactics -- not just because you want customers to find your products -- but so you can beat these guys at their own game!
Available at www.thecrisismanager.com.
Keeping the Wolves at Bay 3.0 Reviewed
"Keeping the Wolves at Bay" is much more than another media training guide - it is perhaps one of the most concise, insightful, useful and savvy guides to strategic thinking about reputation issues available.
Founder & CEO of PIER System and host of Crisisblogger.com
"It's like a Swiss Army knife -- lots of cool tools in a compact package. In case of emergency, grab this."
Steven R. Van Hook, PhD
Publisher, About Public Relations
The spiral-bound print manual is available for $25, the PDF version for $10. Both can be ordered at www.thecrisismanager.com.
Jonathan Bernstein also offers on-site media training worldwide, using this manual as the basis for training. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disaster Prep 101
Bernstein Crisis Management is pleased to present one of the most comprehensive and user-friendly family preparedness texts available today. "Disaster Prep 101." by Paul Purcell, goes above and beyond the simplistic "72-hour kit" concept and provides simple, yet detailed educational material that will drastically improve the ability of any family to respond to all manner of disasters or emergencies. This preparedness package contains over 400 pages of well-organized, original preparedness material written in an easy-to-understand, non-panic format; 80 pages of family data forms and worksheets (many of which are also useful to the employer); and a 2-CD set containing two interactive and searchable links collections for additional educational sources; all the family data forms and worksheets in softcopy format; and a complete emergency reference library of over 450 additional books and training manuals! US$59.95. Available here.
PLAIN ENGLISH DISCLOSURE
Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. has formal or informal co-promotional and mutually beneficial business associations with a number of the services we mention periodically in this newsletter. 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 these services as we use them for crisis and issues management or other purposes. 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 its clients. If you have any questions about these relationships, please contact Jonathan Bernstein, (626) 825-3838.
ABOUT THE EDITOR & PUBLISHER
Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., www.bernsteincrisismanagement.com, a national crisis management public relations agency providing 24/7 access to crisis response professionals. The agency engages in the full spectrum of crisis management services: crisis prevention, response, planning & training. He has been in the public relations field since 1982, following five-year stints in both military intelligence and investigative reporting. Write to email@example.com.
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