Bernstein Crisis Management. Crisis response, prevention, planning, and training.

Crisis Manager Internet Newsletter about Crisis Management

© 2008 Jonathan Bernstein
Circulation: 4,500+
Estimated Readership: 17,000+


Trying to squash a rumor is like trying to unring a bell.

Shana Alexander


Obama Rumor Control

I have long been a proponent and developer of online rumor control tactics and have quietly assisted numerous clients in this regard. Barack Obama has raised public awareness of this process considerably with his page (not a website unto itself, but some pages within his existing site). However, he has also demonstrated some of the perils associated with in-your-face rumor control, such as repeating allegations in the context of denying them and, in one case so far, labeling one bit of information as a "Smear" in a manner that a significant audience could find quite offensive.

The latter example is identifying the rumor that Obama is a Muslim as "The Smear," which is the generic label the rumor page applies to all misinformation. Unfortunately, that could be taken to mean that Barack Obama finds the concept that he could be a Muslim insulting. All that is said to correct "The Smear" is:

"LIE: Barack Obama is a Muslim

"LIE: Barack Obama attended a radical madrassa

"LIE: Senator Obama was sworn into the US Senate using the Koran"

...followed by "The Truth": "Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian."

He could have greatly softened that communication by stating that while he greatly respects the Muslim faith, in fact he is a committed Christian, etc.

The Lesson: Don't be in such a hurry to deny that you create more problems.

Message to Incident Commanders:
Speak NOW or forever hold your peace
By Gerald Baron

I observed another large scale drill recently. Millions of dollars spent. Wonderfully trained and prepared professionals in place-including some of the top communication professionals in the country. Great facility, technology, logistics. Even the public information technology (ours, of course) was fully integrated in the operation, ready to roll, everyone up to speed. But the communication was a complete disaster. For all the preparation and tools in place, one critical element was missing. The Incident Commander responsible for approval of information was woefully unprepared and ill-informed to deal with today's instant news world.

The information process was working very well until he arrived. Then, everything stopped. A new release of info was delayed three hours while it went through six wordsmithing revisions. The legal team was invited to come in and help wordsmith-this in a Joint Information Center with multiple state and federal agencies participating and the resulting discussion about using the words "we regret" vs. "we are deeply sorry" took an inordinate amount of time.

Clearly the commander believed he was doing his job and doing it well. Words are important. Note-there was no dispute over key facts-just the way it was written in a release. But by his decision to get everything right to his satisfaction and all the Unified Command he threw away hundreds of thousands of dollars of preparation and years of training and expertise on the part of his JIC team. Far worse, he made a decision to allow bloggers to be the voice of the response. For in a real world situation in an event of this magnitude, neither the public nor the media would wait patiently for this wordsmithing process. They would get the information they were seeking from the thousands of eye witnesses who would see their small view of the incident. The JIC in those three hours lost once and for all its opportunity to be the voice of the response which is their job. Once lost, it is virtually impossible to get it back. The commander made the decision that getting the words just right, making the lawyer happy, and getting complete consensus on every sentence was more important than the JIC speaking for the response.

Someone forgot to tell him the world will not wait for him. Someone forgot to tell him he needed to speak now or forever hold his peace. Gerald Baron is President of Baron & Company and founder and CEO of PIER System/AudienceCentral, supplier of the leading urgent and critical communication management online solution. This commentary originally was posted at Gerald's excellent blog.

JEPRS Environmental Crisis Management System

Thank you to reader Matt Silverman of R&R Partners for letting me know about the JEPRS environmental crisis management system developed by Microsoft Technologies and its partners, as described in depth in this article. The following description is from that article.

"Using technologies that include Virtual Earth and SharePoint Server, JEPRS uses a detailed photographic map interface that offers responders a precise view of an accident's location and surroundings. That information is combined with real-time communication from emergency personnel and constant location updates.

"Moreover, JEPRS is designed to be a rendering engine that leverages existing customer investments and capabilities, such as different GIS (geographic information system) data stores including ESRI ArcGIS, Intergraph, records and forms management systems, plus news and weather feeds.

"JEPRS helps crisis and incident managers to:

  • Plot and collaborate around the information that crisis managers need for a more focused response to environmental events.
  • See exact locations of trouble spots along with descriptive information about the incident and the response.
  • Publish information quickly via the Internet for anyone who needs it."

There are some impressive mini-case histories listed. Well worth the read!

Reader Letter

I received the following well-stated reader letter about the lead article in the June 1, 2008 issue of Crisis Manager.


I read your article (The Three C's of Credibility) and I believe a word of caution is appropriate.

I refer to your reference to a study at UCLA that indicated that up to 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues.

I suspect the study to which you refer was the one conducted in the 1960s by Dr. Albert Mehrabian who was then a professor of psychology at UCLA. It is detailed in his book, "Silent Messages," published in 1971.

Over the years I've heard and read articles by many media trainers offering the 93% non-verbal/7% verbal as a fact of life, when indeed that is not what Dr. Mehrabian intended. He believes that it occurs when there is a dissonance between the verbal and the non-verbal and then, "...only when a person is communicating about emotions, and definitely do not apply to communication in general."

I think we media trainers need to be careful not to oversell what I call "The 7% Myth" because it probably not operable all or even much of the time.

Some months ago, having seen an Internet post in which the authors implied that it was always true, I wrote to Dr. Mehrabian asking for clarification. I am appending his response, from which the above quote was taken. (I would note that you made no such implication, but I suspect that some of your readers might draw that if not offered a word or two of caution. I know that others have.)

I continue to enjoy and appreciate your articles.


Norm Hartman
TMT Worldwide

News Coverage of Business Crises

Every year the Institute for Crisis Management issues a "Crisis Report" on news coverage of business crises. You can find this year's report at: As always, it provides very useful information on the categories of crises which make the news. However, a word of caution. This report appears to only incorporate "traditional" news outlets, and not the thousands of blogs which transmit news as well.

11 Tips For Handling A PR Crisis

Excellent, albeit basic, article on crisis response in an Australian publication. I wanted permission to reprint but they didn't respond, darn it.

Disaster Response Challenge

It's time for another Disaster Response Challenge event in the UK. Here's the scoop.

The Disaster Response Challenge is a unique two-day event exclusive to the British Red Cross. It provides an opportunity for participants to experience firsthand the issues and decisions faced by the British Red Cross Emergency Response Unit (ERU) - something that only a handful of people get to experience in a lifetime.

Built around a hypothetical disaster that unfolds in real time, this Challenge tests the calmest and most practical of you as you develop your own 'Disaster Response Plan'. You will be taken out of your comfort zone, into an environment where in real life your decisions would be a matter of life and death.

The Challenge is run by British Red Cross staff including experienced members of the ERU, and experts in Disaster Response logistics. Areas covered include logistics, communications, first aid and casualty evacuation and delegate security.

When: 12 - 14 September 2008
Where: Bramley, Hampshire
Booking fee: 50

Minimum sponsorship: 500 (All money raised through this event will benefit the work of the British Red Cross)

Contact: Olivia Kilbee on 020 7382 4653 or


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.

Gerald Baron
Founder & CEO of PIER System and host of

"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

In addition to individual and business usage, the manual is now being required as a textbook at Seton Hall University, Grand Canyon University, and Singapore Management University, amongst others. It is available in both PDF and hard copy formats at, with reseller arrangements available for collegiate bookstores.

Jonathan Bernstein also offers on-site media training worldwide, using this manual as the basis for training. Write to

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, as are our other titles.

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.


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.


Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc.,, 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


GUEST AUTHORS are very welcome to submit material for "Crisis Manager." There is no fee paid, but most guest authors have reported receiving business inquiries as a result of appearing in this publication. Case histories, experience-based lessons, commentary on current news events and editorial opinion are all eligible for consideration. Submission is not a guarantee of acceptance.


When I find a site that I think will be useful to my readers or site visitors, I put it on our Links page. If you have a site that would be of specific use to crisis managers and want to discuss a link exchange or other cooperative effort, please write to me,


All information contained herein is obtained by Jonathan Bernstein from sources believed by Jonathan Bernstein to be accurate and reliable.

Because of the possibility of human and mechanical error as well as other factors, neither Jonathan Bernstein nor Bernstein Crisis Management is responsible for any errors or omissions. All information is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Bernstein Crisis Management and Jonathan Bernstein make no representations and disclaim all express, implied, and statutory warranties of any kind to the user and/or any third party including, without limitation, warranties as to accuracy, timeliness, completeness, merchantability, or fitness for any particular purpose.

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A service of this newsletter is to provide news summaries and/or snippets to readers. In such instances articles and/or snippets will be reprinted as they are received from the originating party or as they are displayed on the originating website or in the original article. As we do not write the news, we merely point readers to it, under no circumstance shall Bernstein Crisis Management or Jonathan Bernstein be liable to the user and/or any third party for any lost profits or lost opportunity, indirect, special, consequential, incidental, or punitive damages whatsoever due to the distribution of said news articles or snippets that lead readers to a full article on a news service's website, even if Bernstein Crisis Management or Jonathan Bernstein has been advised of the possibility of such damages. Authors of the original news story and their publications shall be exclusively held liable. Any corrections to news stories are not mandatory and shall be printed at the discretion of the list moderator after evaluation on a case-by-case basis.


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Articles in "Crisis Manager" were, unless otherwise noted, written and copyrighted by Jonathan Bernstein. Permission to reprint will often be granted for no charge. Write to