Ono the Ostrich CRISIS MANAGER
The Internet Newsletter about Crisis Management
Editor: Jonathan Bernstein

"For Those Who Are Crisis Managers,
Whether They Want to be or Not"

2010 Jonathan Bernstein

Volume XI, Number 04
February 26, 2010


Nothing taught in most MBA programs prepares CEOs for giving media interviews during crises.


I am seriously stoked to be able to bring you an excerpt from my newly published Keeping the Wolves at Bay: Media Training. It is what software manufacturers might call a "major upgrade" of previous material I have written with this theme, both in terms of content and the new four-color, perfect-bound format.

The chapter I excerpt is entitled Practice Makes...Better and it addresses a subject I have never seen discussed in a PR text before -- specifically how to maintain your skills post-training.

If you like the look of the book, credit goes to illustrator/designer Celeste Mendelsohn, aka my wife.  This was truly our book by the time our collaboration was completed, and we hope it will be the first of many.

Long-time subscribers will recall that when we went through the hassle of moving the newsletter list over to "Constant Contact," I promised to offer you a deep discount on the new book when it came out in consideration of your patience with the transfer process.  I make good on that promise in the "Business Announcements" section below.

Then, my long-time professional associate, Rick Kelly, offers you Rebuilding a Reputation -- a somewhat contrarian perspective about the infamous Tiger Woods "making amends" speech. As I told Rick, I didn't agree with some of what he said, but it still made for a great read.

I wanted to remind readers that we also have a blog that has new material related to current events posted at least five times weekly.

As always, if you like what you see, please share it with others and tell them to subscribe!



My best to all,


By Jonathan Bernstein

I would love to be able to tell you that with regards to media interview skills, 'practice makes perfect,' but that would be disingenuous, a fancy way of saying it would be a lie.
No amount of practice will make you a 'perfect' interview subject; similarly,
one or two days of media training, alone, will not leave you with lasting skills in this area unless you practice them on your own.

Some job descriptions - e.g., politician, celebrity, Fortune 100 CEO - have a lot of real life interview practice built in. Those individuals and subordinate spokespersons are going to get plenty of opportunity to refine their skills via actual interviews. But most of the people I have trained aren't in that kind of job; instead, they are designated spokespersons who may not have to handle a really hard media interview for years after their initial training. However, just like a police officer who may never have to shoot a suspect for years after going through the police academy, they still have to maintain their skills so that when they're needed, they are intuitively available.

Methods of Practice

All methods of practice should:
  • Simulate a situation/scenario that, realistically, could occur to you/your organization.

  • Simulate one or more of the types of interviews described earlier in the Media Logistics section of this manual.

  • Include some method of recording and playing back performance for self- or peer-critique.
There are a wide variety of ways to simulate interviews realistically enough for spokespersons to practice and improve their skills.  These include:
  1. Re-enact Media Training.  Recreate the conditions under which you were media trained (e.g., tripod-mounted video camera of at least moderately high quality, someone to operate the camera, someone to play interviewer).

  2. Practice 'Phoner' Interviews. Let yourself be interviewed by telephone, which is the mostly likely scenario for most interviews, with video becoming increasingly likely when a crisis is particularly newsworthy.

  3. Staff Meeting Practices. Take 15-30 minutes at a staff meeting and put one or more spokespersons on the spot, with other staff members playing the role of media at a press conference.

  4. Webcam-Based Practice. You don't have to have a media trainer return for a full training session to just get some 'brush up' practice periodically. Instead, hook up with him/her for an hour or two by webcam periodically. That's not only useful for routine practice, but also for spot practice right before you have to give an important interview.
I have trained countless executives who claimed to have been trained in the past - but who never practiced.  Most of the time, their skills were little better than the novice trainee, and sometimes what they did remember was so out of context that they actually did worse than if they had remembered nothing at all about their past training.

No, media training practice doesn't make perfect, but it sure as heck makes you a better spokesperson.
Jonathan Bernstein is the author of the newly released "Keeping the Wolves at Bay: Media Training" and editor of this newsletter.
By Rick Kelly

Tiger Woods' first post-scandal public appearance drew enormous media attention.  Every pundit and PR pro from Sawgrass to Spyglass has offered a recipe for "what Tiger should do" or "what Tiger should have done."  Most have missed the mark.Rick Kelly

The initial prescriptions consisted of "getting out in front of" the issue, presumably meaning that Woods should have immediately thrown himself at the feet of the media, done his mea culpa, established the Tiger Woods Marital Fidelity Foundation, appeared on Oprah and 60 Minutes and wrapped it all up in a tidy package before the end of the first news cycle.  Whew, reputation saved.

In retrospect, what he would have been "getting out in front of" was a tsunami.  It wasn't just a single indiscretion, or only a few.  Being aware of the magnitude of the "selfish and irresponsible behavior" in which he engaged, perhaps he understood the futility of trying to stanch his wounded reputation before the entire story emerged.

Even more important, it would have made no sense for Woods to begin answering questions and charting courses of action until he and his family had figured out where they wanted to go, and what they were willing to do in order to achieve it.  Those things can take time, and rushing to appease the impatient media may have proven disastrous, tantamount to throwing a cake into the oven before mixing in all the necessary ingredients.

Woods' speech, robotic as it may have been, gave us insight into what he wants.  He says he wants to heal the deep wounds he has inflicted on his family and close friends.  He wants to address, through therapy and spirituality, the causes of his destructive behavior.  He wants to show golf fans that he is worthy of their admiration and respect.  He wants to help others who acquiesce to similar destructive impulses.  He wants to become a better man.  And he wants to play golf again.

Let's concede that he received some high-powered PR counsel, but it's difficult to doubt his sincerity.  He doesn't need the money.  He doesn't "owe" anyone - other than those closest to him - an explanation or apology.  There is no mandate that he face continuing public humiliation for his behavior.  He doesn't need to step back into the spotlight, and yet, here he is.

In advance of Woods' appearance, the CNN anchor - with as much drama as he could muster - asked, "Does this appearance rehab his image?"  It's a shallow, stupid question.  The truth is, you can't communicate your way out of something you behaved yourself into.  Whether you have truly rehabilitated yourself can only be judged over time. 

Woods acknowledged that.  He took responsibility for his "selfish and irresponsible behavior."  He apologized without equivocation.  He conveyed contrition.

He said it will be a long road to his recovery.  And when he gets to the golf part of it, he is certain to encounter at least a few nattering knuckleheads, at every venue, on every hole, in a sport that is rife with double entendres.

To what extent does the public really care, anyway?  Is the press and paparazzi a legitimate conduit for the public's right to know, or does this saga merely feed the media's own ravenous appetite for salacious content?  Woods asked the media hoard to leave his family out of this.  Good luck with that.

In any case, it would be a mistake to write Woods off as ruined goods, another icon who squandered extensive fame and fortune with, as he put it, "my repeated irresponsible behavior."  It's also a stretch to suggest that acting sooner than he did would have mitigated the damage or helped shorten his journey to salvation, if that is indeed where he's headed.

We seem to take perverse joy in the dismantling or self-destruction of our heroes, but we also tend to believe that everyone deserves a shot at redemption.  If Ted Kennedy, Michael Milken and Kobe Bryant can lift themselves from the deep ditches they dug, so too can the Eliot Spitzers, Martha Stewarts and Tiger Woodses who follow.  

Rick Kelly (rkelly@TriadStrategies.com) directs the Crisis Communications Practice at Triad Strategies LLC in Harrisburg, Pa.

(aka blatant self-promotion)

Keeping the Wolves at Bay: Media Training

What has 89 pages of hard-hitting, entertaining and easy-to-read guidance on how to deal with both traditional and online media during times of crisis?  The answer is
Keeping the Wolves at Bay - Media Training.Book Cover JPG

The 89-page, four-color, perfect-bound, 8x10 book is currently available in PDF form ($10) and we are taking pre-orders for the hardcopy version ($25) that is due out in 2-3 weeks.

However, through March 12, Crisis Manager subscribers can receive 40% off the price of either version of the book, and any of the training CDs in our bookstore, by using Coupon Code NewBook when you check out.

Here's a couple of teaser reviews for you:

Jonathan Bernstein's Keeping the Wolves at Bay is an eminently practical guidance for anyone - business
leader, celebrity, politician - who must willingly or unwillingly face the glare of media attention. It appears
at a moment in time when the social media and other digital communications have upped the ante exponentially.
Bernstein's practicum on media relations takes on renewed urgency as news, gossip, and opinion now drive
public perception virally and at the speed of light.

Richard Levick, Esq.
President & CEO
Levick Strategic Communications, LLC

Even if you think you'll never, ever be interviewed by the media, buy this book and read it cover to cover. It isn't a substitute for media training. But it will give you the tools and confidence to go head to head -- and possibly even defang -- rabid reporters, blood-thirsty bloggers and social networking buffoons who are out to besmirch your good name.

Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound

The book and other products can be found at at the Crisis Manager Bookstore

Want To Blog And Tweet About
Your Organization But Don't Have Time?

Missing out on all the promotional and SEO advantages of doing so? Hire someone to be your voice...like Erik Bernstein, aka "Son of Crisis Manager."

More info:jonathan@bernsteincrisismanagement.com.


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.


JonatJB Headshothan 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 jonathan@bernsteincrisismanagement.com.


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In This Issue
Just a Thought
Practice Makes...Better
Rebuilding a Reputation
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