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 18
December 8, 2010



I have little doubt that innocent people have died and more are yet to die as a result of his actions, simply because they were being helpful to the United States. 



         Jonathan Bernstein, talking about WikiLeak's Julian Assange




Happy Holidays!  May this month bring you much joy, and may your 2011 be both prosperous and serene.


First, before reading this issue, and if you haven't seen it already, you may well enjoy my latest Huffington Post blog, WikiLeaks Deja Vu, which combines my experience in Military Intelligence, as an investigative reporter, and as a crisis management pro into a commentary on the significance of Julian Assange's security breaches.


Jeff Chatterton then returns to the pages of Crisis Manager with a great (for us, not for the victims!) case history of crisis mismanagement by the operators of the Canadian Ironman race.  then, Jackie Lynn provides us with critically important information about setting up a social media policy for your organization.  And a hint from me -- when you have that policy in place, make sure there's training to go along with it, as well as the sanctions Jackie suggests for violations.


As always, if you like what you see, please share it with others by using the "Forward Email" link at the bottom of the ezine and tell them to subscribe!  IMPORTANT NOTE: If you just "Forward" using your own email program's "Forward" function and your recipient thinks they're being spammed, they can click on the Opt Out link and opt YOU off the list. So use the "Forward Email" link, please.



My best to all,



By Jeff Chatterton


In many ways, it's self-explanatory - ignoring your customers isn't the best idea. Yet it's shocking how many organizations continue to charge down the hallways of business wearing a blindfold.
Jeff Chatterton Checkmate Public Affairs
Jeff Chatterton

You may be familiar with the infamous Domino's Pizza debacle. A number of employees posted videos of rather disgusting behaviour, which became a viral Internet sensation. It took three days before Domino's smartened up, discovered what was happening, and was able to respond. But give Domino's credit - at least they chose to respond.

The newest case of ludicrous behaviour comes to us from NAS (North American Sports) - the owners of "Ironman Canada." The Canadian Ironman race is typical of a big name triathlon- over 3,000 entrants who pay over $600 each to swim, bike and run through Penticton, British Columbia.

NAS outsources the registration of its races to a company which was unaware that the British Columbia Provincial Government has recently changed its taxation laws. Somehow, 3,000 people signed up for an "Ironman" race without being charged the proper amount of sales tax.

When NAS recognized the error last weekend, they sent an email to all registrants, on the Friday of the US Thanksgiving weekend. In the interest of full accuracy, I've reproduced the email here:

Dear Subaru Ironman Canada Entrant,

As many of you may be aware, effective July 1, 2010 British Columbia moved to a harmonized provincial and federal sales tax at a combined rate of 12%. This has been a controversial and confusing tax change but it is the law and therefore must be collected on all sale of goods and services. Unfortunately when your entry to the 2011 Subaru Ironman Canada was processed through Active, HST was not collected on the entry fee. This has recently been brought to our attention and we are obligated to collect that tax.

To that end, the credit card that you used to enter the race will be charged $69, the amount of the HST on the entry fee. We will begin processing the charges on Monday, November 29th and these will be complete by December 10th. Should you wish to have this charge applied to a different credit card or if the one you used to enter has expired, please contact our athlete services center at admin@nasports.com or 877-377-2373. We apologize for this error and any inconvenience it may cause.

And then hell broke loose. A number of online triathlon forums effectively exploded, and both the "Ironman" and "Ironman Canada" Facebook pages started receiving postings from upset customers. Customers were furious that they weren't consulted, upset that their credit cards were going to be charged without permission, and there was widespread confusion over how NAS came up with the $69 figure in the first place.

So knowing this, how did NAS respond? They didn't.

Because the customers were ignored, the fury continued unabated Saturday and Sunday. By Monday, the online dialogue had changed. It was no longer "How dare they do this?" but "Why won't they talk to us?"

Even the irate triathletes were getting in on the action, suggesting ways NAS could have brokered the news. Had NAS responded right away on Monday with a "Folks, we hear you. We are sorry. Clearly, you are upset. Please give us 24 hours to work this out?" chances are good all could be forgiven.

So, on Monday, how did NAS respond? They didn't.

No - the questions remained unanswered. And since they were being ignored, the online discussions turned to talk of class action lawsuits and mass protests.

At the end of day Tuesday, NAS finally sent out an email, but it, too, was woefully inadequate - ignoring a number of the very concerns being raised by racers. Facing revolt, Ironman has announced that the $69 additional charge would be 'voluntary.' Not surprisingly, a large number of the 'ignored' athlete customers have announced they have no intention of paying the fee - at least certainly not anymore. This could leave NAS with a $210,000 shortfall.

Folks, the lesson here is crystal clear. If NAS had come out initially with something like this, imagine the difference:

"Hey, folks - we screwed up. We screwed up big, and we feel awful about it. Here's what happened. The Provincial Government has changed the rules regarding taxation. As a result, we have determined that the race fee needs to go up by $69. We don't like it either but we're forced to submit it.

We're going to give you two choices - if you can pay the $69, great. We appreciate it, and feel bad. In fact, we're going to give you a coupon for half-price Ironman Merchandise on race day. If you don't want to pay the $69, please let us know and we will happily refund your race fees.

Again, please accept our apologies. Let us know what you want us to do, and please rest assured we are reviewing our procedures to ensure this doesn't happen again."

If that message goes out, half the fury goes away. But even more importantly - if they had bothered to stick around and respond to concerns raised immediately after distributing bad news, the rest of the fury would have evaporated as well. People may not have liked it, but they would be far more understanding and forgiving.

Instead, NAS is paying out $210,000, and has managed to infuriate its customer base at the same time. And why? Primarily, because they did not bother to respond to their customers.

Ready for the really, really sad news? As of right now, NAS has STILL not bothered to respond to any of the comments or questions posted on the Ironman Canada facebook page.

Pay attention to your stakeholders. Find out where they talk to each other, and be prepared to meet them there. It's just common sense and smart business.

Jeff Chatterton is a friend and colleague with a unique reputation management practice in Ontario, Canada.  More info at http://checkmatepublicaffairs.com.


 By Jacquelyn Lynn

Is social media--Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube--a fad or the wave of the future? From a company policy perspective, the answer to that question doesn't matter. The fact is that you need a social media policy that clearly defines what your

Jacquelyn Lynn  - 200px
Jacquelyn Lynn

employees may and may not say about your operation on social media sites-and you need it today, not next week or next year.

A social media policy is not the same as your on-the-job internet use policy. It's not enough to control access to certain sites while employees are at work; you need guidelines for what employees can--and can't--say about the company whenever and wherever they are online. In the past, workers who had a bad day would go home and grumble about it to their families or to their buddies over drinks after work; today, they're far more likely to vent on the internet, and what they say could damage your company.

Points your social media policy should address include:


  • On which sites and under what circumstances employees can identify themselves as employees of your company. Online business networking has value and should be encouraged, but if employees are involved in activities outside the workplace that may be considered divisive (such as hot political and social topics), you may not want to risk alienating customers by being publicly identified with those issues. Don't try to keep employees from expressing their opinions; just make it clear that they are not to connect the company to those opinions or actions.
  • Protecting confidential and proprietary information. It may sound like a no-brainer, but your policy should specifically include a prohibition against revealing confidential information on social media sites. 
  • Prohibit disparaging the company, its employees and suppliers, and its current, previous, or prospective customers. Social media sites are a popular place for people to vent, but your employees need to know that if they've had a bad day and they're ticked off at the company, their boss, or a customer, they can't put it up on Facebook, Twitter, or any other site in any way that would identify the company, the customer, or the individuals involved.
Have your policy reviewed by an attorney to make sure it doesn't violate employees' free speech rights or other applicable laws or regulations. Provide employees with a copy of your policy and have them acknowledge in writing that they have received and understand it. Finally, enforce the policy consistently without exception.

Jacquelyn Lynn is a business writer who helps business owners and managers work smarter and more profitably. To receive monthly e-mail tips, visit www.jacquelynlynn.com.

(aka blatant self-promotion)


Keeping the Wolves at Bay: Media Training


What has 80+ 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, four-color, perfect-bound, 8x10 manual is currently available both in hardcopy ($25) and PDF form ($10). Volume discounts are available; write to Jonathan Bernstein for that information.

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 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.


The Art of Celeste Mendelsohn


This has NOTHING to do with crisis management, but I have to brag on the launch of the new website launched

to feature the art of Celeste Mendelsohn -- my wife, partner and Creative Director.  This image is Yin-Yang, painted on a wood round.  Her work also includes plates, masks, yoga asanas, computer art and even needlework.


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.



Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis MJB-BESTanagement, 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.


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.

Unless due to willful tortuous misconduct or gross negligence, Jonathan Bernstein and Bernstein Crisis Management shall have no liability in tort, contract, or otherwise (and as permitted by law, product liability), to the user and/or any third party.

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, even if Bernstein Crisis Management or Jonathan Bernstein has been advised of the possibility of such damages.

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.

In This Issue
Just A Thought
Ignoring Customers - Not Smart Business
Does Your Company Have a Social Media Policy?
Quick Links