The Internet Newsletter about Crisis Management
 Editor: Erik Bernstein
 Publisher: Jonathan Bernstein

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

2011 Jonathan Bernstein


Volume XII, Number 8

September 27, 2011  



The basics of crisis management are simple, it's when you choose to ignore them that things get complicated.


                           Erik Bernstein     




So many ways to publish information....

As Internet and social media-savvy as I am after 30 active years online, the plethora of methods and venues for delivering information has had my head spinning and thoughts racing for months now. The newsletter as a simple delivery method for two print stories per issue seemed archaic. I thought of maybe spicing it up with one video piece per issue, but is the ezine the best way to do that when I'm often commenting on news that might have broken a week earlier (an eon in Internet time)?
At the same time, Erik and I have been publishing an average of five posts weekly between our Bernstein Crisis Management Blog and the Free Management Library Crisis Management Blog. We are also planning to be increasingly active on Google+ in addition to my existing activities on Facebook, LinkedIn and Quora (jury's still out on that one, methinks). I just started a Crisis Manager circle on Google+ and encourage you to link up with me there, remind me that you're an ezine subscriber, and I'll add you to that circle. We are going to start recording video and audio interviews (to include guest interviews - let me know if you're interested) as well.
So, I concluded that the best use for Crisis Manager would be to serve as: 
  • An aggregator of our blog posts (as many of you don't visit the blog regularly or use its RSS feed) and other relevant social media activity
  • A location for guest articles (or links to guest blog posts)
  • A periodic focal point to launch surveys related to crisis management
  • Whatever else feels right at time of publication
Like the Internet, we need to be malleable. Each time we think we have something worth communicating, we'll use the medium we think fits best -- and the ezine will be the single location where we'll provide links to everything done since the last ezine.
Finally, with our internal angst resolved, we can recommit to publishing Crisis Manager twice monthly. 




See you online - somewhere!






By Gerald Baron
I've been presenting at a number of conferences and webinars recently and for those presentations I wanted to try and capture in as simple way as I could what I understand to be the really big changes in crisis and emergency communications. Everyone is talking about social media and what that is doing to communications as well as response management. But I still find continually a mindset that demonstrates that what is really happening isn't quite sinking in.

This graphic is my effort to explain these changes in a single image. Some positive response from people I respect suggests this might be helpful which is why I am sharing it here.

Before and Now Social Media

The "Before" picture shows that crisis and emergency communications was a relatively simple, straightforward and linear affair. An event happens (the explosion), a response is organized (the vests) and a press conference is held (or press releases issued). The media asks its questions, then informs the world (the crowd) about what is going on in the event and the response. This is how the vast majority of emergency managers and a fewer, but still significant majority of PIOs and communicators conceived of crisis and emergency communications today.

The "Now" graphic shows that it doesn't go that way anymore. An event happens and the first to know about it typically is someone in the crowd. If that someone is using the internet in some form, usually a website we now call social media, they put the info on their site and its spreads through the network to others in the crowd who spread it further and further and further. Some in that crowd are members of the media, who now get most of their information that they rebroadcast from the crowd. They have their network (hey, that's what we actually used to call the major channels) which reaches a lot more in the crowd.

Along the way, and quite awhile after all this is happening, the response is formed (vests). And after the response is formed, the PIO/JIC/Comms Mgr get busy and start telling about the event (the press conference and press releases). Now they tell the crowd directly through websites run by the JIC or companies/agencies involved and members of the media are part of that crowd. They combine (sometimes) the information from the response along with all the other sources they find in the crowd and do their rebroadcasting.
Gerald Baron

Gerald Baron

So the crowd, who is after all, the intended audience for all this information, is not merely the passive audience receiving the information through a mediator (the media). They are fully active in gathering that information, in sharing it and spreading it further. They don't just take what the media says, but they add their perspectives and opinions which further clarifies (or muddies) depending on your perspective the central narratives or general perceptions about the event. The crowd also shows a great propensity to get involved in the response itself. In some cases, as in Deepwater Horizon, by making 120,000 response suggestions, volunteering, signing up boats for the Vessel of Opportunity program, etc. But also through crowd-sourced information such as crisis mapping and spreading word of urgent needs through those same networks.

This is what Admiral Allen talks about when he raises the issue of public participation. There is not much passive about this crowd anymore.

Clearly in this picture the role of the media has changed dramatically. Their influence and power to form perceptions is still enormous. But they do not have a monopoly on that. They, like other members of the crowd, are participants in a swirl of information and influence. The gather information from that crowd, repackage it primarily on the basis of drawing maximum audience share, and contribute to public understanding or misunderstanding in doing so.

For the crisis and emergency communication professional, these changes are very profound. The most basic is going from a position of controlling the information that goes to the media (at that point, they lose control), to a position of participating. The swirl of information and influence goes on and around and about them whether they participate or not. They do not set the agenda, they do not set the timing, they do not set understandings. But, they can participate and participate in very significant ways.

When I say as I have repeatedly in presentations recently, that the role of the JIC has shifted to being the first and best source of information about the event to one of rumor management, this is what I mean. The official source of information, that is the response itself, has to be impeccably accurate and completely truthful. It must be seen as the final word, the participant in the conversation that has the best and most complete information. Not necessarily the first, but the best and most complete. It must play that role, and this is where I have seen most of these efforts fail in the recent past. They pump out their information as if it is still "Before" but they refuse to counter the plenty of false information out there. Aggressive rumor management is not only the only significant role left for the the official source, it is in my mind a serious obligation. "A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth," and it doesn't have to be a lie. It can be media reporting that is seriously off-base, it may be agenda-driven untruths perpetuated on the internet, it may be simple fear-driven inaccuracies. These must be quickly identified and corrected with impeccably accurate information.

Would very much appreciate hearing your thoughts about this graphic and analysis. And, if you think it accurately reflects the new realities, share it with every emergency management professional you can. Because misunderstanding these new realities is certain to cause continuing difficulties in building public trust in major crises and emergencies.

Gerald Baron is CEO of Agincourt Strategies, a crisis communication consultancy, and Senior Advisor to O'Brien's Response Management. He is the creator of the PIER System, the leading crisis and emergency communication management technology, is the author of Now Is Too Late2: Survival in the Era of Instant News and a frequent blogger at crisisblogger.com and emergencymgmt.com.


By Erik Bernstein 

Crisis management and communication play an essential role in our world, and whether it's wild fires or Wall Street antics, you can be sure it's being covered on one of our blogs. Here's a small sample of the latest posts:

With all of the changes in reporting and communication, who needs media training today? If you don't know the answer to this question, then you'd better head to the blog and read Train the Right People. Making the right call here could be the difference between becoming a "how-to" or fodder for our next "what not to do" case study.  

If you break it down, crisis management isn't that complicated. The real sticky situations arise when you get stuck with a nasty problem and no plan. Just the Basics offers some insight to get you on your way.  
Erik Bernstein

Erik Bernstein

It's been proven time and time again to be disastrous, but many organizations still show a distinct Lack of Preparation. This post takes a look at a recent mess that involved UK retailer WH Smiths, and what simple steps could have been taken to prevent the crisis altogether.  

Sharing information on breaking crises first is one of the best ways to gain both the trust of stakeholders and prevent rumor and innuendo from spreading. In First Response, we look at how this works, and why.  

Hashtags enable Twitter users the world over to not only follow topics, but also participate in discussions en masse. Crisis Management in 140 Characters or Less examines a recent PRSA Twitter chat and gives some advice on how to join the conversations happening all around you.
is lacking in today's business world, but when you make a mistake that lead to crisis there's no other path to take. While recovery is a long process, this post explains one specific step every organization must take to move forward with their crisis management.  

Gone are the days when you had a buffer of hours, or even days, to respond to breaking crises. Now you've got to be Ready and Able to respond immediately. If you're not, then you're inviting disaster. 

Sure, you've got a Twitter account, but do you know how to make the best of it in a crisis management situation? Emergency Twitter Tips shares some advice from a pro. 

You probably think of flash mobs as the random singing, dancing groups of people highlighted in recent movies and commercials. Unfortunately, this phenomenon has a darker side that's manifested itself in incidents of sudden, unpredictable violence and looting. Learn more about how to protect yourself and your business in Flash Mobs

FEMA has been extremely proactive in using social media to reduce and resolve the impact of natural-disaster related crises. FEMA and Social Media vs. Irene looks at the strategies employed and how they played out over the course of the storm. 

Nobody likes to admit they've done wrong, but the bottom line is that's exactly what you've got to do to move past a crisis. Not only does it give critics and the media far less to talk about, but also helps to restore the faith and trust of stakeholders, so Take Responsibility

Erik Bernstein is a freelance writer, SEO associate, and editor of Crisis Manager.

(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, editor of Crisis Manager.


More info:erik@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.


JB and EB dual bio pic

Jonathan Bernstein is both publisher of Crisis Manager and 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 at: jonathan@bernsteincrisismanagement.com.

Erik Bernstein is editor of Crisis Manager and is also a writer, publicist and SEO associate for Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc.

Write to Erik at: erik@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
Explaining Just How Big the Changes in Crisis and Emergency Communications Are
Crisis Manager Blog Highlights
Quick Links


BCM Blog
Crisis Management Blog

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