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

Crisis Manager Internet Newsletter about Crisis Management

© 2002 Jonathan Bernstein
Circulation: 2,800+


"If we don't change direction soon, we'll end up where we're going."

Professor Irwin Corey


I recently went to a local Blockbuster store to rent some DVDs and the register printed out four different receipts, one for the actual rentals and the other each having some type of promotional message

Without any advance comment from me, the clerk announced, "Gosh, I guess they don't care much about saving trees, huh?"

There are a number of teaching points in this little real-life example:

  • Every employee is a PR representative for the organization, whether you want them to be or not. For Blockbuster, that means they have 89,000 PR representatives.
  • It's critical to know what YOUR employees are saying about your company.
  • Employees should be motivated to feel as if they're part of a team, to feel loyalty -- and, if they don't, they should understand that badmouthing the company in any way is still not OK. This clerk described Blockbuster's decision makers as "they," so at least this one individual hasn't been properly motivated.
  • Marketing decisions (e.g., using all those receipts) should be tested to see how staff and customers will react to them. I suspect that more than a few customers would have formed a negative impression about Blockbuster's environmental practices from this incident.

This obviously relates to the articles on "secret shopping" and vulnerability audits that have appeared in recent issues of "Crisis Manager." There are more than 8,000 Blockbuster stores and, hopefully, the company has some means of determining how good a job is being done by all of their "employee PR representatives."

Will one incident like this undermine the incredible success of a firm like Blockbuster? Of course not. Unless it is the tip of an iceberg -- unless it means that Blockbuster is in the majority of organizations that still refuse to conduct the type of ongoing self-analysis which can prevent or minimize the damage from crises.


Anyone Know a Good Book Agent?

I'm almost done with the book proposal and three sample chapters for "Crisis Manager," an anthology featuring the best of this ezine's first two years, organized for easy reference, featuring "all new material" and pithy transitional commentary. Ideal for study, gifts and bugging your management to do something about crisis prevention. I have the required "Writers Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, etc." but if someone knows an agent who specializes in this type of trade press book, I'd appreciate a reference! Write to:

Branding Crisis Manager

You can arrange to distribute "Crisis Manager" to your own email list with a "Brought to You By" credit in the masthead. There is no charge and only some reasonable restrictions to preserve the integrity of the publication. Several organizations are already doing this and finding that it is appreciated by their contacts. Write to for more info.

Crisis Manager Presentations & Workshops

Want to REALLY get some of this information into the hearts and minds of your organization? Your ineffable ezine editor and crisis communications consultant and his talented associate, Phil Cogan, are available to make presentations and lead workshops. Their presentations can often be certified for the continuing education credits required by a number of professions. A list of our recent and pending speaking engagements can be found by clicking here or on the "Presentations" button to the left. For more info: or call (626) 825-3838.


How Much Pain Does It Take?
A Crisis Management Editorial
by Jonathan Bernstein

What do September 11, Enron and the news about sexual molestation by Catholic priests have in common?

They were all what I've previously termed "creeping crises," vulnerabilities, bombs (literally and figuratively) waiting to explode. There were people -- the American intelligence community, some employees of Enron and Church leaders, respectively -- who had information that could have prevented or reduced the damage from these situations. And who perpetuated and exacerbated the crises by acts of commission or omission.

They were all terrorism if you define it as "parties inflicting suffering on innocent victims as a means to an end."

They are all the tip of massive icebergs of creeping crises. Who dares to say that there aren't other terrorism groups poised to wreak unprecedented damage, corporations whose fiscal and legal practices will lead to Enron-like ruin, and criminal sexual behavior by clergy of possibly every major world religion?

They are all crises which strike at our emotional infrastructure: our desires for physical, psychological and financial security.

Human beings have an immense capacity for enduring pain individually and as organizations. And an immense resistance to change. That's a bad combination, because for most individuals, and most organizations, it seems to take a great deal of pain to motivate change.

There is a psychological concept called "hitting bottom" that refers to the point at which an individual feels so much pain from what he or she has been doing that the fear of continuing "as is" is greater than the fear of change. At that point, the individual is willing to take some direction from someone other than him- or herself.

It has been my experience that organizations, too, usually have to "hit bottom," to feel enough crisis-related pain from their actions, or lack thereof, that they're willing to realize that their own best thinking isn't making them crisis-resistant, versus crisis-prone. And that's when they start getting proactive about crisis management.

Here's the catch, however. Sometimes, that willingness to change comes too late. Sometimes, for an individual or an organization, that delay is fatal.

So ask yourselves at your next board meeting: how much pain does it take?


Q: Can you tell me more about how lawyers and PR professionals can help prevent crises?

CM: Better yet, there is a very well written article in the March 2002 issue of California Lawyer.They don't appear to have any restrictions on redistributing it as long as you give them credit, so I've converted it to PDF and you can read it at (or download it from):


Leading European and global multinationals will discuss reputational risk, corporate responsibility and managing public expectations and process at Ethical Corporation Europe 2002 Conference on April 24-25 2002 in London. Leading companies speaking about risk, reputation and responsibility include: Deutsche Bank, BASF, Adidas, BA, BT, BAT, BAA, Balfour Beatty, Shell, Premier Oil, Anglo American and many many others. Go to for full details. Crisis Manager readers are being offered a 50 discount.


Bernstein Crisis Management has formal or informal co-promotional and mutually beneficial business associations with PIER Systems, Inc., PR Newswire's ProfNet service and CustomScoop. 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 how we're using these services for crisis and issues management. 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 their clients. If you have any questions about these relationships, please contact Jonathan Bernstein, (626) 825-3838.


Jonathan Bernstein is president & CEO of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., a national public relations agency specializing in crisis response, issues management and litigation consulting. It is also the only national PR agency able to create crisis- and issues-specific websites for its clients in as little as five minutes by employing proprietary PIER System technology. Information on the firm's services can be found by Clicking Here or by calling (626) 825-3838. Information on its PIER capabilities can be found at


(Have a newsletter and/or website and want to exchange links? Let's talk about it! Write to

These sites have proven valuable to my business and may do the same for yours.

"Media Insider" is a free service for the public relations community hosted by PR Newswire and ProfNet, its online resource linking reporters with expert sources. Updated daily with contributions from members, Insider reports on the people and new technologies behind the production of news. Go to

The PR Network provides a means for exchanging ideas and business improvement tips between PR professionals. They're at and their newsletter can be subscribed to by sending email to with the word "subscribe" in the BODY of the email.

"Powerlines" is a free bi-monthly newsletter about reputation management and communication matters written by Deon Binneman, a reputation management consultant, speaker and trainer who employs his 25 years of experience to advise clients worldwide from his base in Johannesburg, South Africa. For a free evaluation copy write to


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.


If you have questions for "Crisis Manager on the Spot" or comments about other topics, you can contact Jonathan Bernstein at:

Do you know people who are Crisis Managers, whether they want to be or not? Please pass this newsletter on to them!

Subscribe to the free, twice-monthly email newsletter below. After entering your email address, you will receive a message asking you to confirm your subscription in order to prevent someone else from adding you to the list without permission. YOU MUST CONFIRM YOUR SUBSCRIPTION OR YOU WILL NOT RECEIVE THE NEWSLETTER.

Subscribe to the BCM Crisis Manager newsletter

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