© 2002 Jonathan Bernstein
JUST A THOUGHT
"If we don't change direction soon, we'll end up where we're going."
Professor Irwin Corey
AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION
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.
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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?
CRISIS MANAGER ON THE SPOT
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): www.piersystem.com/clients/bernstein/Corp_Liability.pdf
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 www.ethicalcorp.com/europe2002 for full details. Crisis Manager readers are being offered a £50 discount.
PLAIN ENGLISH DISCLOSURE
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.
ABOUT THE EDITOR
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 www.crisiswebsite.com.
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