© 2002 Jonathan Bernstein
JUST A THOUGHT
"Wisdom is using other people's hindsight as your foresight."
AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION
The PR and Legal Aspects of Protecting Confidential Information
Editor's Note: This is the first in what will now be a regular series of articles that feature comments from, or link to longer pieces by, attorneys from Quarles & Brady, LLP, www.quarles.com, a national law firm that happens to own Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. Soon, the Bernstein Crisis Management website will feature a new section entitled "Crisis Management & The Law" that will complement material released in this ezine.
The inadvertent or intentional disclosure of confidential information has, many times, been the match which lit the fire of crisis -- but what made the affected organization(s) vulnerable in the first place was lack of preparedness. A comprehensive vulnerability audit should always include a search for legal weaknesses.
For example, when trying to ensure you don't suffer the crisis of losing trade secrets to the competition, Quarles & Brady Litigation Partner Jeffrey Morris writes that, "...a company is likely to face an uphill battle in court in seeking trade secret protection for a document containing a detailed and sensitive sales history for all key customers if it develops, during the trial, that the company has no written confidentiality policy, has never even articulated any policy regarding confidentiality at all, has never labeled this particular document as confidential and, in fact, has allowed all employees, all the way down to the least highly compensated clerk, computer access to this document. Not only will a court likely be skeptical about the company' s claim that it regards this information as 'confidential,' more importantly the court will almost certainly have to find that the company has not made 'reasonable efforts' to protect the confidentiality of that information. Such a finding, of course, would be fatal to company's efforts to avail itself of the protections provided in the Uniform Trade Secrets Act."
Given what we've learned of most organizations' confidentiality practices in past vulnerability audits, we suspect that insufficient attention was paid to these legal considerations.
You can find Jeff Morris' full article on this topic, keyed to Wisconsin Law, archived in PDF format at: www.piersystem.com/clients/bernstein/Trade_Secrets.pdf. Please be sure to ask attorneys serving your state for an explanation of how this information applies to your organization, but we believe you will find that many of the same principles will apply, at least within the United States (noted because we have readers in 56 countries). Mr. Morris can be contacted by email, email@example.com, or through his Milwaukee office, 414.277.5000.
CRISIS MANAGER BUSINESS ANNOUNCEMENTS
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.com or call (626) 825-3838.
How To Make Monitoring The Internet A Part-Time Job
by Phil Cogan
In past issues Crisis Manager has discussed the need to stay on top of Internet news and gossip about clients, a task that is certainly easier said than done. The proliferation of new websites and newsgroups, on top of the hundreds of thousands of existing ones, makes it impossible to monitor the marketplace even if you devoted all of your time to doing it, unless of course you have a lot of help.
There are on-line services that will help you do this for a fee. They allow you to gather intelligence about what's being said regarding subjects or clients about which you're interested. One service we like and have mentioned in the past is CustomScoop, www.customscoop.com (see our plain English disclosure below). Today we look at another service, eWatch, www.ewatch.com and make a comparison with CustomScoop.
eWatch, a service of PRNewswire, shares some features with, yet has some distinct differences from, CustomScoop. Both allow you to monitor news websites for keyword hits. Both will alert you by email, sending you a report summarizing what's been found since the last report. eWatch also permits you to track changes made to websites about which you're interested; CustomScoop does not, although there are free sites that offer this service.
Both services monitor online publications; eWatch says they scan almost 5,000 "online newspapers, ezines, broadcast sites and portals." Custom-Scoop says their database of online news outlets includes "not only the major wires and daily papers, but also TV and radio stations, smaller daily and weekly newspapers, magazines, trade journals, and new media publications."
Of the two, only eWatch permits you to monitor Internet newsgroups, investor message boards, and online service forums, such as those maintained by AOL and Compuserve.
Pricing is one area where the two differ dramatically. CustomScoop offers a fixed price for its services with no limit on the number of keywords, nor is there a per-clip charge. CustomScoop offers pricing based on varying the scope of their coverage. Coverage can be broken down by state and region, or you can elect to survey just the top national and regional publications. Alternatively, they say they'll develop a completely customized search plan that includes just the specific sources you choose.
eWatch, on the other hand, prices its services per client, with unlimited keywords permitted within each client group. eWatch also does not charge a fee per clip. eWatch will also work with you to develop a customized pricing plan.
One feature that eWatch includes that's not available from CustomScoop is the ability to highlight your keywords within the Web page that is displayed to you. That helps speed your review of the page; of course you can also use your browser's "find" feature with CustomScoop's results, but that requires additional steps on your part.
If you or your clients would like to display clipping results graphically, CustomScoop can show you such reports for different time periods. And you can download the clipping results for a day, group of days, or a month as spreadsheets in Microsoft Excel format.
From a visual standpoint I preferred the search results as displayed by CustomScoop, but that's a personal preference.
Bottom line: if you need to monitor newsgroups, investor message boards and online service forums, the nod goes to eWatch; same if you want to track changes on news websites. On the other hand, if you want to fix your monthly costs and track keywords for multiple clients, check out CustomScoop. Keep in mind, though, that the cost break may go to one service or the other depending on the number of clients or company divisions you have and whether you can charge off to them all or part of the costs. To make your own comparison, sign up for each services' trial.
Phil Cogan, firstname.lastname@example.org, is executive vice president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. Our readers may be interested to know that we allowed representatives of eWatch and CustomScoop to preview this article, which both found to be accurate and fair.
How Much Pain Does It Take -- Part II
A Crisis Management Editorial by Phil Cogan
Editor's Note: Last issue's editorial entitled "How Much Pain Does It Take" was well-received by readers, so Phil Cogan offers this follow-up food for thought.
It's a predictable, but unfortunately common response to catastrophe.
As time goes on, the dimmer our memory of the event. And as our memory dims, so does our sense of urgency about preventing it from happening again.
Government at all levels is guilty of this type of behavior; so are many private organizations.
So it shouldn't have come as any surprise to officials from the new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) when they were blasted for wanting too much money to beef up security in the U.S. airline industry and other transportation modes.
The criticism was so dramatic that the Washington Post observed, "Gone ... was the respectful sense of whatever-it-takes that once marked congressional discussions of airport security. 'Does the agency really take this committee to be a bunch of chumps?' Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.) said to transportation officials, complaining that the TSA's budget request is too big and too vague."
Just six months ago it seemed in Congress that no request was too large or too far afield, if it offered a chance at preventing more acts of terrorism in the country.
This, unfortunately, is part of a pattern; when we experience a huge loss of life or property damage from a disaster... natural or man-made, or even if we just experience a good scare, we tend to throw money at the problem to keep it from happening again.
But as time passes without recurrences of the disaster we tend to believe that the passage of time makes it less likely to occur.
That's why the largest pre-September 11th federal civil defense budget increase took place the year AFTER the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. And if you look at a graph of succeeding years' budgets you'll notice a steady and marked decline.
And it's why spending for terrorism preparedness ebbed in the years after the first attack on the World Trade Center.
How much pain must we endure before we act? And how do we sustain the effort even when the pain is just a memory?
CRISIS MANAGER ON THE SPOT
Q: Of your last 20 crisis management clients, how many contacted you without first having a crisis to deal with?
CM: Three. That sounds low, but if you asked the same question at the same time last year, the answer would have been one. And inquiries about crisis preparedness are definitely at an all-time high, at least for our agency. I actually just had a professional first -- a corporation's executive committee that wanted me to spend a whole day teaching them the basics of crisis management theory and discussing the steps any organization should take -- functional division by functional division -- to prevent and/or minimize the impact from crises. The president and his six top officers really dug in and spent some time on this subject -- not just with me but, as I understand it, afterwards. Commendable.
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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