© 2002 Jonathan Bernstein
JUST A THOUGHT
If auto safety was like some crisis management programs, we'd be buying seat belts and air bags while our cars were skidding towards a wall at high speed.
Phil Cogan, Executive Vice President
Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc.
AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION
Why Should Lawyers Care About PR?
by Jonathan Bernstein
Attention attorneys, external or in house. Here's a question you may or may not have been asked in law school:
"If, after months or years of excellent legal work, you obtain positive results for a client -- but the client's business still is irrevocably damaged due to rumor, innuendo, misperception and competitors taking advantage of same -- could you have done something to prevent those losses?"
A Pyrrhic victory, defined, is a "victory won at excessive cost." It is quite possible, for example, that some of the indicted or civilly sued business executives now in the news could, ultimately, be exonerated by the courts. But at what cost? Through effective preventive crisis management -- the vulnerability audits we often discuss in this newsletter -- their crises might have been averted or greatly minimized. Through better response, STARTING THE MOMENT THEIR LEGAL COUNSEL KNEW THAT TROUBLE WAS BREWING, damage from media coverage could have been reduced.
Don't discount, by the way, the impact of poorly perceived legal situations on governmental organizations, always sensitive to budget allocations and re-appointment of leaders.
Some of my attorney contacts have woken up to the value of asking "what could a crisis management expert do to help my client/organization" shortly after they learn of a new legal matter. That allows us to jointly anticipate and work towards minimizing potential negative reaction to the situation if/when it becomes known to important audiences. In other words, we prepare for the worst, but hope for the best.
Time after time, we've found that taking this approach, at a minimum, gives clients/organizations greater piece of mind. And if the stuff really hits the fan, their response is much more effective -- they're not scrambling around trying to figure out what to say and do, because we've already thought it through together, as a legal/PR team advising the organization's top executives.
Attorneys don't, as I understand it, formally have an ethical obligation to recommend that their clients look at a bigger picture than the legal matters under consideration. However, not only does doing so "add value" to one's services, but more importantly it helps PRESERVE THE VALUE of the organization. If you're outside counsel, you'll get a lot more billable time from a long-time client that survives crises relatively intact than from one that fails or suffers greatly. And if you're in-house counsel, your personal future is directly tied not only to legal successes, but to the success of the organization as a whole.
Editor's Note: If you're new to this ezine or simply don't recall what's been written about vulnerability audits, go to our website at www.bernsteincrisismanagement.com and use the Search function. And if you're an attorney/reader and would care to comment on this story for possible future publication, please write to me, email@example.com.
CRISIS MANAGER BUSINESS ANNOUNCEMENTS
Executive Session Vulnerability Audits & Crisis Document Audits
Bernstein Crisis Management offers two low-cost means by which an organization can get a quick handle on its current level of vulnerability to potential crises. One is a day-long guided brainstorming/training session for executive management, our Executive Session Vulnerability Audit. The other is a three- to eight-hour task -- letting us analyze and prepare a report on your current crisis preparedness documents. For more information, Click Here.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
Crisis Manager Presentations & Workshops (including CLE/CEU-certified)
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.
There's some really useful information that, for one reason or another, I couldn't fit anywhere else in our ezine format - so I waved my magic cursor and made a special section.
Maximum Exposure With Minimum Delay
Andy Altizer, Steve Dickinson and Roby Hill -- respectively a military public affairs officer who just turned civilian PAO, a "top 10" PR agency exec and a hospital PR manager -- teamed up to produce an excellent article on the philosophy and practice of creating a crisis communications plan. The article was far too long for this email newsletter, but it was well worth archiving for you as a PDF file that can be downloaded from: www.piersystem.com/clients/bernstein/Maximum_Disclosure.pdf
Redefining Business Continuity
Likewise, Geary Sikich's article on Redefining Business Continuity was scholarly, thought-provoking and a tad too long, but well worth your read at: www.piersystem.com/clients/bernstein/Redefining_Business_Continuity.pdf
NewsIQ from MediaLink
I was given a free trial of NewsIQ, the MediaLink service that, according to their promotional material, allows you to "know throughout the day what TV news is saying about you." It "monitors news and public affairs programs as they happen" and the service promises that they'll provide "a complete update on what TV news is reporting about your industry, company, products, competitors, or key issues." I tried it on a number of different current news topics and it delivered results to me by email rapidly -- usually within minutes of when a program was aired. There's a lot more to the service, and you can read about it at www.newsiq.com.
PR Newswire's ReleaseWatch
I was pleasantly surprised, soon after issuing a crisis-related press release recently on PR Newswire recently, to receive a report from its ReleaseWatch service showing initial coverage. They apparently devote a 60-minute window to monitoring each release, during which they detect its appearance on various sites that carry news. It gave me a quick handle on results achieved and provided a very nice "see what I did for you" set of news links for me to pass on to my client! More information at: http://www.prnewswire.com/services.
Editor's Note: a reader wrote in very recently to say that he'd like to see more references to crisis simulations. That same day, without any prompting, Phil Cogan passed me this gem. Great minds think alike and all I had to do was cut and paste.
Should the News Media Participate In or Observe Crisis Simulations?
by Phil Cogan, Executive V.P., Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc.
Emergency planners and their organizations frequently wrestle with the question of whether to involve real-world news media in the emergency simulations they conduct. For that matter, there's spirited debate about whether to even let the media observe emergency exercises.
A principal argument against participation by news media is that exercises are designed to identify training or systemic weaknesses, and those will become the subject of stories by the media present at the simulation. Communicators note, however, that identifying such weaknesses is one desirable component of simulations, so that in itself is a mark of a successful simulation.
There's a stronger case to be made for active participation in the simulation itself, and that is that it helps educate the media about the nature of the emergency being simulated, the way responding organizations will function during such an event, and the technical language and considerations that are fundamental elements of such an incident. Critical to creating long-term benefits of this type, however, is for organizations to involve more than just the reporter(s) assigned to the simulation. It's imperative that news directors, editors and other key media players (including anchors) be trained.
A presidential commission appointed by President Carter to develop lessons learned from the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant incident in 1979 found that for the most part reporters assigned to report on the event lacked the most basic technical knowledge that would have permitted them to accurately report what was happening so that the public could make informed decisions about what, if any, actions they needed to take to protect themselves.
The commission said government at all levels needed to do more to prepare the news media by educating them before crisis struck.
The conclusion is simple even if the implementation is not. News media must be educated about the ins and outs and details of how organizations will respond to emergencies, and participation by media is as important to them in learning as those who are part of the responding organizations.
The excuse that media participation creates more work, or could result in critical coverage are merely excuses; unless we make the media part of the team before disaster strikes they'll become part of the problem post-disaster.
CRISIS MANAGER ON THE SPOT
Reader Mail from Don Martin of Martin & Salinas Public Affairs in Austin, TX, one of the organizations that's taken advantage of my offer to "brand" Crisis Manager and re-distribute it to their own contacts. Referring to our 08.15.02 issue's "Trial by Media Do's and Don'ts," Don wrote:
"Jonathan -- I'd suggest you might add one more to your list of DO's and DON'Ts. DO explore the use of publicity about generic or related issues relevant to your particular case or client as a legitimate means of bringing attention to issues that might result in pre-trial settlements, or to develop similar examples to illustrate the issues in your case."
Good point! More recommendations are welcome.
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 prevention, response & issues management. 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.
(Have a newsletter and/or website and want to exchange links? Let's talk about it! Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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 http://www.mediainsider.com.
"The Publicity Hound" is a bi-monthly, 8-page subscription newsletter featuring tips, tricks and tools for free publicity. I'm a fan of editor Joan Stewart and heartily recommend her to anyone wanting positive publicity, the kind that helps you create a cushion of goodwill essential to surviving crises without going under. Sign up for her subscription newsletter as well as her free ezine, "The Publicity Hound's Tips of the Week," at www.publicityhound.com.
The PR Network provides a means for exchanging ideas and business improvement tips between PR professionals. They're at http://www.theprnetwork.com and their newsletter can be subscribed to by sending email to email@example.com with the word "subscribe" in the BODY of the email.
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.
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