© 2002 Jonathan Bernstein
JUST A THOUGHT
If your job is to insulate a company against lawsuits, you have to insulate it against all lawsuits. If your job is to protect a company's reputation, you have to protect it from all reputational threats.
Columnist Paul Holmes, PR Week, 09.30.02
AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION
Editorial: Speaking Out and Paying the Price
by Phil Cogan, Exec.V.P., Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc.
As devoted Crisis Manager readers know, this newsletter has often decried the tendency of some to overlook organizational weaknesses or danger signs, choosing to look the other way for fear of career-endangering retribution. So it is with dismay that CM notes the plight of Anthony DeCristofaro, former head of public relations and marketing for the United Way of the National Capital Area.
According to the Washington Post, in September DeCristofaro received an email termination notice after writing a memo critical of the United Way chapter's operations. In the memo he reportedly proposed a complete review by an independent party of how the chapter was spending its money.
He was the fifth key official in 15 months to be removed from their positions.
On September 5, 2002, a short time after the Post story on DeCristofaro's termination, Norman Taylor, head of the Chapter, resigned and the organization said it was instituting reforms to make sure that more money went to help people in need.
On September 6 the Chapter announced the release of a report from an independent task force that was asked to review the Chapter's practices, policies and guidelines and to recommend "changes necessary to allow the organization to rededicate itself to its mission of serving the community".
On October 1 a fundraising campaign partnership was announced between the national United Way of America and the National Capital Chapter, another attempt "to restore public trust" in their Fall 2002 fund-raising campaign.
Crisis Manager applauds Anthony DeCristofaro for his attempt to improve his employer's operations. Although he paid a personal price and lost his job, he has earned Crisis Manager's respect. His actions are an inspiration to all communications practitioners who strive to have a seat at the policy-making table. Although the United Way National Capital Area chapter no longer benefits from his services, we suspect that DeCristofaro will find an equally-challenging and rewarding position soon (if he's not already done so). We hope others will follow his example.
CRISIS MANAGER BUSINESS ANNOUNCEMENTS
Keeping the Media Wolves At Bay -- Audiotape & CD-ROM
Readers have been asking us, for a long time, if we're going to package any of our advice in CD-ROM or audiocassette format. The answer now is YES. Joan Stewart, the famed "Publicity Hound," recently interviewed Jonathan Bernstein for a live one-hour teleseminar called "Keeping the Media Wolves at Bay -- the Do's and Don'ts of Crisis Communications." Some of the dozens of topics covered included:
Much more detail on the program's content, and information on how to order ($29.95 + shipping), is available by going here and THEN clicking on the AUDIO TAPES button. And if you're looking for information on how to get positive PR, Joan's an absolute wizard on the subject and has lots of related educational materials available at the same site.
- The best way to deal with a "media wolf"
- The top 5 mistakes people make in bad news situations
- What to say when you can't answer a question
- What to do if you suspect the reporter has an agenda and is out to get you
- How to have your own agenda
- 4 things to do when you're practicing for a tough interview
We're Looking for ACTIVE Strategic Alliances
Some plain talk here. We at Bernstein Crisis Management are very good at business development and seek to ally ourselves with compatible organizations with which we can swap leads and co-promote. No "alliances just to say we're allies." Real, working, productive and profitable arrangements. Why? Because we want to expand and highly functional alliances make that possible faster.
Since so many of you ask us for referrals to high-quality materials related to crisis management, PR, online business development and related fields, we looked for organizations with which we could affiliate to bring you information that they offer, including what we expect to be a steadily increasing number of items for which we are the primary authors or interview subjects. And established a Crisis Bookstore at our website, which you can access at http://crisisbookstore.com or by clicking on Bookstore in the Navigation Menu on the left side of the page.
Call Jonathan Bernstein, (626) 825-3838, or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Editor's Note: This case history describes how a major railroad uses Internet-based technology for crisis prevention, crisis reaction and a whole lot more. We've been offered a free trial of MeetingPlace and will report more on it in the future. The company is already used by some pretty big names, to include Aetna, Agilent, Lockheed Martin and Microsoft.
Union Pacific Railroad Keeps Communication On Track
by Meg Taylor
Although prompt, reliable communication is important for any business, the risk of problems with rail lines is an all-too-common reality. That's why Union Pacific Railroad uses MeetingPlace voice and web conferencing for crisis management communications. If an emergency occurs, UPRR can hold an instant meeting with just a click of a button on MeetingPlace, provided by Latitude Communications.
"In daily rail line operations, Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) keeps a continuous meeting 'always on,' explained Rick Durrant, the railroad's director of quality assurance. "We gather teams in seconds so, if necessary, we can re-route or stage trains. And we count on MeetingPlace to get in touch fast. It has outstanding features for service interruption communications."
Using the solution, businesses can use password-protection to prevent unauthorized entry, and "dial in" team members to conferences via stored numbers for work, home, cell phones and even personal digital assistants.
On a daily basis, UPRR's dispatchers, superintendents, crew management and operations executives meet in real time -- in absolute privacy -- to assure service objectives, including safe and efficient movement of trains. Operations Managers need constant updates on the status and location of trains so they can prepare for weather, shipment priorities and other factors. UPRR easily and quickly communicates these shifting priorities to dispatchers. The railroad, which deployed MeetingPlace voice conferencing equipment in 1997, added integrated web conferencing this year for sharing documents and applications easily and securely.
"Before we used MeetingPlace, our people would often call each other on another line during conferences for privacy," Durrant says. Now, knowing that their meetings are secure, UPRR employees prefer to enter convenient "breakout rooms" in MeetingPlace for side conversations, allowing meetings to be more productive. In addition, the railroad takes advantage of meeting "locks" -- which shut out additional attendees once a meeting is in progress -- ejection and other secure features.
UPRR has also saved time, as meeting hosts no longer need to screen attendees to see who has "arrived" to a meeting. Now, the railroad uses a roll call feature and in the web conference, can view the participant list for additional efficiency. Union Pacific Railroad is "all aboard" with the benefits of MeetingPlace, including improved communication efficiency, increased rail safety, security of sensitive meeting content, scalability as conferencing needs increase, and cost savings.
Meg North Taylor manages global public relations for Latitude Communications, which provides MeetingPlace integrated voice and web conferencing products and services. Although MeetingPlace is a crisis communications tool, Meg likes it because it allows her to "meet" with editors, analysts and co-workers from home. For more information, visit www.meetingplace.net.
CRISIS MANAGER ON THE SPOT
Editor's Note: I was recently contacted by an attorney doing research on the effects of current events on juries. As our work often involves "educating the jury pool," she wanted my answers to the following questions, and I thought they may be useful to Crisis Manager readers as well.
Q: Do you believe that accounting scandals (i.e. Enron, Tyco, World Com) have affected jurors views of corporate responsibility? What attitudes are you seeing?
A: The jury pool -- the "average citizen on the street" -- has been much quicker to believe even completely unfounded allegations against my corporate clients than in the past, based on their emails, letters to local editors, phone calls and feedback to client/customer service.
Q: Do you believe that 9/11 and the fear of terrorism have affected juror views in personal injury cases? What changes have you observed?
A: I don't believe that 9/11 & terrorism, per se, have had an impact on juror perceptions regarding personal injury cases -- yet. I believe they WILL have an impact the first time an organization appears to have been negligent regarding preparing for the direct or indirect impacts of terrorism. Before 9/11, organizations could claim it never occurred to them that such things could happen -- they no longer have that excuse.
Q: Are there other current events that have affected juror's attitudes? What are they?
A: The Catholic Church molestation/sexual impropriety cases and, perhaps more importantly, the horrible initial response of the Church to news of these matters. Those events, and corporate scandals, all share one theme in common -- the average citizen can and has been betrayed by very senior people in positions of trust. It's no surprise that a recent Public Relations Society of America survey ranked CEOs and other senior company officials as the least credible sources of reliable financial information on a company.
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 STAFF
Jonathan Bernstein is president & CEO of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., a national crisis management public relations agency providing 24/7 access to crisis response professionals. BCM engages in the full spectrum of crisis management services: crisis prevention, response, planning, training and simulations. He has been in the public relations field since 1982, following five-year stints in both military intelligence and investigative reporting. Write to email@example.com.
Phil Cogan is executive vice president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., a former print and broadcast news journalist who has been engaged in federal, state and local government crisis communications and emergency management activities since 1975. He was formerly the deputy director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Office of Emergency Information and Public Affairs. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want a free media training video? Learn how to look your best on TV, speak in sound bites, and stay on message. Never be nervous again facing TV reporters and hosts. Contact email@example.com.
"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.
All information contained herein is obtained by Jonathan Bernstein from sources believed by Jonathan Bernstein to be accurate and reliable.
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