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

Crisis Manager Internet Newsletter about Crisis Management

© 2003 Jonathan Bernstein
Circulation: 3,700+
Estimated Readership: 10,000+


"It is not supposed to happen in a place like this."

Meridian, MS Mayor John Smith, following the July 8, 2003 shooting at a Lockheed Martin plant


Editor's Note: my thanks to the public relations department at Sanitarium Health Food for allowing me to reprint this instructive case history from Australia, reminiscent of the Odwalla and Tylenol recalls in the U.S.

Sanitarium Health Food Contamination Threat

Sanitarium Health Food Company received a letter threatening contamination of its 'liquid products' on the morning of Monday, 29 June 1998. It was, in the words of CEO Robert Smith, "every food company's worst nightmare".

Fortunately, Sanitarium had a crisis management plan in place. Within an hour its Emergency Response Team was meeting and making decisions. The ERT comprised five senior managers - the CEO, Chief Operating Officer, General Manager-Sales & Marketing, General Manager-Technical Services and Public Relations Manager. ERT meetings were also attended by two crisis management experts from The Rowland Company, Sanitarium's public relations consultancy.

The first task was to establish the facts and to seek advice from the Police and Medical authorities. Although expert advice was that the risk was remote, the ERT decided that consumer safety had to be the number one priority. The Company therefore instituted an immediate national recall of all its beverage products - So Good, Up&Go and Fruit Juices - from supermarket shelves.

The first 24 hours of the crisis were spent making key decisions and organising communications to staff, retailers, other business partners and the public (via the media). The response from the trade was prompt and efficient with the major supermarket chains completing the recall within hours of being notified.

Sanitarium's CEO travelled from the Company's headquarters in Berkeley Vale, Central Coast to Sydney to handle media interviews. The story was the lead item on TV news in the evening and there was heavy print and radio coverage for the next few days. In addition to all the editorial coverage, product recall advertisements were placed in the major metropolitan newspapers.

According to tracking research 80 per cent of Australians were aware of the recall by the end of the first week. The consumer hotline received 12,000 enquires, necessitating an overflow facility with an external service provider.

After the initial public announcement the ERT continued to meet daily to share information such as staff, trade and consumer feedback, media updates, further updates from the police, to make decisions and to approve further communications.

The focus of attention moved to what Sanitarium was doing to check its products and when they would return. This was of particular concern to many lactose intolerant people who rely on dairy alternatives such as So Good, the leading brand of soy milk in Australia.

An interim media announcement was made to communicate that Sanitarium was conducting an exhaustive inspection and testing process, involving over 300,000 recalled items which would then be destroyed. Only then would the Company be prepared to bring its products back to supermarket shelves.

The ERT had also formed a special Back to Market team to ensure a successful return of the beverage products to supermarket shelves, dealing with manufacturing, logistics, distribution, trade and customer information.

An integrated communications campaign was developed, including a series of TV and press ads featuring CEO Robert Smith who had been the public face of the Company throughout the crisis. And on 17 July a media conference was held to announce the return of Sanitarium beverages to supermarket shelves.

520 editorial media items were generated during the course of the crisis, providing over 73 million opportunities to see, hear, or read about Sanitarium. The coverage was fair, accurate, and sympathetic towards the Company.

Sanitarium has estimated the cost of the recall and disposal of withdrawn stock at $1-2m, plus a further $2m in lost sales. However, the financial considerations were secondary to consumer safety and the safeguarding of the Company's reputation as an ethical, customer focused organisation.

According to tracking research 95 per cent said that consumer safety was the reason for the recall, 92 per cent said they trusted Sanitarium and 90 per cent said they considered Sanitarium had handled the recall well or very well.


Editor's Note: this would be one of those marvelous opportunities to combine business with vacation.

Conference on ' Crisis Management' ( 8-9 September 2003, Singapore )

Organiser : The Asia Business Forum Pte Ltd
Tel : (65) 6536 8676 Fax : (65) 6536 4356
email :

This event offers sharing of personal experiences and tips for successful implementation of crisis management tools and strategies. In just 2 days, you will master different but interdependent processes, including crisis management, emergency response and business continuity planning and find out about how business continuity planning and scenario planning can help you manage your crises effectively.

View the conference's agenda at for more details.


Crisis Manager University Launched

You all received my announcement on this topic about a week ago, but if you missed it, go to If your corporate server's security won't let you access the site via that URL, try It's the perfect place to expand on/discuss articles that have run in this newsletter. And know that as lovely as it is to have the site, we're about to take a step to make it even more useful and eliminate all the advertising that comes along with a free Yahoo Group. Stay tuned.

Save On Crisis Management Training Materials

Jonathan Bernstein's online store, The Crisis Manager, currently has four products for sale and there is a "bundled" price when you order more than one of the items, ranging from $5 to $15 off the full retail for each item.

The products now listed are:

  • Keeping the Wolves at Bay: A Media Training Manual (print version)
  • Keeping the Wolves at Bay: A Media Training Manual (PDF version)
  • Special Report: How to Prevent Crises (PDF)
  • Keeping the MEDIA Wolves at Bay, The Do's and Don'ts of Crisis Communications (CD-ROM recording of a teleseminar)

The store is located at Quantity discounts (for purchase of more than 10 copies) are available by writing to jonatha& Review copies are available for bona fide journalists and those who publish online reviews.


As promised in our last issue, below are brief reviews of publications I believe will be useful to "Crisis Manager" readers. If you have a publication or product you would like to be considered for a future review, write to review&

Major Terrorism Events & Terrorism Timeline
by Claire B. Rubin et al

For those of us who choose to learn from the experiences of others, "Major Terrorism Events and Their U.S. Outcomes," a white paper offered through George Washington University's Institute for Crisis, Disaster, and Risk Management is a wise investment of $20. It provides lessons learned from an examination and analysis of terrorism acts and major disasters over the past two decades. Not surprisingly to those of us who are crisis managers, many of the "gee, I should have thought of that" lessons from 9/11 were also readily available through previous experiences. The publisher also offers a four-color graphic outline of the various crises available for a mere $5 more. Order at

2002 Crisis Communications White Paper

The 2002 Crisis Communications White Paper from Best Practices in Business Communications does a remarkably good job, in 60 pages, of summarizing the state of crisis communications today. The changes in practice and consciousness that have been prompted by both corporate disasters and the horrendous lessons of 9/11. It includes instructional and educational material on crisis preparedness, management and analysis.

Some of the report's sections include:

  • Nine Steps to Crisis Preparation, Management, and Analysis
  • What Crises Challenge Corporate Communications?
  • Terrorism
  • Market Upheavals
  • Shareholder Uncertainty
  • Leadership Turnover
  • Mergers and Acquisitions failure
  • Product Recalls
  • Environmental Accidents
  • Workplace Violence
  • Natural Disasters
  • Importance of Top-Down Crisis Management
  • Best Practice Media Relations Tactics
  • Branding and Crisis Management

Plus four case histories about how some leading companies adjusted in the days after 9/11. Given the length of the white paper, no single subject gets a large amount of ink, but this publication would be an excellent primer for any CEO or head of corporate communications.

The 2002 Crisis Communications White paper, $100 for PRSA members, $150.00 for non-members. Non-members purchase at, PRSA members have to call Shane McLaughlin, 202.463.3780, to place their discounted order.

Disaster Recovery Yellow Pages

The 2003 edition of the Disaster Recovery Yellow Pages from the Systems Audit Group ( is exactly as named: a 300-page compendium of approximately 3,000 paid listings from organizations providing disaster-related support services in 255 categories. It is an excellent starting point for identifying the vendors who could serve your organization before, during or after a disaster -- something you'd best do now, not when the building is falling down.

It is important to note that there is no way to tell anything about the quality of the advertisers' services simply from a directory. You must do your research and check references. I have heard very positive overall feedback from individuals who purchased last year's edition.

Finally, the publishers are offering "Crisis Manager" readers 10% off the purchase price -- normally $98 for either the hard copy or CD-ROM version, with further discount for ordering both and/or bulk orders. If you want the "Crisis Manager" discount, you must send email with your phone number to and someone from Systems Audit Group will contact you to manually process your order (their online order system doesn't currently accommodate special discount offers).


Bernstein Crisis Management has formal or informal co-promotional and mutually beneficial business associations with PIER Systems, Inc., PR Newswire's ProfNet service,, The Publicity Hound, CustomScoop, and the Disaster Recovery Yellow Pages. 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 these services as we use them for crisis and issues management or other purposes. 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 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


There are a number of organizations whose services we admire enough to have pursued closer ties with them -- and to let you know about them, too, on the Allied Services page of our website. If you have a moment, we think it will be worth your while to browse the sites listed there.


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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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