© 2003 Jonathan Bernstein
Estimated Readership: 12,000+
JUST A THOUGHT
"We don't need to do crisis planning, we just need to learn how to
think better during a crisis."
Unidentified pharmaceutical company CEO in response to suggestion that lack of a crisis plan and training wasn't prudent.
CRISIS MANAGER UNIVERSITY
SEND Button Crises
by Jonathan Bernstein
Some crisis prevention is pretty darn mundane.
Most of us, at least once, have embarrassed ourselves or even caused significant harm by sending email (a) to people who should not have seen it or (b) containing accurate or inaccurate information that we belatedly regretted providing. Last February, Cornell University sent welcoming letters to 1,700 high school students who had submitted early-decision applications, including nearly 550 who had already been rejected in December. Soon thereafter, it sent another email apologizing for any confusion and distress the message had caused and explaining that it was a result of a coding error. The apology didn't, of course, protect the 550 students from the emotional whiplash which resulted, although the school then did the best damage control it could muster under the circumstances.
Here are some very low-tech, practical ways of reducing the frequency of "SEND Button Crises":
- Don't Fill In The "To" Blank -- If you don't fill in your addressee's name, the email can't be sent. That precludes crises resulting simply from accidentally hitting the SEND button with a mouse click or by the keyboard combination which also activates SEND (e.g., in Outlook Express, Alt-S). Ummm...you DID know that the effect of most mouse clicks can be duplicated by a keyboard command, right? (Methinks I'm going to hear the sound of some palms striking foreheads with comments such as "oh, that's why *that* happened.)
- Use Draft Mode -- Most email programs allow you to save work-in-progress in a Draft folder. With Outlook Express, for example, CNTL-S will save email in your Draft folder. Yahoo Mail has a SAVE AS A DRAFT button right next to the SEND button. Keep saving in Draft mode until you're sure the email is ready to go.
- SEND to Yourself First -- Before I distribute this ezine, I email it to myself first and see what it looks/reads like, in addition to asking at least one person to proofread it for me. I'm old-style enough that for careful proofing, I need to print something out. I found multiple errors in this issue after proofreading a printout. And I'm now braced for readers to point out some that might have been missed (he said with a grin).
- Minimize Emotional Misinterpretation -- It is VERY VERY easy to read emotions into someone's written words. Sometimes accurately, sometimes not, either way with periodically disastrous results. I have had readers take offense at their interpretation of what I've written, even though I'd meant something significantly different. One way to minimize that is to take a bit more time in writing to add words which communicate how you're feeling. Read the last sentence of the previous bullet point as an example. Another technique - and this tends to work best with those of us who have been online a long time and/or are under 40 -- is to use "emoticons," aka "smilies." Be careful about who you send emoticons -- some simply don't believe they belong in anything but personal email. I have clients who use them all the time.
Will we all still goof once in a while? Probably. I recommend you share them with your coworkers and your overall incidence of "Send Button Crises" will go down.
Editor's Note: Have some feedback and/or opinions about this or other articles in this issue? Go to/join our free Crisis Manager University website, http://www.crisismanageruniversity.com, and start a discussion!
CRISIS MANAGER BUSINESS ANNOUNCEMENTS
About This Issue
Regular readers will notice that this issue is a bit shorter than usual. I wish it could be otherwise, but I'm working on a rapidly evolving crisis, concurrent with having used up my backlog of material I hadn't written myself. I encourage submissions by others -- it's great publicity for you/your organization -- and promise more content for the 10/1 issue.
Crisis Management Training Materials
Crisis management training and educational materials remain available for purchase at http://www.thecrisismanager.com, to include "Keeping the Wolves at Bay: A Media Training Manual." Also, Jonathan Bernstein will be doing a "book signing" for the manual at the upcoming PRSA conference in New Orleans. "Crisis Manager" readers are encouraged to come by and say "HI!"
Quoniam Stercus Accidit -- "Because Shit Happens"
The new Crisis Manager University (CMU) Bookstore is open at http://www.cafeshops.com/crisismanager, where you can order a wide variety of clothing items with the CMU name and infamous motto on them. If you are interested in quantity pricing, write to me separately -- the specialty product vendor who provides this storefront doesn't have a means for me to do that online.
Blindsided -- A Manager's Guide to Catastrophic Incidents in the
Workplace, by Bruce T. Blythe (2002, The Penguin Group)
If you are a crisis manager and haven't read this book, order it now. It came out last year, but I just got around to reading it recently and wish I had done so earlier. It gave me -- with a couple of decades of crisis management experience under my belt -- information and tools that I found new and useful.
Bruce Blythe, founder and CEO of Crisis Management International (CMI), http://www.cmiatl.com, has "been there, done that" for disasters ranging from the Oklahoma City Bombing to having a crazed gunman loose in CMI's office building, from 9/11 to Hurricane Andrew. Bruce and CMI are best known for creating and directing the "humanitarian response" to crises, because at the core of any disaster it's all about dealing with the psychological, emotional and physical needs of people.
Bruce writes clearly and passionately, bringing real-life crises to life and teaching us the lessons to be found in each. The book's Incident Checklists, alone, are worth the price of the book (around $18 at either Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com), as are his "Quick Use Response Guides."
PLAIN ENGLISH DISCLOSURE
Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. has formal or informal co-promotional and mutually beneficial business associations with a number of the services we mention periodically in this newsletter. 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 its clients. If you have any questions about these relationships, please contact Jonathan Bernstein, (626) 825-3838.
ABOUT THE EDITOR
Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc.,
www.bernsteincrisismanagement.com, a national crisis management public relations agency providing 24/7 access to crisis response professionals. The agency engages in the full spectrum of crisis management services: crisis prevention, response, planning & training. He has been in the public relations field since 1982, following five-year stints in both military intelligence and investigative reporting. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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