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

Crisis Manager Internet Newsletter about Crisis Management

© 2003 Jonathan Bernstein
Circulation: 3,700+
Estimated Readership: 12,000+


Stay positive and assertive no matter what. Remember the media interview belongs to you and represents a marketing opportunity -- even in a crisis.

From "The Simple Truth" by Bob Aronson


Editor's Note: Sometimes I get lucky. An author sends me material SO good that all I have to do is request permission to reprint and then format his work for the newsletter. Hence, this issue has become your introduction to media trainer Bob Aronson of The Aronson Partnership, and author of "The Simple Truth," from which this and our other feature article are derived. More information on Bob and his books -- available at a discount for "Crisis Manager" readers -- is in the business announcements section of this issue.

Communicating in a Crisis
from "The Simple Truth" by Bob Aronson

Crisis communication is another broad topic that deserves far more space than this short book can allow. Because, though, most crises involve the news media, I am including some important basic information; there will be more to come so watch our website. I have worked on scores of crises ranging from prescription drug controversies, to product recalls and SEC investigations, so know this: you will have a crisis, the only question is "when?."

Some suggestions:

Upon learning of a crisis, you should immediately retain a crisis communications expert even though you may have highly skilled internal communications professionals. Obtaining an outside perspective from someone who specializes in crises is extremely important if not invaluable.

  • Consider contacting the news media before they contact you.
  • Develop messages and an opening statement.
  • Limit the number of spokespersons and train them.
  • Check attitudes and avoid being defensive about anything.
  • Rehearse the interview or news conference before you conduct the real thing.
  • In your statement, be sure to add that you will cooperate with officials and the media to the extent you can and that you will meet with the media on a regular basis.
  • Announce that you will conduct a thorough, honest, and quick internal investigation (preferably by an outsider) and that you will make the results public as soon as possible.
  • Communicate the immediate action you have taken, or will take to protect your people and others who may be affected until the investigation concludes.
  • Let the media know you will provide them with information when you have it and that they should call you if they have questions.
  • When asked a question, answer it, and add your message; anything else is "Spin."
  • Remember the goal is to protect the brand.

At this moment you probably are not experiencing a crisis but as I said, you will. Do not wait until the last minute begin your planning now.

When a crisis occurs, the news media may be reporting on it before you have any information. Despite that, you must respond very quickly if you want to become the most trusted source of information.Never is being nimble more important than during a crisis.

Please note that if you are not the source of information for your own crisis, someone not representing your best interests will be. A point not often considered is that the first part of a crisis is easiest, because information is scarce but, as news reports increase, so does the difficulty of managing the crisis.


About Bob Aronson & His Publications -- Special Offer

You can read about "The Simple Truth" and "Simply Speaking," Bob's book on compelling presentations, and find more information on the author/trainer and his business, at: These are actually manual-length publications, each normally sold for $25, but available to "Crisis Manager" readers for $22.50 each by calling (651)452-0900.

The Case for Crisis Preparedness PowerPoint Now Available!

I've been promising this to you for months, but Phil Cogan and I finally finished "The Case for Crisis Preparedness," a 70-slide PowerPoint presentation created to help in-house staff and consulting firms get organizational decision-makers' heads out of the sand.

This presentation, complete with presenter notes, is organized into modular sections that can be rearranged, excerpted or added to in a manner that's most appropriate for your organization.

The seven modules are:

  • The Cost of Crisis
  • The State of Business Preparedness
  • Why Business Fails to Prepare
  • Why Business Should Prepare
  • Corporate Crisis of Confidence
  • Why Crises Need Not Become Disasters
  • How to Improve Our Crisis Resistance

For more information and/or to order this product ($150), go to


The Importance of Attitude
from "The Simple Truth" by Bob Aronson

Attitude and preparation are everything. If you have a negative attitude in any situation you can be assured that you will have a negative experience. As soon as you become defensive, the interviewer has gained control. Stay positive and assertive no matter what. Remember the media interview belongs to you and represents a marketing opportunity - even in a crisis.

Survival or Accomplishment?

Many people believe in and many consultants preach "survival" as an objective when confronted by the news media. If survival is your only goal, why bother with the interview? Your goal in any exchange with journalists should be to prevail, to go beyond survival and accomplish a business objective.

You are in survival mode if you have thoughts like, "I'm going to be interviewed, and I hope I can answer the questions," or, "If I knew the questions I'd be more comfortable." Focus on what you want to communicate, not what the media might do to you.


It is human nature that when confronted people become defensive. My experience in working with hundreds of clients is that usually they have nothing to defend and in most cases could point with pride to their accomplishments and service to any targeted audience. In most cases, interviewees could show great pride, but because they feel intimidated by a reporter, they become defensive. Think about it, do you want to be a defender or an advocate? Do you want to survive or prevail?

It's Your Interview

Here's a positive concept. Start thinking and believing in the fact that the interview belongs to you, not the reporter, so what do you want to do with your interview? After all, it is your name, your company and your brand being questioned so why not approach the interview as one that offers you an opportunity to take charge and show pride. Where is it written that after you answer a journalist's question, you must stop and wait for the next one? The control exercised by reporters is control you give to them; they know you will give it and they happily take it. Think about it. If anyone else were to walk into your office and begin to ask questions, would you cave in immediately and become submissive or would you advance your agenda? Why are reporters any different? How about leading the reporter to the questions you want to answer rather than being led to the answers the reporter wants to get.

Always remember, the media interview is a marketing opportunity, a chance to persuade, motivate and sell yourself, your ideas and/or your products. Opportunity exists in every communication situation.


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.


Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc.,, 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


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.

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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