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

Crisis Manager Internet Newsletter about Crisis Management

© 2004 Jonathan Bernstein
Circulation: 3,800+
Estimated Readership: 13,000+


If any of the goals Americans wanted to achieve in Iraq can still be salvaged, it will take more than fumbling crisis management driven by the needs of the Bush re-election campaign.

      NY Times Editorial, May 15, 2004


Does A Google Search Make You Wince?

When you do a Google search for your organization's name, or one of your brand names, do the results make you wince? Let me guess:

  • A number of -- even the majority of -- results on the first page of the search are links to negative publicity or complaints?
  • Your site is "out-ranked" by competitors or even by activist or critical media sites?

In my experience -- and I have three recent clients who fit this description -- this results from:

  1. Inadequate search engine optimization (commonly referred to as SEO). There are ways to improve the ranking of any website and to "push" negative links lower down on the ranking. I am fortunate enough to have found one of the country's best search engine optimization experts to help my clients and can tell you that while there are a lot of SEO consultants, there are relatively few who know how to help a client who's combating negative online publicity. They may know how to optimize your marketing and sales site to improve sales, but that's a different function.
  2. Failure to do proactive public relations which will saturate the Internet with positive mentions, a "cushion of goodwill" that (a) reduces the impact and credibility of negative mentions and (b) competes for ranking with negative links. That includes the use of non-traditional online media tactics, to include becoming your own publisher.

In the absence of action to counter this phenomena, even the largest organizations can be seriously damaged by one person with a cause, a computer, and some Internet savvy.

One piece of good news, however, is that the legal definition of "defamation on the Internet" has recently been further clarified. It is summarized in an excellent article by attorney Ivan Hoffman, located at

Bernstein's Three Hardest Lessons About Crisis Management

When I announced and featured the contest winners from my recent Three Hardest Lessons About Crisis Management Contest, I promised to give you my responses in this category. The hardest part of this self-imposed task was narrowing it down to only three!

  • Some of my best work will go to waste. Organizations will fail to learn from the experiences of a past crisis and end up blindsided again. Others will have fully developed crisis communications plans but then fail to update the plans, train to them, and/or conduct drills to test them. Management will turn over and any crisis preparedness work done by their predecessors will just collect dust.
  • If my client's CEO doesn't actively support the strategies and tactics I'm recommending, there is little likelihood of that organization achieving lasting improvement in the areas of crisis prevention or crisis response. I strive very hard to get CEO "buy in" right up front.
  • Never hesitate to tell a CEO or other top exec that they are a big part of the problem if that turns out to be the case based on vulnerability analysis. Do it diplomatically, but clearly. Otherwise all crisis planning and/or response must be done while ignoring the pink elephant in the middle of the living room.

California Health Official Contracts Foot In Mouth Disease

The Orange County Register recently broke a story revealing that more than 100 brands of candy sold in California, most of them from Mexico, have tested positive for dangerous levels of lead over the past decade, and that little has been done about it.

State officials claimed they didn't have the resources to handle the problems, didn't have jurisdiction over Mexican manufacturers, and then issued this pip of a statement:

"We have a lot more responsibilities than looking for lead in candy," said Jim Waddell, chief of the state Health Department's Food and Drug Branch.

Lessons For Crisis Managers

  • In response to sensitive issues, plan and release your statements and key issues very carefully. I have to believe that Mr. Waddell "shot from the hip" on this one. If he was advised to say this by a staff public affairs officer, that advisor should be fired.
  • Any threat to health and safety must evoke a compassionate and solution-focused response. For example:

    "We want to do all we can to protect the safety of California's children and others who consume this candy," said the person who should have spoken instead of Jim Waddell. "We are going to redouble our efforts to gain the cooperation of Mexican manufacturers and U.S. store owners to get this candy off the shelves."

You Tell 'em, Sam!

Excerpt from a story in the Caller Times, Corpus Christi, Texas, covering a dinner honoring broadcaster and former White House correspondent Sam Donaldson. I have been saying, for a long time, that the country is suffering from "The National Enquirization of America." Mr. Donaldson clearly feels the same way.

"All of us in the news business have to stand firm to give accurate news coverage," he said. "Someone once said: 'Everyone's entitled to their opinion, not to their own facts.' When I first started at ABC, of course we wanted people to watch us, but we covered the news and let them decide what they wanted to watch. Today, because of pressure, we do it different."

Donaldson gave an example of a "Prime Time Live" show of the mid-90's, co-anchored by Diane Sawyer, that did an entire show on Michael Jackson before he was enmeshed in controversy.

"The only time these newsmagazines get any kind of ratings is when they do a freak show," he said. "That's a news program."

The Emergency Preparedness Handbook (Review)

The Emergency Preparedness Handbook, a Martin Training Associates Publication developed by Crisis Team Training LLC, is a 25-page index-tabbed manual that provides your employees with step-by-step operational responses to a dozen high-risk scenarios:

  • Missing Employee
  • Violent Employee
  • Injured Employee
  • Building Fire
  • Power Loss
  • Gas Leak
  • Bomb Threat
  • Hazardous Material
  • Building Emergency
  • Hostage Situation
  • Personal Displaying Strange Behavior
  • Attempted Suicide Procedures

For example, the first three of nine instructions in the Hostage Situation section read:

  • Call 911 and building security, providing location of the hostage or barricaded employees. If the barricaded person or hostage taker is known, provide that information to the operator.
  • If a weapon was displayed, try to determine what type, such as a handgun, rifle, explosive or knife. Then provide that information to the 911 operators.
  • Evacuate all employees and conduct a physical head count.

In case you're wondering, subsequent instructions do say not to put yourself in danger.

Readers know that the work I do, at Bernstein Crisis Management, provides clients with the strategic and communications elements of crisis preparedness and response. This handbook is a tool providing the nuts-and-bolts of how to physically and operationally respond, thus it is a natural complement to crisis communications plans. So much so that I've been in touch with the handbook's developer, Crisis Team Training, to discuss how they might serve my clients. They tell me the handbook can be customized to individual businesses and industries, and it can also be "branded" with the name of the client or consulting company. Crisis Team Training can, as their name implies, also train your staff on operational response to crises, and some insurance companies will apparently discount your rates if you have such training.

You can buy the handbook for $19.95 at:

And, if you're interested in finding out more about Crisis Team Training, LLC, go to

Stop The Presses: The Litigation Pr Desk Reference

This is a "teaser" announcement that Richard Levick and Larry Smith's Stop the Presses: The Litigation PR Desk Reference will soon be going on sale via their own online bookstore. I've referred to it in past articles and consider Richard to be THE guru of litigation-related PR in the United States. I believe the price will be $19.95 and if you want info or want to order the publication even before they open their store, write to

World Conference On Disaster Management, June 20-24

A reminder that the World Conference on Disaster Management is taking place in beautiful Toronto from June 20-24. Your editor has just been "promoted" from reserve speaker to presenter at a breakout session (topic: crisis preparedness). I hope to meet some of you there -- do let me know if you're attending! Info can be found at


Foreign Language Versions Of Bernstein Training Materials

I am interested in opening discussions with anyone capable of translating and marketing anything I've written or produced to non-English-speaking audiences. Serious inquiries only, please. I've had some who just want to offer me translation services, which are of no interest.

All of my current educational and training materials are described and sold at

Training By Jonathan Bernstein

I am very pleased to note that demand for crisis management-related training and presentations has grown dramatically this year. The training sessions tend to fall into two major categories:

  • Media training -- introductory (six hour) general training, and issues-specific media training (one or two-day, two is much more effective).
  • Crisis prevention & response -- presentations/workshops ranging from 1 1/2 hours to a full day, designed to educate and/or improve the overall crisis management skills of management personnel.

Interested in the possibility of training, or want to know about my rates for quantity discounts on the media training manual (minimum order of 10)? Call (626) 825-3838 or write to me,


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

Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. is located at 1013 Orange Avenue, Monrovia, CA 91016. Telephone: (626) 825-3838.


When I find a site that I think will be useful to my readers or site visitors, I put it on our Links page. If you have a site that would be of specific use to crisis managers and want to discuss a link exchange or other cooperative effort, please write to me,


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