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

Crisis Manager Internet Newsletter about Crisis Management

© 2005 Jonathan Bernstein
Circulation: 4,000+
Estimated Readership: 14,000+


If you want to change who you are, change what you do.



Editor's Note: We last heard from UK-based Dr. David Perl in the April 15, 2004 issue of "Crisis Manager," where he wrote about "Taking the Sting Out of a Crisis." David and I have attempted, so far without success, to refer business to each other. I admire his talent, as I'm sure you will too.

Critical Success Factors For Effective Crisis Management
By David Perl

Much has been written on the subject of crisis management over the years. The amount of research has increased exponentially over the past few years following the impact of 9/11, SARS and more latterly the Asian tsunami.

Whilst academic research is all well and good, sometimes "coal-face" (front-line) experience can count for more.

Given the number of crises the Docleaf team have been involved with, we present our list of what we deem to be the critical success factors in managing a crisis. These are not in any particular order:


Perhaps the most important CSF required. We have seen it time and time again where a crisis truly tests the performance of the chosen leader. Can your nominated crisis leaders answer yes to all the following?

  • The ability to multitask
  • Excellent delegation skills
  • Cool under pressure
  • Ability to empathise
  • Able to make quick and effective decisions
  • Listens but comfortable in calling tough choices
  • Self-awareness
  • Communication skills
  • Ability to prioritise
  • Time management
  • Empowered to spend company funds

Speed of response

Often referred to as the ‘golden hour’. This is analogous to the medical golden hour. If a critically injured person is treated at a centre of excellence within one hour, their chances of survival increase significantly. Pretty much the same applies to crisis management. If your crisis response is off to a rapid start, your chances for reputation damage decrease. This will only occur if you have an effective plan - see the next point.

A robust plan

Noah built the Ark before the rains came. It is for this good reason you should develop robust workable plans before the crisis. Even if you have a plan:

  • Do you have a comprehensive crisis plan?
  • Or is it just a communication plan?
  • When was it last updated?
  • When were the contact details last checked?
  • Who is on your nominated crisis team?
  • When were they last trained?
  • When did you last contact your team out of hours?
  • When did you test with a simulation exercise?

Adequate resources

A big crisis is going to require a lot of help. These are just a few of the possible areas of support you will require and remember. Crises can and often do occur at the most inconvenient times - the recent tsunami is a case in point! Critical success factors include:

  • Instant access to cash funds
  • Ability to handle thousands of phone calls
  • Able to continue business as usual
  • Rapid transport to the incident scene
  • Legal input
  • Access to your insurance advisors
  • Incident investigators
  • Emotional support
  • Adequately equipped command centre
  • Ability to manage the media
  • Able to deal with other communications issues


A crisis is not the time to be ‘penny-wise and pound-foolish’. Here is a short list of where costs can be generated. Very few of these areas are likely to be covered by your clients’/customers’ travel insurance or your own corporate insurances:

  • Travel and accommodation costs
  • Trauma counselling/professional emotional support
  • Media/PR support
  • Use of a telephone call handling facility
  • Crisis advisors
  • Staff overtime
  • Replacing lost items for survivors
  • Refund of holiday/travel costs where appropriate
  • Possible compensation

Caring and compassionate response

Often overlooked, but in our opinion VITAL. However good you are managing everything else, if you are not using every effort to look after your staff and customers, we guarantee your crisis response is going to fall apart rapidly. Things to consider are:

  • Teams have necessary people skills
  • Communicate clearly with affected people
  • Provide basic human needs at no cost i.e. food
  • Look after customers emotional needs
  • Consider your staff's emotional needs
  • Be prepared to spend funds

Excellent communications

Whole books are written on this subject alone! Here are just a few thoughts:

  • Develop a crisis communications plan
  • Identify ALL your stakeholders
  • Consider crisis media training
  • Understand how the media works
  • Work and win with the media
  • Be on the front foot all the time
  • Get a press release out within the golden hour
  • Express Pity, Praise and Promise
  • Tell it all, tell it fast and tell the truth
  • Never get defensive - however tough things get
  • Be prepared with company information packs
  • Get professional crisis communications support

David Perl is the chief executive of Docleaf Crisis & Risk Management, David can be contacted at

By Jonathan Bernstein

I have two phone numbers in my cellphone contacts directory labeled ICE1 and ICE2. No, those are not numbers either for an infamous drug or for a couple of really cool friends. The ICE stands for "In Case of Emergency" and the numbers are the two best ways to reach my wife.

From what I have read recently, the ICE phone number concept started with a campaign in the UK and has now been adopted by emergency responders here in the U.S. You can imagine how difficult it is for them, finding someone unconscious or even dead, to quickly figure out who to call as the victim’s most important contact. They would have no way of instantly knowing the names of anyone in my immediate family. Now one of the first things they do is look for ICE numbers in your contacts directory.

A corollary use of this function occurs to me, for organizations setting up a crisis communications and/or emergency response plan. If you don't want personnel who may not have been trained or retrained recently about emergency response to rely on their memory or to frantically flip through a binder trying to find the right number, put CRISIS1 and CRISIS2 speed-dial phone numbers on the landline or business cell phones that they use as part of their jobs. Response delay will be shortened, sometimes significantly, further reducing damage from any crisis.

So chill. ICE your phones.


CD-ROM: Crisis Management & The Law
How PR Pros & Lawyers Can Work Together Effectively
Featuring Jonathan Bernstein, Richard Levick and Ed Novak

On February 23, 2005, Jonathan Bernstein played talk show host and expert commentator in a one-hour teleseminar featuring internationally renowned litigation PR expert Richard Levick and one of the country's top white collar crime attorneys, Ed Novak. This CD-ROM is a "must have" to play for the executive staff of any organization, for practice group meetings at law firms, or for the entire staff of any PR agency.

Go to to read more details about and/or to order this CD-ROM, and to learn of other educational and training materials produced by Jonathan Bernstein.

Keeping The Wolves At Bay

Keeping the Wolves at Bay remains, to my knowledge, the only commercially published media training manual in the world. It can be purchased in PDF or hard-copy form at, and its pages can be modified to make it your "name brand" media training manual if you are an agency or organization that frequently conducts training. If the latter subject is of interest to you, write to:


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.


GUEST AUTHORS are very welcome to submit material for "Crisis Manager." There is no fee paid, but most guest authors have reported receiving business inquiries as a result of appearing in this publication. Case histories, experience-based lessons, commentary on current news events and editorial opinion are all eligible for consideration. Submission is not a guarantee of acceptance.


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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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