© 2005 Jonathan Bernstein
Estimated Readership: 14,000+
JUST A THOUGHT
If you want to change who you are, change what you do.
CRISIS MANAGER UNIVERSITY
Editor's Note: Once again, the prolific Bob Aronson shares his insights with Crisis Manager readers. I know how busy he is professionally, so am grateful he has time to submit materials here as well as serve his clients well!
Three Tips On Persuasive Communication
By Bob Aronson
The length, depth and danger from a crisis may well depend on your ability to persuade.
It has long been my contention that giving people information for information's sake or trying to "educate" them is a wasted effort. In today's information glut people want something immediately useful and broadly applicable. To provide information without using some elements of persuasion leaves you hoping the audience will arrive at the right conclusion. Why not lead them to the right conclusion? There's a lot of information out there on how to be persuasive but assuming everyone knows that an audience analysis is always the first step, here are three items that will help you make your point in any communication from crises to collateral material.
While logic is necessary in communication, it cannot stand alone as a persuasive tool. It needs the help of other efforts. Certainly, people want to hear your logic but there is no guarantee they will agree with it and it appeals only to the left brain. Effective, persuasive communication comes from the "heart" not the brain and there's not much "heart" on the left side.
Everyone has an ego, some are small and some take up the space of an entire state (Donald Trump, Ted Turner, Madonna, to name a few). Again, logic is important but to be persuasive you must also appeal to the ego. Flattery is a form of ego boosting but please favor a subtle approach over one that is obviously sycophantic. Careful with this, though -- you must look and sound genuine.
While selfishness could be a part of the Ego category, it is so broad and so important I chose to give it its own category. This is where you must trigger positive emotions if you are to be persuasive. Remember that people generally make decisions based on how they feel rather than how they think (if emotion and ego were not important there'd be no Lexus, Rolls Royce, or Cadillac automobiles, we would all be driving Mini-Coopers). As soon as you begin to speak, your audience wants to know how they are affected. If the effect is beneficial, they will be easily persuaded to accept your point of view. If the effect is negative, you will have to deal with the resulting outrage and sometimes people get outraged over nothing more than the way a sentence was structured (that says something about practice...but in another article). Audience analysis, as mentioned earlier, is always important. Here's an example of why and how selfishness enters into the picture. On Minnesota's economically depressed Iron Range, a company wants to build a plant that will employ almost a thousand people. The residents' number one concern is jobs, so they are likely to be more forgiving in order to improve the economy and stop the outflow of people. There is logic, ego and emotion tied up in this issue, The people there know recession well; recovery or economic development has been a distant dream.
Now, let us go south to the more affluent areas of Minnesota where there is far more concern over environment and safety than there is for new jobs. These Minnesotans are much more likely to oppose the plant and perhaps even travel north to protest against it if their needs are not met. If legislation is necessary, the problem worsens because there are more people in the south and therefore more legislators. If it comes to a legislative battle it will be difficult for the northerners to prevail. In the south of the state, there is also an emotional issue but it differs from the north. Many southern Minnesotans may ignore the job issue in favor of greater safety and a cleaner environment...another highly charged emotional issue with a different kind of logic.
So, the next time you are faced with a crisis, remember these items. Remember, too, that during a crisis you may have to satisfy several audiences and to do that you must be a persuader, not an educator.
Background Checks For Senior Execs
By Jonathan Bernstein
It is astonishing how often people hired or elected to very prominent positions, most recently now-former FEMA chief Michael Brown (as exposed by TIME magazine on 9/8/05), seem to have the delusion that fallacies about their backgrounds will not be revealed. Recall the relatively recent case of the chairman of Smith & Wesson having been identified as a former armed robber who did time in prison. If you're going to be in the public eye, it is a "given" that journalists (or others) will, sooner or later, investigate your background with a fine tooth comb.
What is also not really astonishing, but disgusting, is that even security-conscious entities such as The White House often focus primarily on security vulnerabilities but not on verifying biographic claims.
I have frequently had clients who realize, after a vulnerability audit, that they may also have very senior executives or board members, people in positions of trust, whose backgrounds had not been verified in detail. Hiring at senior levels tends to involve more reference and reputation-checking than historical fact-checking. Yet some senior execs seem to embellish their backgrounds the older they get and the farther away they get from the decades in which certain events allegedly happened. It's a formula for eventual reputation crises not only for the individual, but for the organization who retained him/her. In some cases, it is also a contributing factor to the inability of a senior executive to perform his/her job adequately. In the worst cases, people die due to such errors.
Product Review - Newsgator RSS Reader
By Jonathan Bernstein
Most of us now have at least heard of "RSS feeds" and how they are used as an additional means to both feed and track information from websites of all types. As RSS feeds are most known for their association with blogs - which many news tracking services don't track - tracking RSS feeds is important for crisis managers who want to stay on top of any given subject.
I went on a search for an RSS reader that might be able to garner information above and beyond what I'm already tracking using my excellent news tracking service (CustomScoop) and Google searches. Looking at free and subscription-based services, I found positive reviews of subscription-based "Newsgator" and decided to try their service.
So far, so mediocre. Feeds tend to come in slowly, way behind their actual "publication dates." Every now and then I see something that wasn't already delivered to my email box in real time by my other services, but not often.
Newsgator does have a free version, but it's so limited in function as to be worthless to someone actively engaged in crisis prevention or response. If any reader would like to suggest alternatives, I'd be happy to try (and review) them!
Planning Guide For Communities
The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations has issued the step-by-step guide, Standing Together: An Emergency Planning Guide for America's Communities, for small, rural and suburban communities to both prepare for and successfully respond to major local and regional emergencies - whether they be hurricanes, floods, terrorist attacks, major infectious outbreaks, hazardous materials spills, or other catastrophic occurrences. This is invaluable information that can readily be adapted for all types of organizations. Click Here to download the PDF file.
Guest Editorial About Katrina Predictions
Editor's Note: This was submitted in response to my Crisis Manager Alert about Hurricane Katrina having been predicted by articles in National Geographic and elsewhere.
While I certainly agree with the premise that "officials knew", I also believe that we must up-level the discussion from emergency managers to those who decide on how much "insurance" they want to buy in each annual budget cycle.
As all emergency managers will agree, there's a certain window of opportunity following each disaster when things like, "Hilary Clinton recommending that FEMA be a stand-alone cabinet position" show up. After the window of opportunity closes, emergency management becomes a back-burner issue, until the next disaster gets our attention once again. Until then, more pressing issues like budget deficits and funding wars and building schools, hospitals, and many other projects that most would agree are important take center stage.
So I say, lets start focusing our attention on building emergency and crisis programs that are sustainable and less subject to the number of column inches they're getting that day. Only then will we be able to say that we're really moving in the right direction. Until then, it's just more politics as usual.
San Carlos, CA
25 Mind-Numbingly Stupid Quotes About Hurricane Katrina And Its Aftermath
You have to take the time to read this funny, yet painful collection of quotes at the About.com Political Humor site.
Your Editor Goes Curmudgeon On Bush
By Jonathan Bernstein
In mid-September, President Bush was quoted as saying that the military should have a broader role in disaster response on American soil. When I read that on a listserv to which I subscribe, it pushed all of my "curmudgeon buttons" and I wrote this response:
No, no, Bush has it all wrong. We should establish National Guard exchange programs with other countries. We send OUR National Guard troops to them to fight THEIR wars, and they send THEIR National Guard troops here to take care of our citizens following natural disasters. I'm sure that Iraqi, Afghani and Bosnian National Guard troops or the equivalent militia might find a tour on our Gulf Coast to be a nice change of pace.
CRISIS MANAGER BUSINESS ANNOUNCEMENTS
Knowing Your Resources - The Basis For Preparedness
Have you ever wondered where youÕd get help during a major regional disaster? The folks youÕd normally turn to for trauma counseling, site reconstruction, emergency power, etc, may be in worse shape than you are. You have to find people out-of-region and youÕre working from a motel room down the road from where your business used to be.
Edwards Disaster Recovery Yellow Pages has thousands of listings in 355 categories, from site remediation, trauma counselors and data-recovery, to software, hotsites, wet-document drying, etc. Edwards Disaster Recovery Yellow Pages also includes articles such as "getting started on continuity planning" and "items often overlooked -- even by experienced planners." ItÕs available in both hard-copy and CD versions with hot-links to vendor websites. Click here to find out more information
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 www.thecrisismanager.com, 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: email@example.com.
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 www.thecrisismanager.com 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.
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 & PUBLISHER
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.
Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. is located at 1013 Orange Avenue, Monrovia, CA 91016. Telephone: (626) 825-3838.
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