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

Crisis Manager Internet Newsletter about Crisis Management

© 2006 Jonathan Bernstein
Circulation: 4,000+
Estimated Readership: 14,000+


Our enemies have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today's media age, but...our country has not adapted. For the most part, the U.S. government still functions as a 'five and dime' store in an eBay world,

Donald Rumsfeld
U.S. Secretary of Defense


Editor's Note: I've seen a number of expert analyses of Dick Cheney's PR faux-pas following the shooting incident last month, but leave it to a Mom who's also a crisis communications expert to make the lessons read very simply, and very clearly. Of course, for some, being a parent hones your skills as a crisis manager!

How To Clean Your Boots When You've Stepped In It
By Pam Baggett

When you step in stuff, you don't leave it on your boots in hopes they will clean themselves. The recent flap about VP Cheney's handling, or NOT handling, the hunting incident in South Texas is a textbook example of poor crisis management.

Here's what Texas mothers tell their kids, or at least what I told mine:

  • You're going to make mistakes along the way, but when you do, I better hear about it from you before I hear about it from my bridge club.

    That means the veep should have been the first to inform the public.

  • Only 2-year-olds turn their back on you with the thought that if they can't see you, you can't see them.

    Cheney is considerably older than 2, and everyone can see him. The most interesting point that he overlooked, however, and hasn't been reported by any of the news media that I've seen to date, is Texas law about mandatory reporting of gunshot wounds. Physicians must report ALL gunshot wounds to local law enforcement. I think Cheney thought he'd be able to fly under the radar, except for that pesky law.

  • Don't try to wiggle out of the truth by just telling me part of it--I can see through you.

    Sending the ranch owner out, a day late, to speak to a friendly reporter only made the public want to know what the rest of the story was.

  • You'll be grounded if you don't mind me!

    Since Cheney usually is in an undisclosed location anyway, this one doesn't have much bite for him. And he only appears before friendly audiences.

  • If you lie to me, I won't be able to trust you again for very long time!

    This speaks for itself.

  • You just proved to me that you're not responsible enough for whatever perk the child, usually a teen, wants).

    In another country, the vice president could have been stoned to death, because he built a nice pile of rocks for others to throw at him.

  • No, "everyone's mother lets them do it" won't work with me, young man! This family has rules and standards and I don't care what other parents supposedly do.

    Did he really think "stonewalling" would work?

  • Just dry up those tears--they don't work on me.

    Going to friendly Fox for an interview and displaying emotion in his voice was all well and good. But he made it all about him (It was the worst day of my life) rather than about the man he shot.

  • You're a day late and a dollar short!

    In this case, four days too late.

  • You know EXACTLY what I expect of you!

    I expect him to follow his friend to the hospital, meet the media after seeing that his friend was going to be OK, and saying how terrible he felt about his carelessness that caused his friend's injury, instead of allowing speculation that it was the friend's fault for getting in the way. Any bird hunter knows the safety rules, and Cheney is an old bird, hunter that is.

  • Don't bring those s*#^^* boots back in this house.

    Clean your boots immediately before the stink sets in and can't be eliminated.

    Pam Baggett successfully struck out on her own after 30+ years of indentured servitude working for and learning from a host of businesses, associations and private and government agencies. "I learned what works, but mostly I learned what doesn't work!" She is CEO of Persuasion Communication, specializing in risk management, message mapping, media training and issue advocacy. Her email address is

    By Jonathan Bernstein

    Crisis Manager Predicts The Future! You Read It Here First! If The News Fits, Wear It! The previous issue of this ezine featured an excellent article contributed by Integrated Screening Partners entitled The Top 10 Application Falsehoods, about how employment screening inadequacy can often lead to embarrassing future situations. Falsehood #3 on that list was "Degrees Earned". A few days after that was published, RadioShack CEO David Edmondson resigned after acknowledging that he had falsely claimed having two college degrees, when in fact he had none. Additionally, it seems he'd failed to mention having been caught for drunk driving on more than one occasion. To his credit, he issued a humble apology. To their credit, Radio Shack issued a decently written statement (you can find it at about the transition to his replacement and the positive future of the company. Thanks to readers Dan Harnett and Robert Smith for racing to their keyboards to send me this tip. If you missed The Top 10 Application Falsehoods story it is archived here.

    Would You Like Rat Poison With That? Some of Sizzler Restaurants' outlets in Australia apparently took 37 days to figure out that the little green things in the salad bar soup were rat poison pellets. Two employees fell ill. A still-unidentified patron reported the problem. And, according to the Australian press, Sizzler admitted that it had NO CONTINGENCY PLAN to deal with food poisoning. They were good enough to announce that they wouldn't have a salad bar until they learned exactly how the contamination had occurred. Of course, it probably STILL hasn't occurred to them that patrons might wonder what else they don't know about, like back in the restaurant chain's kitchens, inasmuch as a high percentage of deliberate food contamination is actually done by disgruntled employees.

    Bush Consults With Christ, Heathens Beware. The news as I'm drafting this item reports that President Bush today is meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has been a strong supporter of Mr. Bush's Iraq policy, but who has also referred to himself as "the Jesus Christ of Politics." A basic precept of sound public relations is "be careful with whom you associate." Given both politicians' current unpopularity in their respective countries, perhaps they are hoping that two negatives translate to a positive? The kind of fuzzy math may be the reason why....somewhere in the White House Press Office...any competent surviving employees are under their desks, crying.

    You Could Not Be Reached For Comment. There's a breaking story about your organization SOMEWHERE in the world in a time zone 10 hours ahead of you. Your corporate offices operate 8-5 in your own time zone. Your website gives no way to reach a company contact 24/7. Your switchboard gives no way to reach a company contact 24/7. So even the most responsible journalist has no choice but to report that you were unavailable for comment -- which is often interpreted as "you chose to make yourself unavailable." AND the story is broadcast, printed and/or appears on the Internet before you're done with your beauty sleep. AND you come in to anxious calls from employees, investors, customers and other stakeholders for which you've had no chance to prepare. Heck, this problem even occurs when the organization is the same country, but just a different time zone, than inquiring media, but it gets exacerbated in any increasingly global environment. If what the world thinks about you is important to you, then ensure that you have some way, 24/7, for the media to reach someone who -- at a minimum -- has the authority to wake up a spokesperson, even if he/she is not themselves in that position.


    Keeping The Wolves At Bay

    Keeping the Wolves at Bay (available in print and PDF formats) remains, to my knowledge, the only commercially published media training manual in the world. It can be purchased 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:

    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.


    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.


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