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+


Others' hindsight COULD become your foresight. That's the very essence of crisis preparedness.

Jonathan Bernstein


What Good Is A Plan No One Knows About?
By Jonathan Bernstein

Tell me if this sounds familiar. A mayor, city manager or other official responsible for implementing a disaster response plan (a) does have such a plan; (b) does implement the plan following a hurricane, tornado, earthquake or major flood; and (c) gets crucified by his/her constituency for following that plan - to the letter.

The classic and all-too-common mistake on the part of the governmental official is that MOST of the people who will be impacted by the plan HAVE NO ADVANCE IDEA of how it will affect them. They don't know they're likely to be denied access to their homes until a certain degree of safety can be assured, until basic infrastructure services can be provided, etc. They don't know that city services will be assigned on a priority basis - and that your average homeowner isn't a priority in most cases.

It's all about expectations. I've heard it said that "expectations are often pre-meditated resentments." Most who are not familiar with disaster response, either professionally or through the school of hard knocks, have default expectations far more optimistic than reality will grant them. It's the task of the plan creators and disaster response team leaders to EDUCATE the populace BEFORE a disaster occurs. Tell them what to expect. Remind them of it regularly. Inform them what they can do to mitigate personal loss and damage. And when disaster strikes, make sure you let them know, step by step, what's being done to roll out the plan and what that will mean to them.No one's going to be thrilled about having to endure the hardship, but they are far less likely to shoot the messenger and far more likely to be compliant with direction.

This fatal flaw in most disaster planning often extends to other forms of crisis planning. Organizations fail to consider everyone - internally or externally - who will be impacted by certain types of crises. EVERY employee is a crisis manager for an organization, whether you want them to be or not. Does every employee know what his or her job is when certain types of crises occur? The job may simply be to refer inquiries to a member of the Crisis Communications Team, but the job might also mean getting physically involved with inspecting damaged buildings or calling employees who were home when the tornado hit. It is not uncommon, unfortunately, for the senior-level members of the Crisis Communications Team or Emergency Response Team (the operational side of things) to be the only ones who know what everyone is expected to do - and then they have to try to find them and ask them to help, while in the midst of a crisis.

Crisis simulations can reduce this risk, but even simulations - with the exception of huge undertakings - can't involve everyone who might be called on to assist in crisis response. The best-possible solution, in my opinion, is orientation and refresher training for all employees, coordinated through Human Resources and mandated by organizational leadership. Members of the response teams, including spokespersons, require more sophisticated levels of training and practice, but no employee should be left out of this process. And don't just rely on loyalty as motivation for all employees to learn. They also need to understand the very bottom line impact on them of poor crisis response - i.e., jobs, bonuses and benefits can all be impacted.

Five Easy Ways To Prevent Crises
By Jonathan Bernstein

  • Implement no major operational decision without asking a PR-savvy person to help you anticipate the response from all stakeholders, internal and external.
  • If you dare to...sit down and think, REALLY think, about what failure to prepare for crises could mean to all the people you work with, to those your organization serves, on a very personal basis. Then let your conscience, not merely business instinct, guide your actions.
  • Ensure that at least two members of your leadership team are extremely Internet-savvy.
  • When criticized, say - with all sincerity - "You could be right." Then smile and break off the conversation.
  • When finding yourself caught up in a disagreement in which you're attempting to "fix" things, ask yourself, "How important is it?"

  • The author has to credit anonymous sources for this and the preceding idea, which are definitely not original.

Five Easy Ways To Cause Crises
By Jonathan Bernstein

  • Underestimate the power of a single angry consumer with a computer.
  • Have critical policies for which personnel receive little or no training and/or refresher training.
  • Use lawyers as a default response to detractors.
  • Fail to consider and plan for the impact of losing a key contractor or vendor.
  • Hire senior-level executives from other organizations without conducting thorough background checks.

Ask The Crisis Manager

When I'm hired to do a speaking engagement, I often ask the organizations to let me distribute - through them - a challenge to participants to send me descriptions of actual or potential crisis situations in advance of my appearance, so that I can use them to make teaching points. It's fun for me as a writer and speaker, and my audiences seem to find it useful and entertaining.

So I'm issuing that challenge to all of you, my subscribers. Don't just read - participate in your own education! Be part of the solution! Email me your situations, your inquiries, and I will answer them here. I will assume that it's OK to cite you as the source of the query unless you say you'd prefer anonymity. You can write simply by replying to the ezine or by writing directly to

Guest Authors?

I've always welcomed guest authors, as do my readers. I'm told that my authors often receive business inquiries as a result of appearing in this publication -- and it definitely raises your Google-ability (is that a word?) because of how highly my website is ranked. Original articles, or articles which have not likely been seen by my readership, are candidates for use in both the email and archived versions of this ezine.


What Does That Slogan Mean?

By popular demand, I have re-opened an online store at which I sell clothing and mugs featuring the famous "Crisis Manager University" emblem and its infamous slogan, "Quoniam Stercus Accidit". That translates to "Because Stuff Happens." Except the real word isn't "stuff." There's only a 10% markup at the store to cover my costs -- it's a turnkey operation hosted by Cafe Press. I have found the items there to be a major hit with my clients and associates and great gift for any crisis manager. My purpose is to share my sense of humor with like (sick) minds as well as to prompt some folks to ask, "Who came up with this idea?" You can visit the store at

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.


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.


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