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+


Crisis preparation has to incorporate the concept that crises don't respect holidays, vacations, or sleep schedules.

Jonathan Bernstein


Editor's Note: Regardless of your opinions on American military policy, it is unquestionable that the military has developed means of preventing and responding to crises that can readily be adapted to civilian life. The vulnerability audit process that is one of the hallmarks of my crisis prevention services has its roots in the techniques I learned while in U.S. Army Military Intelligence, assessing both enemy weaknesses and our own vulnerabilities. For this article, Rick Amme plowed through 300 pages of military doctrine to bring us some "news we can use."

Coping With The Unexpected: The U.S. Marines' Approach
By Rick Amme

With our troops still in Iraq as we remember September 11 five years ago, you must be made of stone not to wonder again, "How would we slog through extreme adversity?" A product recall, a regulator investigation because of management failure, employee violence, or worse. And, how do you plan for the unexpected? I commend to you the wisdom of some of the same folks fighting overseas - the United States Marine Corps.

War is the ultimate crisis. Those who fight can teach us civilians how to deal with upheaval. Two unclassified USMC documents on Planning, and on Command and Control, are the clearest, no B.S., cut to the chase resources on crisis management I have ever read.

A retired Marine officer recommended I read the manuals. I came away with these primary philosophies: 1) war - read "crisis" - is full of uncertainty; 2) therefore embrace uncertainty; 3) be adaptable, flexible, adjust; and 4) plan and train accordingly.

Let me paraphrase the best insights for business leaders. For our purposes, I have substituted "crisis" for "war" or "battle."


Your crisis plan should establish a chain of command that fixes authority and responsibility at each level. It should state a desired outcome, actions to achieve it, and a feedback loop to monitor progress. Your goal is not to write the best plan but to achieve the best result. A good plan gives direction and flexibility and specifies the minimum amount necessary for execution clearly, simply, and concisely. Don't worry whether the plan unfolds as written but whether it facilitates effective action in the face of unforeseen events. It should NOT seek to specify future actions but identify options and possibilities. The plan is a starting point not a script. Elaborateness and detail are not generally measures of effective plans.


My experience is that even the best plan is only as good as the team that implements it. New Orleans had an outstanding hurricane crisis plan that collapsed under Katrina. ThatŐs a team failure, not a plan failure. That underscores the MarinesŐ emphasis on training employees to be flexible and adaptable. Your procedures should facilitate simplicity and speed, be mastered easily, and performed quickly and smoothly under extreme stress. Crisis drills should purposely include elements of disorder and uncertainty. That will be reality. Speaking of which...


A crisis will be messy, unpredictable, and often chaotic, defying orderly, efficient and precise control. You must cope with this inherent complexity. It is delusion to believe that you can truly control the situation. You will be like a predatory animal in a process of continuous adaptation, seeking information, learning, and adjusting in its quest for survival and success: never in a state of stable equilibrium but a continuous state of flux.


Your goal is not to be thoroughly and precisely in control, but running the situation more akin to the willing participation of a basketball team.

  • Organizations operate best when members think of themselves as belonging to one or more groups with loyalty, cooperation, morale, and commitment to the group mission.
  • Intuitive decision making is preferable with the leader relying on experience, training, and reflection.
  • All decisions must be made in the face of uncertainty. There will always be some knowledge you lack, there is no perfect solution and you should not agonize over one.
  • Whoever can make and implement decisions consistently faster gains a tremendous, often decisive advantage. Adopt a promising scheme with an acceptable degree of risk, and do it quickly.

The Marines repeatedly emphasize that speed is a weapon and quote World War II Army General George S. Patton who said, "A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week."

When I was in the Navy, veterans warned that safety regulations were written in blood, so obey them. I am certain the U.S. MarinesŐ command and planning philosophies are too. I invite you to take them to heart as I have.

Rick Amme is President of Amme & Associates, a media/crisis communications company in Winston-Salem. He was a journalist for more than 20 years.

Texas Roadhouse Restaurant Never Learns
By Jonathan Bernstein

There was angry and disgusted response from readers of the article, "Restaurant Makes Police Sick," that I wrote for the 9-1-06 issue of "Crisis Manager."

No, they weren't angry or disgusted with me, but with the insensitivity and communications incompetence of the restaurant.

But...the story isn't over. I was contacted by the restaurant after my story started showing up in Google News. If you want see what followed, read the thread you'll find at my Crisis Manager Blog. And please add your own comments there too (on that topic, or any of the others).

FYI, the News Release Wire version of the story, the one that shows up on a Google News search, has -- for the past four days -- been getting a LOT of traffic. I'm told that some law enforcement agencies have been passing around the link to that URL. Cops of all ilk are a VERY tight community, so it was a particularly bad move to get "some of their own" upset! Texas Roadhouse needs to communicate its regret a lot more widely than it has, because widespread damage has been done.

How Not To Request A Correction
by Rick Kelly

Most media training sessions eventually get around to the subject of corrections - when you should request one, and when you should allow that dog to continue its snooze. Don't nitpick, we say; make sure that the error in question goes to the substance of the matter. Here's an example of why.

Sports columnist David Jones of the Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot-News wrote a piece recently criticizing Westwood One and CBS Radio for sacking longtime Notre Dame Football announcer Tony Roberts. In it, he erroneously described Westwood One as being owned by CBS Radio. Westwood One, according to Jones, took exception, pointing out that CBS Radio merely manages Westwood One but does not own it. After Westwood One reps called him twice and sent "two chirpy e-mails," Jones offered the following mea culpa in a subsequent column:

"So, let me reiterate with my sincerest apologies: Westwood One, which soullessly removed the beloved 26-year icon of Notre Dame football in May and actually had the gall to ask him if he wanted to show up at his replacement's news conference to make it look nice, is managed, not owned, by CBS Radio."

Editor's Note: I asked the author what credit line he would like for this brief but pithy submission, and he wrote: "Submitted by Rick Kelly, director of crisis communications at Pennsylvania-based Triad Strategies, And a handsome man."

Shooting At Dawson College -- Be A Commentator

There's been a discussion started at The Crisis Manager Blog on the subject of the shooting at Montreal's Dawson College, asking readers to comment on how good a job on-site crisis communicators did -- or didn't. Make your own observations at:


Have Webcam And Videoconferencing, Will Consult
An Offer from Jonathan Bernstein

Would you like to bring me to your next staff or board meeting, virtually, to conduct some training on crisis preparedness, crisis response, or "just" to give a good solid orientation on the subject of crisis management? There's a great value to "face time," but sometimes the cost and time required for travel make it impossible. If you or your IT department can allow a webcam stream into your computer (and better yet if you can send one back), we don't need no stinkin' high-tech, we can do this lower tech. I am constantly trying to bring more affordable services to clients who may not have the budget for other options, so this is an experiment. I have a webcam and am happy to bill by the hour for short-term consulting if this option is of interest. There is also a videoconferencing facility very close to my office if you would like to use that instead. Call 626-825-3838 or write to

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


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