© 2007 Jonathan Bernstein
Estimated Readership: 15,000+
JUST A THOUGHT
"We'll wing it" is not a viable crisis preparedness plan.
CRISIS MANAGER UNIVERSITY
Editor's Note: Steve Stern is pretty smart. He sent me fan mail about this ezine, which he must have KNOWN would motivate me to check out his website and blog, which resulted not only in my being interested in possibly doing business with him, but also in my finding material he had written that is perfect for "Crisis Manager." The article below does a great job of epitomizing the slogan of the newsletter, "For Those Who Are Crisis Managers, Whether They Want to Be or Not."
Crisis Communications: A Primer
By Steve Stern
Effective crisis or emergency communications planning is an absolute requisite of any company’s comprehensive communications program for both corporate and economic survival.
Unfortunately, this sort of planning, because of its perceived complexity, is generally developed with little regard for what realistically can be accomplished, or it falls into the ad hoc category and is often implemented ineffectually and on the fly.
The fact of life is that depending on the situation, a company will at some time be called upon to respond to public or press inquiries regarding financial irregularities, discuss legal, health or environmental matters, explain system failures or contend with questions on losses of dollars or proprietary information, among others.
Both internal and external publics will want to know who, what, where, when, why and how when it comes to scandals, accompanying incidents or lawsuits, descriptions of events, and financial implications, as well as the effects of natural disasters.
When the telephone rings, however, its generally too late to plan a response, determine who will serve as spokesperson and decide how much information should be disseminated and when.
Decisions and determinations must be made with maximum dispatch and alacrity:
- What vulnerabilities create demands for information of what kind?
- Who must be talked to and in what order?
- Who will do what to whom by when to carry out the established communications objectives?
- Whose help will be required to develop and implement activities, internal coordination, public relations liaisons and, if required, mutual aid agreements?
- How will the plan be tested and improved over time?
- When will dissemination occur? Is there a commitment to communicate effectively during emergencies? Has a general policy statement on crisis communications been prepared and approved by senior management?
The first action determining the quality of crisis communications activities will be the alacrity and propriety of notifications. Although dispatch is important, establishing priorities and protocols is absolutely critical.
Most often the order of notification priority should be:
- Those who should respond, i.e. police, fire, emergency medical teams, the company’s crisis management team.
- Those who must comment, i.e. spokespersons, headquarters units, local government officials.
- Those with a special need-to-know, stock analysts, customers and suppliers, employees, victims and their families and union representatives.
- The broadcast and print media.
- The general public.
News media notification, of course, is quite different than notification given other audiences. During crises or disasters, the media usually gets word of the event and winds up contacting the company, thus placing the communications team in a reactive, rather than proactive position.
The communications team’s reaction must be a joint venture combining the expertise the public relations department, senior management, and security and technical operational experts, if required.
Working with the media during a crisis is critical. Whether assigned to a metro or city desk, or the business page, most reporters are generalists and therefore must be backgrounded in highly complex, technical or scientific information before they can even ask appropriate questions to report the news in layman’s terms.
Wherever possible, glossaries of technical terms, charts, graphs and visual depictions should be prepared in advance. With respect to response precision, particularly at the outset, it is important to recognize that it is acceptable to say "This is what we know...this is what we do not know...This is what is ambiguous."
Negotiations between the media and corporate sources of information are always delicate. They require the corporate communications team to understand the media’s needs, know their own guidelines and limitations and know what is negotiable and what is not. It also means strict adherence to a "single-source philosophy."
A single-source philosophy is speaking with one voice and requires that all statements made, all actions taken, all film footage shown, present the crisis response responsibly, competently and humanly. It also means that spokespersons are credible, accurate, timely, reliable, articulate, authoritative and available and that all information and interpretations complement or supplement the basic message being imparted.
A fully developed liaison program touching internal contacts, as well as external key publics, is a useful tool for managing information. Through these contacts, your company can determine the efficacy of the messages being disseminated.
Finally, the success of a crisis communications response can be enhanced by the following guidelines:
- Release only verified and approved information.
- Promptly alert the media to all key events or news releases.
- When they are onsite, ensure that the media have a corporate escort.
- Have a designated spokesperson.
- Maintain accurate records and logs of all inquiries and media coverage.
- Meet press deadlines.
- Provide equal opportunities for print and electronic media.
- Do not speculate on the cause of the crisis or emergency.
- Do not speculate on dollar losses.
- Do not permit unauthorized personnel to comment to the media.
- Do not mislead the media.
- Do not place blame.
There are, of course, many nuances and other elements of crisis communications. Many must be handled on an ad hoc basis, others require specific preparation. The aforementioned, however, is meant to give you an overview.
Steve Stern is president of Stern And Company, a Las Vegas public relations firm that develops and implements strategic and highly defined corporate communications programs for its clients. Website: www.sdsternpr.com. Blog: www.asternglance.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is an excerpt from the SIGNIFICANTLY revised, improved and expanded "Keeping the Wolves at Bay: A Media Training Manual," Version 3.0. I'll keep the commercial information on this product to the Crisis Manager Business Announcements section, below.
Media Logistics 2007
By Jonathan Bernstein
The world of media relations has been completely turned on its ear by its intersection with the opportunities afforded via the Internet.
It used to be that:
- All interviews were for print, radio or television outlets.
- An interview resulted in a story that typically ran or aired just once or, in the case of TV, perhaps was aired on several editions of the evening news.
- Damage caused by negative news - or the benefits of positive coverage - were largely limited to the geographic region in which a story aired or was printed, unless - for a really big story - it attracted the attention of national broadcasters or a print syndicate.
- Stories were often forgotten fairly quickly unless they were major news, because there was no easy way to retrieve information on any organization or individual outside of the town in which they were based - i.e., a reporter in New York may be reporting on the Bozo Corporation's business in that state and never know that Bozo got in trouble in Nevada some years before.
- Most media outlets published or broadcast during "normal waking hours."
- The lines have blurred. Many (and soon, I believe, most) so-called "traditional media" deliver information in print, video and audio formats. "Print" could mean hard-copy print and/or website print (e.g., Forbes.com has its own reporting staff, which writes stories on a daily basis, while stories from its weekly print publication also appear on its website). Video coverage from the evening news can be repeated on a TV station's website - sometimes shortened, and sometimes longer. Audio interviews can air on radio and/or at websites. Video coverage is also often transcribed and turned into a print story. Any combination of print, audio and video news distribution imaginable has been tried and others are being developed almost daily, with some - podcasts, for example - becoming extremely popular with consumers. So, you've got that straight? Print is print except for where it's video or audio or other, TV is TV except for where it's print, audio or other, and radio is radio except when....oh, your eyes rolled up in your head, I'll stop now.
- You can become your own news source in print, audio or video formats, online, both at your own website(s) and via service providers who distribute such information for you.
- News coverage is appended, sometimes extensively, by the comments of bloggers.
- The impact of coverage is magnified exponentially by (a) the tendency of bloggers and other website operators to provide links to news coverage they find of interest; (b) the ability all of us have to track news on any topic via free or fee-paid news tracking services and RSS feeds; and, (c) the fact that print, audio and video news is delivered to us by an ever-expanding array of devices. As of this writing, I receive news on my Blackberry, iPod and, of course, computer. Oh yes, occasionally on TV or radio - although, more often, I watch TV news on my computer. Well, I did say I was a geek!
- News coverage is archived and available to anyone for years. It's easy for any journalist - the paid variety or the self-styled "citizen reporter" - to find anything that's been written about you worldwide.
- Media demand for information from you, and to publish information about you, is around-the-clock.
CRISIS MANAGER BUSINESS ANNOUNCEMENTS
Keeping The Wolves At Bay 3.0 Released Today (March 15, 2007)
Keeping the Wolves at Bay: A Media Training Manual, Version 3.0 is now available in PDF form only, but will soon also be available in print format. This edition very comprehensively integrates the impact of the Internet on crisis-related media training. It has a lot of new material, significantly edited versions of prior material, and weighs in 20% longer for the same price, $10 PDF and, when it's published, $25 hard copy spiral-bound.
Crisis Manager readers can order the PDF, through March 31, for a 20% discount. Just use Coupon Code mar07 when you place your order.
Version 2.0 of the spiral-bound manual has, while supplies last, been marked down to $20 for all purchasers.
Both can be ordered at www.thecrisismanager.com.
Disaster Prep 101
Bernstein Crisis Management is pleased to present one of the most comprehensive and user-friendly family preparedness texts available today. "Disaster Prep 101." by Paul Purcell, goes above and beyond the simplistic "72-hour kit" concept and provides simple, yet detailed educational material that will drastically improve the ability of any family to respond to all manner of disasters or emergencies. This preparedness package contains over 400 pages of well-organized, original preparedness material written in an easy-to-understand, non-panic format; 80 pages of family data forms and worksheets (many of which are also useful to the employer); and a 2-CD set containing two interactive and searchable links collections for additional educational sources; all the family data forms and worksheets in softcopy format; and a complete emergency reference library of over 450 additional books and training manuals! US$59.95. Available here.
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 email@example.com.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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