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

Crisis Manager Internet Newsletter about Crisis Management

© 2007 Jonathan Bernstein
Circulation: 4,000+
Estimated Readership: 15,000+


"It can't happen here."

Famous Last Words of Too Many Senior Executives


Violence In The Workplace
By Jonathan Bernstein

I track crises in the news and have saved four different examples of workplace violence, usually ending in death(s), over the past month. And that's just in the United States. Yet so many organizations act as if it can't happen to them.

  • Do you ever have employees who get angry to what appears to be near-violent levels?
  • Do you ever have employees get very emotionally distressed over being fired?
  • Do you ever have employees with strenuous domestic disputes?
  • Does the nature of your business attract potentially unstable people?

Hello! Workplace violence could happen to you! Those certainly aren't the only contributing factors, but they seem to be common threads in the stories I've read over the years.

What can you do about it? If you're the boss, call a staff meeting ASAP. If you're not the boss, take this article to your boss and suggest he/she call a staff meeting. At the meeting, read the article. Then have a brainstorming session, asking questions such as:

  • What do we do to stay aware of and possible provide assistance to employees who may be under tremendous stress?
  • What would be the best way to protect personnel here if someone started shooting?
  • What would we say or do in the aftermath of violence?
  • Might it be helpful to have local experts on this topic come in and talk about how to prevent and respond to workplace violence?

(P.S. The answer to the last one is YES)

Oh Crikey - Virginia Tech Shooting Incident Happening Now
By Jonathan Bernstein

Just as I finished writing the article above, I did one of my periodic checks and found the story about the unfolding tragedy at Virginia Tech University where - if you are outside of the U.S. and haven't seen the story - 21 people are reported killed by a gunman who is still loose on campus.

From the speed with which the university responded to lock down the campus, stay in touch with students by email, post statements on their website and make appropriate statements to the press, I am making an educated guess that Virginia Tech's leadership has already, wisely, engaged in crisis planning and training.

In next 24-48 hours, school and police officials will be faced with:

  • Addressing the physical, emotional and other needs of victims and their loved ones
  • Addressing the needs of a shocked and mourning student body and faculty
  • Answering questions about how the incident occurred and if it could have been prevented or damage reduced
  • Conducting in-person meetings with as many stakeholders as possible
  • Using Internet-centered technology (if they're wise) to communicate with all their audiences in print and video formats.

At best, it's a heart-wrenching and difficult task facing Virginia Tech's crisis management team. I'm sure they, victims and everyone impacted can use our prayers right about now.

Editor's Note: Right way/wrong way examples are always particularly useful to me, and thus I very much appreciated receiving this succinct article by reader Karl Robe. I usually present prospective or new clients with a list of potential crises much like the one Karl recommends. I call it my "oh sh**" list because that's often the reaction it elicits!

When Crisis Hits, Think Like KPMG, Not Arthur Andersen
By Karl Robe

KPMGs near-fatal crisis involving the sale of allegedly illegal tax shelters provides a case study in crisis management. A front-page story in the Wall Street Journal took readers inside the decision-making process as executives determined the best strategy for averting criminal indictment. Indictment — not conviction mind you — led to the mass exodus of Arthur Andersen clients as well as partners, and, ultimately, the accounting firms demise. The Journal story revealed how KPMG managed to keep its partners, clients, and, at the time of this entry, its doors open. (Client civil litigation looms.)

Unlike Andersen, KPMG executives — including a former federal judge — opted for a fall-on-the-sword strategy in front of the Justice Department. This strategy does have potential pitfalls, which also were described in the Journal story.

Most executives, I believe, think of the potential for a crisis as a low-probability, high-impact event. In fact, if executives take five minutes to list potential vulnerabilities that could sink their company, I believe the list would lead them to a different conclusion. The probability of crisis in any business is high. The probability of survival is low without being prepared and understanding how to deal with the different stakeholders during a crisis. A few points to consider — with your attorneys and public relations counsel present — if faced with a crisis:

  • Dump the bad news: tell it all at once.
  • Admit wrongdoing and apologize.
  • Fix the wrong.
  • Communicate plans to avoid it happening again.
  • Execute on those plans.
  • Provide stakeholders with progress reports along the way.

Karl Robe, APR, heads the public relations practice for Milwaukee-based Scheibel Halaska (, a full-service marketing communications firm. Visit the Inside B to B Marketing Blog ( for more of his insights.


Keeping The Wolves At Bay 3.0 Reviewed

"Keeping the Wolves at Bay" is much more than another media training guide - it is perhaps one of the most concise, insightful, useful and savvy guides to strategic thinking about reputation issues available.

Gerald Baron
Founder & CEO of PIER System and host of

I deal with the media everyday, yet I was still able to finish with a number of practical take-aways that will help me in my business. I wish I had written "Keeping the Wolves at Bay!"

Richard S. Levick, Esq.
Levick Strategic Communications, LLC
Co-Author (w/Larry Smith): Stop the Presses: The Litigation PR Desk Reference

It's like a Swiss Army knife — lots of cool tools in a compact package. In case of emergency, grab this.

Steven R. Van Hook, PhD
Publisher, About Public Relations

The spiral-bound print manual is available for $25, the PDF version for $10. Both can be ordered at

Version 2.0 of the spiral-bound manual has, while supplies last, been marked down to $20 for all purchasers.

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.


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