I’m an avid reader (mostly history, science and faith, biography) and even once in a while pick up a book on crisis communication. Over the past couple of months I’ve read a couple of good ones. “The Instant Survivor” by Jim Moorhead and “Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management” by Jonathan Bernstein. While both are solid books providing good advice, it is Bernstein’s book that will go on my top shelf for ready reference.
“Instant Survivor” takes a winsome approach to crisis management. Moorhead reveals his own personal crisis as well as stories of many others facing personal crises to bring home his four key lessons to crisis management: stay frosty (maintain cool control), secure support, stand tall and save your future.
All good advice and presented in a very warm, personal style. His experience shines through in solid advice: (page 31) “Practice extreme honesty. We need to be as honest with ourselves as we demand others to be with us. How do we like to be treated when things go sour–when we get laid off, hear bad health news, or have a relationship broken off? We want to be told the truth. We reject people who shade a story…”
The strength of Moorhead’s book is this kind of story telling and basic guidance helping executives examine their own values, morals and character and to see those items in relationship to how they will deal with truly major crises.
Jonathan Bernstein’s book is far more prescriptive and practical. It is also written in a comfortable, highly readable style. While including stories and examples, the focus is on guiding senior managers through the steps needed to prepare for, respond to and recover from crisis. As a very practical, very useful and spot-on guide, you can’t do much better than this.
I’ve been fortunate to work with Jonathan on a few projects in the past and have learned a lot from him. But I also learned a lot from this book, particularly in the area of crisis prevention and vulnerability assessments. I really appreciate the guidance he gives in how organizations can conduct their own assessments, while also making it clear that working with an experienced consultant in this area has many benefits. Jonathan’s focus on prevention is very clear in even his definition of crisis management: “the art of avoiding trouble when you can, and reacting appropriately when you can’t.” I doubt that many involved in crisis management include prevention as 50% of the equation–but they should.
While Jonathan is a true expert in media training and response, I also very much appreciate his oft-repeated theme of direct stakeholder communication. There are a great many crisis communication experts out there, but few who go beyond traditional media management to the degree that Jonathan does. In my view, this is probably the number one failing of many PR folks doing crisis communication.
Another strength of Jonathan’s book, clearly based on experience, is his extensive advice on online reputation management. He devotes an entire chapter and provides incredibly useful advice on key aspects including monitoring and the role of Search Engine Optimization.
There is much more to commend in this excellent book, but to steal a quote from Jonathan, I wish I could publish the entire book in this blog, but I can’t so you’ll have to go out and buy it.