Category Archives: Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan's New "Keeping Wolves At Bay"–perhaps the best fifty bucks you could spend

Here’s a blatant plug for my friend and valued associate Jonathan Bernstein’s newest version of his media training manual, “Keeping the Wolves at Bay.” Find out more (and order) at

Jonathan bills this as a media training guide; indeed it is and probably the best available. (I used is recently for media training I conducted). But it is far more than that, particularly in this new edition. This edition addresses the world of the “I-Reporter,” the term used to describe bloggers and others who provide content online that may be about you and your organization. The manual provides a wealth of real life examples drawn from Jonathan’s extensive experience in communication and crisis management. And it is entertaining.

But what I like best (and this will be no surprise to Jonathan) is the role that stakeholder communication plays in his thinking. In this “post media world” or post mainstream media world, companies and organizations have the opportunity to address stakeholders and all those keenly interested in the goings on of the organization directly. With that opportunity comes the absolute necessity. Jonathan gets this better than almost anyone I have seen in this game.

So “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.

Aha, some hints as to why JetBlue did so well in crisis communication

Jonathan Bernstein’s outstanding email newsletter called the Crisis Manager is the “bible” more or less for many of us in crisis management. In this issue he interviews Sebastian White, head of corporate communications for JetBlue and the interview gives some important information useful for all crisis managers and communicators. To sign up for this newsletter go to

Incidentally, this same issue reprints the excellent white paper on media tracking during a crisis by Chip Griffin, CEO of CustomScoop–another reason to sign up for the newsletter.

Media tracking during a crisis

Communication is of course about listening as well as speaking. And a key part of listening is paying attention to what the media, bloggers and others are saying about you. At no time is this more important than during a crisis.

I was sent an excellent white paper on this subject by Chip Griffin, CEO of CustomScoop. Chip mentioned that he was a crisisblogger reader, which pleased me no end. And I emailed him and told him I was a very happy user of his CustomScoop service (which seemed to please him). In fact, I was introduced to CustomScoop by my oft-mentioned associate Jonathan Bernstein, who was and is using it in a major “blogwar” crisis that both he and I are involved in.

CustomScoop has a blog that will be of strong interest to PR professionals, and I strongly recommend that you read this white paper by Mr. Griffin. It is critically important to not only track what the media is saying but also what the 70 million or so bloggers may be saying about you.

For the record, I have no arrangement where I am paid for recommending this service to you and have no financial involvement in your interest in them whatsoever. This is also the first time I have recommended a product or service in this blog.


Right after I posted this I found this article from PRSA–only 19% of PR professionals monitor blogs. That’s amazing to me considering the role that blogs are playing in PR these days. Chip–you got a big market in front of you!

The Bandy Story on 20/20–join the crusade

I hope all crisisblogger readers watched 20/20 last night and saw the story about Matt Bandy. Matt is a 16 year old from Phoenix falsely accused and prosecuted of child porn because a few images of the nasty stuff was found on his computer at home. Despite the compelling evidence to the contrary, the prosecutor continued to push the accusations until the family accepted a plea bargain for a much lower charge–the equivalent of taking a Playboy to school. Still, he was branded a sex offender with the draconian restrictions applied to those who are thus convicted.

This story is of special interest for several reasons. One it is a great example in the extreme of the need sometime of “moving the black hat” as I advocate in extreme cases in Now Is Too Late2. When your reputation is on the line and you are innocent, sometimes you have to be aggressive and make the accusers the bad guys. In this case, the extremely aggressive prosecutor, more interested in his career than in justice, rightfully (in my opinion) has been outed as the real black hat in this story. View the extended interview with ABC and make up your own mind.

Second, is the personal connection. Jonathan Bernstein is the crisis manager who has been helping the family and their attorney every since they made the courageous decision to turn their bad fortune into a crusade. The 20/20 story is one part of the strategy. Creating an engaging and interactive website that helps manage the conversation that inevitably will go on about such an event is also part of the communication effort. Here is Matt’s website:

We were very pleased to respond to Jonathan’s request for help and provide the PIER System’s functionality to support the ongoing media relations and viewer response. This kind of communication activity shows the absolutely necessity of a small team or a single communicator to be able to handle the potentially hyperactive online response to this kind of national story and crusade.

For more comments about this communication effort as well as how you can get involved in this important communication effort, please go to and be sure to use the contact form. (I just did!–and also emailed the governor).

Blog tag–It's my turn

I’ve been blog tagged. Don’t know what that is? I didn’t either until Google Alerts brought me to Shel Holtz’s blog “A Shel of My Former Self.” There I discovered I and four others had been tagged. Seems back on December 10 a blogger by the name of Jeff Pulver had the idea that it would be good to use blogs to get to know each other better. Actually, from his blog this game of blog tagging is not new, but he was the one that started this particular string. Tagging involves telling five things about yourself that others may not know, and then tagging five other bloggers to do the same.

Somewhere along the line, Shel Holtz got tagged, gave up his five secrets, and then tagged me. So, it is my turn. And for those of you on the bottom of this–now it will be your turn.

1) I’m a proud Dutchman. My father immigrated from the province of Friesland in the Netherlands in 1948 and all my grandparents are from the old country. I am also very proud of the role my grandparents and my dad played in helping the Dutch underground during the war by sheltering those running away from the Nazis–activity that put all their lives at risk and that has been beautifully told about in my dad’s book called “The Way It Was: Growing Up in Wartime Holland.”

2) My family is my great pride and joy–my wife Lynne to whom I have been married for 33 years, my son Chris and his wife Deborah (expecting their first baby in March), my son Geoff and his wife Amy with their two children, Emily and Ethan (and expecting their third later in 07), and daughter Ashley and her husband Gabe and their son Baron.

3) Although now in the crisis management business and founder of a crisis communication technology company, my roots are in the arts. I was a fine arts and drama major and taught fine arts, communication and drama at the university level for four years before getting into business. I still love to visit museums (the Getty is among my favorites) and also enjoy painting–our house is overloaded with my paintings.

4) Given the last item, some might find it surprising that I also greatly enjoy outdoor activities including gardening, hunting, fishing, (and even paintball!) In fact, I hope to finish out the old year spending some time tromping around some local woods with my bow and arrow in search of venison.

5) Finally, faith has always been a driving force in my life. It is an interesting time as the world struggles with the issues of truth, meaning and purpose–in ways that are sometimes inspiring and full of hope and at other times with bitterness, hatred and violence.

I now hereby tag the following:

 Brian Sibley

Jonathan Bernstein

Phillipe Borremans 

Patricia Goldschmid

Alan Jacobs

Make sure you focus on solving the real problem–Coke in India

Some of the best thinking and information around about crisis management and crisis communications comes from Jonathan Bernstein’s “Crisis Manager” email newsletter. The issue I just received is no exception. An excellent article by Dr. Ram Baliga (Wake Forest University) and Rick Amme of Amme and Associates. It talks about the attacks on Coke and Pepsi in India by India’s Centre for Science and Environment. The Centre said the products were unsafe–laced with pesticide. Sales plummeted and one region banned the products. Coke and Pepsi responded by trying to convince everyone that their drinks were safe. As the authors point out, they missed the point. This is about politics. It was a political attack on government reform and attempting to place blame for the pain of reform on foreign companies.

How do you fight back in such a situation? You need to subscribe to the newsletter to read it.

The underlying point is that if you don’t understand the culture, and you don’t understand the underpinnings of the attack, you can’t effectively respond. I believe the same is true of Shell’s megaproject on Sakahlin island which is now being attacked by Russia’s environment regulatory department. It’s a very tough and very expensive spot to be in. But to try to defend the project as meeting environmental regulations is probably pointless. President Putin has made it clear he wants oil and energy revenues to be controlled by him and his administration–and he’s willing to brave the accusations of the free world to make that happen. He did it to Yukos. Why not Shell? It is a horrible situation to be in, but the crisis will not be changed by convincing the world of environmental responsibility. It will be by bringing world attention to the dictatorial instincts of this government. Not sure Shell is in the best position to do this.

Blogwars–some of the best thinking to date

In my new edition of Now Is Too Late2, I added a chapter on blogwars. “Blogwars” is my term for the increasingly frequent challenge for companies and organizations who have to deal with activists or attackers who are intent on damaging their reputation for one reason or another. The internet and blogs in particular, with their built-in advantages for search engine optimization, has made reputation management more interesting and challenging than ever.

One of the premier experts in this area is Jonathan Bernstein and I have been fortunate to work with Jonathan very actively in the past year including on several “blogwar” situations. Jonathan has written an article on dealing with online attacks that was recently published in a national assoication magazine. This is probably the best you will read on the subject of internet-based reputation attacks and strategies for dealing with them.

A blog to feed on

Just want to draw my readers’ attention to a new crisis management blog: If you are one of thousands already subscribing to Jonathan Bernstein’s long running email newsletter “Crisis Manager” you will know that Jonathan is one of the most recognized names in the crisis management business. And he dispenses crisis management wisdom like few others in this game. OK, I’ll admit, I’m a big admirer of Jonathan and very pleased to be able to work with him on a number of assignments. Please check out his blog and subscribe.

(Of course I’m a little jealous he has 9 comments already on his first posting!)

Might as well join the Mel Gibson frenzy

Can’t believe all the coverage around the Mel Gibson debacle. Now that I heard what he said and heard some rumors about family issues relating to anti-semitic attitudes, it is clear that the hole he is in is very very deep.

It’s interesting to see that there are varying views in the PR/Crisis Management industry around this event. This article identifies some of those differences. Including comments by my associate Jonathan Bernstein.

My take: Gibson is in deep trouble. Bernstein is right that he needs to say the right things and do the right things. In terms of what he should have said and when, I believe he needed to come out strong as early as possible with the strongest possible apology, accept responsibility, not duck from what he said or did, ask for help, and explain what he is doing to address the situation. A lot of it he is doing, but some muck is just too thick.

Oh yeah, Mel needs a blog. A crisis blog.