Ask the Crisis Experts: Meet Jonathan Bernstein

Next up in the crisis expert series is a man with stellar experience. Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, a leading crisis management firm started in 1994. His depth of experience includes  investigative journalism, public relations, author, international speaker, and media expert. Author of two books, his latest was reviewed here, and I highly recommend it. Jonathan is frequently quoted in the media as a go-to authority when crisis strikes on a national level. He is a married father of five, and his son EriK (quoted in this piece) works with him as well. Between the two of them they maintain two industry-leading blogs. You can link to them from here.

Tell us a little about what you do?

I am, de facto, a firefighter.  Smart clients hire me as a “fire inspector” to help them prevent crisis fires, when possible, and mitigate the damage from unavoidable fires through effective planning and training.  Then, sometimes, I’m the firefighter, responding to an already raging situation that needs to be managed.

 What is the most challenging part of your job?

 On the crisis prevention side, the resistance many C-suite members still have to crisis preparedness; they still see it as an expense versus an investment.  That’s changing, but slowly. On the crisis response side, the immediacy of Internet-centered communications.

 What are your personal top three social media tools and how do you use them?

[Note – this answer comes from my Social Media Manager and son, Erik, who does most of the heavy lifting in this area for me these days]

 My number one tool and the first program I open in the morning is HootSuite. It places critical data and communications at my fingertips with its clean and intuitive dashboard and allows me to keep tabs on all of the major social media channels for both myself and multiple clients simultaneously. Second has to be FollowerWonk, an amazing analytical tool that I use most often to identify key influencers for both crisis management and marketing efforts. The latest tool I’ve added to my arsenal is Buffer, a very simple tool that allows me to queue up interesting or useful posts to go out across social media straight from my browser.

 Looking back at 2012, what were some of the most alarming trend you saw in how brands used social media in a crisis? Feel free to use a real life example.

 The most alarming trend was unquestionably the use of faked social media accounts purporting to be average consumers but, in fact, secretly staffed by brand representatives and/or their contractors.

 If you could give one piece of advice to brands on how to use social media well in a crisis, what would that be?

 Have someone on staff or on call who knows this subject VERY well!

Many thanks to Jonathan for taking the time to answer my questions. And thanks to Eric for the heads up on some great social media tools. Have you got someone on call or on staff that knows how to handle a crisis?


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