Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership director Helio Fred Garcia and senior fellows Holly Helstrom and Adam Tiouririne taught a two-day master class on crisis communication best practices in partnership with Public Relations Society of America. This year’s master class took place in Seattle and drew nearly 50 participants from a diverse array of industries, including national forest and parks services, transportation authorities, academia, tourism, politics, and consumer goods.
The first day of the two-day master class began with Fred establishing the core principles of effective crisis communication and response, including the etymology of the word ‘crisis’ from the ancient Greek word ‘krisis’, connoting ‘choice’ and the importance of making wise choices based on the proper criteria. Key criteria Fred shared with the class included the Defining Question of crisis response, which guides all decision-making from the perspective of reasonable stakeholders, as well as the Golden Hour Principle, which illustrates how incremental delays in response time carry a greater-than-incremental impact on an organization’s ability to recover from a crisis.
The first day concluded with Holly guiding a discussion on the significant role social media plays in this day and age in crisis response efforts. She enumerated the defining elements of social media that can pose a significant threat to organizations and their reputations during times of crisis but can also be utilized by organizations to help with their crisis response efforts, even helping to enhance their reputations in some cases. A number of case studies were presented to bring these principles to life, including a case study on the #DeleteUber crisis illustrating stakeholders’ high expectations for a timely response in the social media age, and the #CrockpotIsInnocent case to demonstrate how a clever, timely, and personable response to crises (where actual loss and suffering are not present) can enhance corporate reputation.
The second day was devoted to the significance of language in effective crisis communication, led by Adam, who served as the political language analyst for Bloomberg during the 2016 presidential election cycle. He led the room through a fascinating lesson exploring the mechanisms of human understanding and how these mechanisms can be harnessed to move stakeholder audiences in the desired direction. He gave a compelling analysis of the 2016 presidential candidates’ word choices and what these word choices reveal about the speaker. His analysis found that simple, emotive, and personal words, as opposed to complex, neutral, and abstract words, are more persuasive and memorable. Students also learned about the significance of operational readiness in effective crisis response, specifically the importance of role and process clarity in response efforts and how to build an optimal crisis response team.
Logos Institute will partner with PRSA again beginning in the Fall to deliver a seven-week online master class on crisis communication, taking a deeper dive on some of the topics described above in addition to covering others like storytelling and how to get buy-in from lawyers.