On Saturday, April 23, 2022, Helio Fred Garcia participated in a panel discussion on Science and Partisanship at the National Undergraduate Conference on Scientific Journalism. The conference was hosted by the National Undergraduate Consortium for Science Journalism, which is a consortium of 17 undergraduate journals across the nation, chiefly interested in STEM research at the undergraduate level.

This year’s conference brought together hundreds of student-scientists and multiple undergraduate research journals from across the nation to discuss research ethics and practice, the publication process, the role of student journals, and more.

In addition to Garcia, the panel discussion on Science and Partisanship featured Professor Mark Cane from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, The Earth Institute, and Columbia University, and Professor Daniel Cornfield from Vanderbilt University. The panel was moderated by Taylor Ginieczki, NUCSJ Director of Civic Engagement and student at the University of Oregon.

Watch the full video of that panel discussion here:

And What Businesses Can To to Create An Inclusive Culture


I have an uncommon, un-American-looking name.

Many people whom I’ve met in person multiple times in a professional setting have never remembered or addressed me by my name. People often mispronounce my name without trying to figure out the correct pronunciation, or just choose to not engage with me at all to avoid embarrassment or discomfort. I used an English name when I was in graduate school, as did most of my Asian classmates, to make people’s lives easier. After graduation, I chose to keep only my Chinese name, knowing that in this choice may affect my career opportunities in future.

If you are Asia, Asian American, or Pacific Islander, you may recognize this struggle; the system is not designed for us to have both cultural identities and opportunities at the same time.

Because of the model minority myth, the false perception of universal acceptance and success of Asians and Asian Americans who bear few traumatic racial struggles, we are extra pressured to prove our worthiness. We’re constantly in the mindset that respect to us is earned not given. We are told if we want to earn respect and a place in American society, we need to keep our head down, be quiet, and work hard. We think if we can blend into the mass, one day we will belong. This myth feeds the need to over-assimilate into the mainstream culture, to sacrifice our cultural identity in exchange for acceptance and thereby success in American society.

When it comes to the workplace, this over-assimilation is a lot more specific, amplifying the onus on us to adapt, from accent to the way you speak up at a meeting to the pop culture or football reference you’re expected to make a comment on over water-cooler conversations.

The rise in anti-Asian sentiment coupled with Asian Heritage month has deflected attention from another troubling issue: Anti-Asian sentiment in the workplace.


The Asian Woman Experience


The challenges facing Asian and Asian American people in general become extra challenging when dealing with the intersectionality of being an Asian woman.

Asian women have been historically sexualized and exotified in the western culture. People, particularly men, expect Asian women to be docile, sexy, and nice. Anything other than that becomes a threat. This stereotype makes it extremely hard for Asian women to build professional relationships in the workplace – workplaces that most of the time are dominated by white men. It is dehumanizing and degrading when you realize the man across the table has no interest at all at your intellect or your industry insights; that they see you only as a young Asian woman, which is more or less an object.

The onus is again on us, Asian women, to dress more conservatively and to carry ourselves with more assertiveness and an extra level of professionalism in order to be taken seriously.

Asian women blog post-Yinnan

Image Source: NBC News; Getty Images

What Businesses Can Do to Create A More Inclusive Workplace


Culture change will be the key. And the culture change needs to come from the top. As we see more and more diversity initiatives taking place across the country, we must not forget about inclusion, which is a connected but separate process. Diversity is focused on representation; inclusion is focused on the actual experience of your employees and the way people’s identities and opinions are valued in the workplace. Diversity will die in a workplace without inclusion, because your “diverse hires” will feel miserable and leave, wasting your effort and resources in the long run.

Business leaders have a responsibility to model to create an inclusive work environment, where resources are equally distributed, and where all people are treated with respect and valued as who they are. If you don’t intentionally include, you will unintentionally exclude. Once an inclusive culture is in place, everything else follows, such as productivity, morale, creativity, collaboration, and so on.

There is also an additional need for inclusivity right now. As ideologies in the United States have become deeply polarized and many ethnic cultures have been politicized and weaponized, it takes so much energy for people outside the dominant culture to check their identity at the door when they come into work. An inclusive workplace opens a door for necessary learning and honest conversations. It makes people in marginalized groups feel like they can be heard and that they can bring their whole self to work.

Given the rising anti-Asian sentiment, organizations and leaders need to show care to their Asian American employees, building understanding and advocating for solidarity during and beyond AAPI Heritage Month. Reach out to the Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders on your team to offer genuine support. There are many ways to do this, such as hosting a town hall meeting or facilitated conversations that invite Asian and Asian America employees to share their experiences and stories.

Avoid is silence or window-dressing. Silence can be perceived as indifference, which is the single biggest predictor of loss of trust. Window-dressing describes performative advocacy that does not set aside proper resources to deliver on promises made. Window-dressing may feel good in the moment, but further alienates marginalized groups and cultivates a toxic culture in the long run. Every statement or newsletter you push out makes implicit promises to those who matter to you. If you feel pressured to make a statement on a social issue without being prepared to walk the talk, I’d suggest you not make the statement.

Asian experience post-Yinnan

What else can business leaders do to support their Asian American friends and colleagues who are facing discrimination in the workplace or on the street?

Stand in solidarity – with the Asian community, with the black community, with the Latino community, with the indigenous community, with the LGBTQIA community…

The systems of oppression and hate that we face thrive off our division. White supremacy relies on each of our communities that have been oppressed to fight alone and to fight against one another. But when all those who face oppression and our allies stand together, when we fight for one another instead of against each other, when we lift up each other’s struggles rather than tear down and compare our struggles, when we recognize that, as Emma Lazarus said, “until we are all free none of us is free,” we have a chance to make the dream of a better, freer, more just country a reality.

“You f*&#ing stupid Asian!”

On a sunny afternoon in 2017, a man hurled this insult at me as I was crossing Sixth Avenue in midtown Manhattan, minding my own business. I didn’t take it seriously at the time. It was my second year living in the U.S., and I thought I just had an unlucky day.

However, the longer I have lived in the US, the more I realize that what I encountered that day was just the tip of a devastating iceberg.

I didn’t have an unlucky day. The six Asian women killed in Atlanta nearly two weeks ago weren’t unlucky. Nor was the 84-year-old Korean man killed in San Francisco. Nor the Chinese man stabbed walking home near Manhattan’s Chinatown.

This hatred is real, and it has been real the whole time.

The Forgotten History

The escalation of Anti-Asian hate crimes is neither new, nor the result of isolated incidents. It is a natural consequence of America’s history of neglect for and xenophobia against Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders.

This vague, and almost innate fear of Asians and Asian Americans can be traced back to the “Yellow Peril” period in the late nineteenth century. Across majority white, Western countries, this “Yellow Peril’ imagery was designed to stoke fear of a faceless, nameless existential threat posed by Asian people immigrating to the West. This racist concept centered around the core imagery depicting Asians as, “apes, lesser men, primitives, children, madmen, and beings who possessed special powers.”

A soap advertisement from the 1880s, sub-titled ‘The Chinese Must Go’


Since then, Asians and Asian Americans have suffered from lynching, hate crimes, and lawful incarceration and discrimination in the US for more than 100 years. To name a few examples: the 1871 Chinese Massacre, wherein 10% of L.A.’s Chinese American population was killed; the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, which prohibited all Chinese immigration to the US; the 1924 Immigration Act, which was a race-based immigration ban against Asians; and Japanese internment between 1942-1946, wherein 120,000 people of Japanese descent were incarcerated in concentration camps.

But Asian Americans’ suffering and contributions to this country have been erased from history, often missing or glossed over in textbooks. This systemic racism and erasure have set the tone for Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders in the United States for generations. No matter how hard we try to fit in or how successful we become, our sense of otherness persists. We don’t belong; we are always the aliens.

There is another insidious effect to this history – the “model minority” myth. The model minority myth, the perception of universal acceptance and success of Asians and Asian Americans, pits us against other people of color who also suffer from systemic racism. The model minority myth also puts the onus on Asian Americans to prove that they are worthy of respect and of being American. Combined, the effects of this myth strengthen and sustain systems of white supremacy.


How Chinese American Women Changed U.S. Labor History (Click the image to see the article)


“Can’t We All Just Get Along?”

The anguish and sadness I have been feeling in response to anti-Asian hate is personal. I am Asian, Chinese more specifically.

But it’s more than that. I’m devastated because I dream of a world where all people live in dignity, where all people are treated with respect as human beings, and not selectively because they’re “diligent Asian people” or “the good kind of people of color.”

I remember watching The Pursuit of Happyness when I was in high school, and tearing up with a smile when Will Smith said, “If you want something, go get it, period.” That feeling still lingers with me. It was the feeling of hope, of freedom, and of acceptance. It was a feeling associated with a beautiful name – America. That is why I, and many others, came to this country in the first place.

This current state has demonstrated how far we are from that dream. I can’t remember exactly when – as an Asian, immigrant woman – I began to feel fear walking down the street. But since the pandemic started, I have felt more and more reluctant to introduce myself as Chinese. Amidst the rise of anti-Asian and anti-Chinese hate during COVID-19, I worried about how possible bias could cost me professionally. Would I be judged differently than my colleagues by partners, clients, and students? Would such a bias jeopardize professional opportunities and relationships?

Hate is plaguing today’s America. People are dying, being attacked, spit on, and insulted. And we remain divided. Nineteen years later, Rodney King’s words cross my mind quite often: “Can’t we all just get along?”



The answer to this rise in hate and violence may be deceptively simple: We must stand in solidarity with one another – with the Asian community, with the black community, with the Latino community, with the indigenous community, with the LGBTQIA community…

The systems of oppression and hate that we face thrive off our division. White supremacy relies on each of our communities that have been oppressed to fight alone and to fight against one another. But when all those who face oppression and our allies stand together, when we fight for one another instead of against each other, when we lift up each other’s struggles rather than tear down and compare our struggles, when we recognize that, as Emma Lazarus said, “until we are all free none of us is free,” we have a chance to make the dream of a better, freer, more just country a reality.

But solidarity cannot be reached without leadership. In darkness, people look to leadership to bring us together and to point us in the direction of light.

For those who lead our government, a cause, or an organization, there is much you can do to stand in solidarity with the Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander community right now. Reach out to the Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islanders on your team, in your network, and in your stakeholder groups to offer support and to demonstrate your care. Remember that trust is built by meeting expectations and fulfilling promises. The common expectation among all people and all groups is that you care. The perception of indifference is the single biggest predictor of a loss of trust and confidence. If people who matter to you expect you to course correct, course correct. If they expect you to speak out on social justice issues, speak out. Show you care. Your demonstration of care doesn’t have to be public, but it does have to be genuine – especially toward and for those people most affected.

However, leadership is a mindset, not a job title. Each of us can be a leader in this work, no matter the size of our platform. Each of us can do our part to stand in solidarity with those who are oppressed, within our circles or beyond. Each of us can build bridges and foster greater understanding, within ourselves and our communities. Each of us can create space for us to share our stories. When we tell our stories, we can build lasting connections that inspire change. No one is born to hate after all. If we can learn hate, we can also learn love.

If you hope for a better future, as I do, then we must stand together and stand up against hate, bigotry, and racism in all its forms.

The Dilemma

If you are a communication professional, then you have probably experienced that moment of frustration when you’ve given vitally important advice to your boss, but it landed on deaf ears or they didn’t seem to be interested at all in what you had to say. You may also know that feeling when the event or consequence you warned the boss about actually happens, and then you have to scramble and try to fix something that was completely preventable.

This frustration is common in the communication field and explainable. In some instances, the boss simply doesn’t know what you do. In others, they may think that they know what you do but they couldn’t be more wrong. This misalignment often leads to you being marginalized in your role and doing work that does not capitalize on your professional capabilities. For some communication professionals that can mean becoming a glorified speech writer or copy editor; for others it means planning company events or posting what others write on the company website. But for all – the frustration is real.

The Good News

The good news is that this is preventable (assuming you have a reasonable boss who wants to do well). Part of the challenge for communication professionals is that we often become our own worst enemy. As professional communicators we tend to focus on the communication itself and in the process fail to speak to the direct concerns of our boss.

To win a seat at the table and get your boss to listen to you, communication professionals should keep in mind the following mantra:

It isn’t about the communication. It is about the effect of the communication.

One of the sad realities is that as communicators, we know that communication is a rigorous, strategic discipline. But the word ‘communication’ itself is confusing. Because if you think of communication as reading, writing, and speaking – well, we’ve all been doing that our whole lives, so we must be very good at it and your boss probably feels the same way.

“The true value of a professional communicator is not that we can string words and sentences together and get them out into the right hands,” explains Helio Fred Garcia, the president of Logos Consulting Group.“The value of the communicator is that we can influence those who matter to our bosses to feel, think, know, or do something they otherwise would not.”

Predictive Ability

One way communication professionals can think about what they do is to understand their role as “applied anthropologists.”

This idea was first espoused by the father of public relations, Edward L. Bernays. Bernays explained in Crystallizing Public Opinion, “Public relations is a vocation applied by a social scientist who advises a client or employer on social attitudes and the actions to take to win support of the public upon whom the viability of the client depends.” In other words, the professional communicator shapes the opinions of those they try to influence.

Nearly a century after this book was published, the idea of the communication professionals’ function as an applied social scientist still holds true. With this concept in mind, the communicator understands the social and power relationships within groups and among groups. And the applied part of anthropologists is that the communication professional knows how to then engage any given group to secure a predictable outcome.

“As professional communicators our job is to predict the future – to know the reaction and counter reaction to everything we do,” said Garcia. “If we subject this group to stimulus A for example, then we can predict how they will react, and to stimulus B…to stimulus C…and so on.”

This predictive ability is the value that communication professionals can bring to the table. Therefore, if you want the boss to listen to you, you need to demonstrate this predictive ability when you give advice to your boss.

It is not enough to say, “We need to release this statement.” The key is to focus on the outcome you seek, and then lay out the steps required to move those who matter to your boss to think, feel, know, and do what is necessary to reach that desired outcome. The strategic discipline to keep in mind, however, is that we must never make communication decisions on personal preference, but rather on the desired reaction and outcome.

The more you as a communication professional can show that you can predict the future and provoke the desired action to reach a desired outcome, the more respected your function will be and the more likely your boss will invite you to take a coveted seat at the table.

-30- Read more

This week, the Logos Consulting Group launched our new online learning platform, the Logos Learning Center. The Logos Learning Center is designed to help everyone bolster their leadership skills so that they can ignite and inspire those who matter to them to create positive change in the world.

Below, we answer some basic questions about the Logos Learning Center to help you understand more about this online learning platform, why we created it, and how it can help you on your leadership journey.



An initiative of Logos Consulting Group, the Logos Learning Center provides online interactive workshops on a variety of leadership skill sets to help people advance at any stage of their leadership journey. The Center is just one way that Logos is working to fulfill its core mission: to equip people to become leaders who ignite and inspire change in the world for the good. The Center offers high-quality and highly interactive workshops on a variety of leadership skill sets to help our learners reach their leadership potential.



The COVID-19 pandemic turned our world upside down. In many ways, this global crisis highlighted the challenges leaders face and the skills required to lead effectively. We recognized an opportunity to help leaders and aspiring leaders from every walk of life to meet the challenges of the day in a 100% virtual form. And we developed and delivered workshops to organizations, groups, clients, and our network to help them better understand the dynamics of the crisis and manage and communicate effectively.



We know that leadership is a mindset, not a job title. Anyone who is willing to put in the work can become a leader who ignites and inspires others to action. Whether you are a seasoned executive, an emerging leader looking to supercharge the rest of your career, or just starting out and finding your professional path, the Logos Learning Center can help you develop the mindset and skills you need to create the change you seek. The Logos Learning Center is also 100% virtual, ensuring that learning can happen right at home, from your office, or anywhere across the globe.



At Logos, we help our clients inspire those who matter to them to make a difference in their own industries and communities, and the world at large. Our work with clients is highly customized and tailored to meet our clients’ specific needs, with relationships spanning long periods of time. However, the Learning Center provides new opportunities to share our knowledge, lived experience, industry insights, and best practices to people at any stage of their leadership journey and at an accessible price.



The Logos Learning Center combines decades of experience and expertise from our instructors and in-depth research on many areas of leadership to deliver a high-quality and high value learning experience at an affordable price. Our online workshops focus on essential leadership skills help our learners navigate and respond to the leadership challenges of the day. We provide workshops, videos, and learning materials on skill sets essential to effective leadership, including a variety of offerings on leadership communication and crisis management. We also offer timely courses relevant to what’s happening in the world right now to help you navigate emerging situations and challenges facing you and your organization today. For our list of upcoming workshops, please click here.



Interaction is an essential part of the learning process and our workshops are built to include high-level engagement for our learners. Our team of instructors come from a diversity of professional backgrounds, which enriches our offerings, allows our learners to connect more fully with us, and inspires new ways of thinking about how to tackle everyday leadership challenges.

All of our Logos team members are experienced teachers in a variety of leadership disciplines. Several of our team members are adjunct faculty members and visiting professors in undergraduate and graduate programs across the country and around the world. We also invite industry experts and leaders from other disciplines to teach or guest lecture in specialized workshops on a variety of other leaderships skills. Our learners are also encouraged to continue engaging with us after a workshop ends, and as they take the skills learned in our workshops and apply them in their professional life.



Our online workshops are designed with the working professional and learner in mind. The majority of our workshops are offered on a variety of days and times, allowing convenient access for our students to find the right time to take a class in the midst of their busy schedules. Learn more our upcoming workshops and sign up here.


Wherever you are on your leadership journey, we are here to help you bolster your leadership skills to create the change you seek. We hope you will join us!

PS: If you have questions about the Logos Learning Center, please email us at [email protected].

NEW YORK (January 11, 2021) – Today, Logos Consulting Group announced the launch of a new online learning platform, the Logos Learning Center. The Learning Center is designed to help everyone bolster their leadership skills so that they can ignite and inspire those who matter to them to create positive change in the world.

Logos Consulting Group’s mission is to equip people to become leaders who ignite and inspire change in the world for the good.

“The COVID-19 pandemic turned many of our worlds upside down. In many ways, this global crisis highlighted the challenges leaders face and the skills required to lead effectively,” said Helio Fred Garcia, president of Logos Consulting Group. “We recognized an opportunity to help leaders and aspiring leaders from every walk of life to meet the challenges of the day and reach their leadership potential.”

The Logos Learning Center offers high-quality and highly interactive workshops on both essential leadership skills, such as leadership communication and crisis response, as well as on how to navigate and respond to emerging and timely leadership challenges happening in the moment.

“We know that leadership is a mindset, not a job title. Anyone who is willing to put in the work can become a leader who ignites and inspires others to action,” explained Garcia. “While our work with our clients is highly customized and tailored, with relationships spanning long periods of time, the Learning Center provides new opportunities to share our knowledge, lived experience, industry insights, and best practices to people at any stage of their leadership journey and at an accessible price.”

The Learning Center’s online workshops are designed with the working professional and learner in mind, ensuring that learning can happen at home, from an office, and anywhere across the globe. Additionally, learners are encouraged to continue engaging with their instructors after a workshop ends and as they take the skills learned in the workshops and apply them in their professional life.

“Wherever you are on your leadership journey, we are here to help you bolster your leadership skills to create the change you seek,” said Garcia. “We hope you will join us.”

To learn more, visit https://www.logos-consulting.biz/

To review and sign up for our upcoming classes, visit https://www.logos-consulting.biz/new-webinars/webinar/

On November 9, 2020, Logos President Helio Fred Garcia spoke with on his podcast, Ethical Voices, about when and where to draw the ethical line. The podcast was released on the second anniversary of Ethical Voices.

During their conversation, Garcia discussed how structures and clear protocols make courage less necessary in ethical dilemmas, what can we learn from Bernays’ definition of public relations, and three key elements in determining the “right” thing to do.

Garcia noted, “From a communication ethics point of view, what I teach my students is to ask, “What is the outcome we seek?” Not the process, but the outcome. Then ask what are the options available to you that could get you closer or farther from that outcome? And then which choice is the less bad choice? Because when you face a moral dilemma or an ethical dilemma, you’re going to make a choice that still violates some principle. What is the less bad choice that gets you closer or at least, least far from that desired outcome? You need the discipline to make the choices based on the outcome and not based on the short-term strains that put you in that situation… The more we can make decisions based on desired outcomes and using agreed upon standards as the way to calibrate whether we’re likely to get to that desired outcome, we’re more likely to live to fight another day.”

Listen to the full conversation here:

Read the full transcript here.

Many crises are not foreseeable, but civil unrest after the election is and leaders and organization should prepare for this.

On Monday, October 19, Logos president Helio Fred Garcia presented a pre-conference briefing on how to foresee the foreseeable and be ready for it when it happens around the US election at the Professional Speechwriters Association’s World Conference.

During this session, Garcia helped attendees understand a mindset to help leaders think through what to do and say ahead of election day, how to organize their thinking (and schedule) for various Election-Day scenarios, and how to prepare for and respond to five possible scenarios for what might happen immediately after the election.

Watch the full webinar here:

By: Helio Fred Garcia @garciahf and Maida K. Zheng @maidazheng
Logos Consulting Group

“I call the head of Exxon. I don’t know, you know, ‘How are you doing? How’s energy coming? When are you doing the exploration? Oh, you need a couple of permits?'” Trump told supporters at a rally in Arizona on Monday. “I say, ‘You know, I’d love [for] you to send me $25 million for the campaign.’ ‘Absolutely sir, why didn’t you ask? Would you like some more?’”

This quote, as reported by the Washington Post is important for several reasons.

What President Trump suggested was not only a possible violation of federal law, (we can save that for another time) – he, in one statement, put Exxon Mobile in a reputational crisis while at the same time signaling big organizations that he would be happy to accept large campaign donations and that he would “wink, wink, wink” take care of them later. Trump’s tendency to imply a connection is a pattern that Helio Fred Garcia describes more fully in his book: Words on Fire: The Power of Incendiary Language and How to Confront It.

From a crisis management perspective, the first rule is to fully understand the risk, and to mitigate that risk quickly. In this case, the risk is that someone might interpret the comment as referring to an actual call with the Exxon CEO, who would then seem compromised.

The crisis communication strategy is to take control of the narrative and obtain the first mover advantage. If you don’t have the first mover advantage, you must respond and take control of the narrative within the “Golden Hour of Crisis Response,” a metaphor from emergency medicine. The Golden Hour refers not to a particular period of time, but to the observation that incremental delays in responding to a crisis – whether a medical emergency, a flood, or a more routine corporate setback – has greater than incremental impact on the outcome.

However, if an organization is first to define the nature of the crisis, its motives, and its actions, as Exxon Mobil did here, the result is that the organization will likely demonstrate caring and end up controlling the narrative. By capturing the first mover advantage, Exxon also deprived their adversaries of the chance to form a harmful narrative against the organization.

Upon hearing the statement from President Trump, Exxon Mobil immediately responded, posting on Twitter that, “We are aware of the President’s statement regarding a hypothetical call with our CEO…and just so we’re all clear, it never happened.”

This was an important and timely move on Exxon’s part. They named it a hypothetical call, thereby defining the nature of the crisis. And they made clear that the call never happened. If they hadn’t acted as quickly and clearly, they would have lost control of the narrative, leading to negative consequences.

Effective Crisis Response as a Competitive Advantage

Effective crisis response is a competitive advantage; ineffective crisis response causes a competitive disadvantage and can even put an enterprise’s existence into jeopardy.

Whether an organization survives a crisis with its reputation, operations, and financial condition intact is determined less by the severity of the crisis than by the timeliness and effectiveness of the response.

Two Oxford University researchers demonstrated the extent to which effective and ineffective crisis response affects a company’s enterprise value.[1] Rory F. Knight and Deborah J. Pretty studied the stock price performance of prominent publicly-traded corporations that had suffered significant crises. They calculated each company’s stock price performance attributable to the crisis – stripping out market movements and other factors unrelated to the crisis that might have affected the stock price, and thus calculated what they called the ‘‘cumulative abnormal returns’’ for each company.

Knight and Pretty found that companies that mishandled crises saw their stock price (calculated as cumulative abnormal returns) plummet an average of ten percent in the first weeks after a crisis, and continue to slide for a year, ending the year after the crisis an average of 15 percent below their pre-crisis prices.

Companies with effective crisis response, on the other hand, saw their stock fall an average (cumulative abnormal returns) of just 5 percent in the weeks following a crisis, about half the initial decline of companies that mishandled the crisis. More significant, companies with effective crisis response saw their stock price recover quickly, and remain above their pre-crisis price thereafter, closing an average of 7 percent above their pre-crisis price one year after the crisis (Exhibit 1).

In other words, the tangible difference between effective and ineffective crisis response was, on average, 22 percent of a company’s market capitalization. Knight and Pretty assess the reasons for this disparity and conclude that the most significant factors are not the scope of financial damage or reduction in cash flows caused by the crisis. Rather, the most important determinant of a company’s ability to recover and increase its market capitalization after a crisis is the management team’s response. Knight and Pretty conclude that positive stock performance:

“. . . springs from what catastrophes reveal about management skills not hitherto reflected in value. A re-evaluation of management by the stock market is likely to result in a re-assessment of the firm’s future cash flows in terms of both magnitude and confidence. This in turn will have potentially large implications for shareholder value. Management is placed in the spotlight and has an opportunity to demonstrate its skill or otherwise in an extreme situation.” [2]

Exhibit 1: Effective vs Ineffective Crisis response

Source: Knight and Pretty (1997)


Lessons of the Past

Looking to a relevant historical example, Exxon suffered immense reputational and organizational damage following its ineffective crisis response during the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Exxon suffered significant loss of reputation and eventually a great deal of financial loss – because the public perceived that its primary concern was not the harm that the spill caused.

Fifteen years after the spill a federal appeals court upheld a lower court judgment of $4.5 billion against the company (in addition to the more than $3 billion it had previously paid for cleanup and related costs). The Court said its purpose in upholding the award was to achieve ‘‘retribution and justice.’’ The New York Timesopined that such a judgment and such a purpose were entirely appropriate given Exxon’s seeming indifference in the initial phase of the spill.[3]

This perception of indifference is the single largest contributor harm in the aftermath of a crisis, especially when there are victims.

Companies, governments, and leaders are forgiven when bad things happen. But they won’t be forgiven if they’re seen not to care that bad things have happened. This is a lesson that many leaders fail to understand or to act on in the initial early phases of a crisis.

Exxon’s early response to the Exxon Valdez spill demonstrated lack of both situational awareness and self-awareness. They also demonstrated a lack of leadership discipline and command focus. In both cases leaders fell into one of the common missteps in a crisis: denial. Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch describes the need to get past denial quickly. In a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed piece soon after the flood, Welch said:

“One of the marks of good leadership is the ability to dispense with denial quickly and face into the hard stuff with eyes open and fists raised. With particularly bad crises facing them, good leaders also define reality, set direction, and inspire people to move forward. Just think of… Churchill during World War II. Denial doesn’t exactly come to mind – a forthright, calm, fierce boldness does.”

Effective leaders demonstrate this forthright, calm, and fierce boldness early. They see crisis response not as an interruption in their stewardship of a company, but as the test of that stewardship. And as the exodus of CEOs in 2004 and 2005 showed, ignoring a crisis won’t make it go away, but it may result in the CEO going away.

It seems that Exxon has learned this valuable lesson because on Monday, Exxon’s stocks were XOM, -1.99%, and after providing the clarification, their stock rose to 0.69%. The numbers don’t lie, and reputation management is indicative of the numbers being reflected in the stock market.

Guidance for Leadership

Exxon clearly learned from its crisis response failures around the Exxon Valdez spilled. Exxon — now known as Exxon Mobil, was ready when Trump put the company and its CEO in the media and social media cross-hairs.

So, what can CEO’s do when faced with a crisis? Here is a CEO checklist for crisis response preparedness:

  1. Have a clear sense of what constitutes a crisis, and know how to mobilize energy and resources quickly:
  • Develop an early warning mechanism/rapid response capability.
  • Designate a senior executive as responsible for crisis preparedness and response.
  • Make this executive accountable and provide sufficient resources to conduct a thorough analysis of vulnerabilities, crisis response strategies, and crisis implementation.
  • Pre-authorize this executive to take initial response steps without going through usual corporate approval processes.
  • Test the system with wargames, tabletop exercises, and other processes that challenge leaders to make tough decisions and act quickly.
  1. Remember that the best plan won’t help if executives don’t know what to do or when do it. Recognize when business as usual needs to be suspended. A quick test:
  • Will those who matter to us expect us to do or say something now?
  • Will silence be seen by our stakeholders as indifference or as an affirmation of guilt?
  • Are others talking about us now, thereby shaping the perception of us among those who matter to us; is there reason to believe they will be soon?
  • If we wait do we lose the ability to determine the outcome?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then it is time to respond. If the answer to all four is no, then you have time to monitor the situation and prepare a response in case any of those answers change to a ‘yes.’

  1. Control the agenda: don’t let the media, adversaries, or the rumor mill define your situation.
  2. Keep in mind the Golden Hour of crisis response: incremental delays cause greater-than-incremental harm to reputation.
  3. Remember your stakeholders. What would reasonable people appropriately expect a responsible organization to do when faced with this? The answer to this question should guide your response.
  4. Develop messages and tactics with a goal in mind: How do you want your key stakeholders to think and feel, and what do you want them to know and do?
  5. In a crisis, assure both self-awareness and situational awareness:
  • Coordinate all functions of the crisis response with frequent meetings/conference calls.
  • Correct mistakes early.
  • Understand what your stakeholders, adversaries, the media, and others are saying about you.
  • Keep your focus on the goal: influencing stakeholders. Decisions become clear when you keep your stakeholders in mind.

[1] The Impact of Catastrophes on Shareholder Value: A Research Report Sponsored by Sedgwick Group, by Rory F. Knight and Deborah J. Pretty, The Oxford Executive Research Briefings, Templeton College, Oxford, 1997.

[2] Knight, R.F. and Pretty, D.J., ibid., p. 7.

[3]‘‘Time for Exxon to pay,’’ Editorial, The New York Times, January 30, 2004, p. A24.