Tag Archive for: Communication

Logos Consulting Group is pleased to announce that Logos President Helio Fred Garcia, a member of the Columbia University Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences faculty, has been promoted from Adjunct Associate Professor to Adjunct (full) Professor of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research.

Garcia is in his sixth year teaching in the school’s Professional Development and Leadership program. He teaches the required course on Ethics and Integrity for Engineers to all incoming M.S. and PhD students. He also participates in the required first-year undergraduate Art of Engineering course to  provide an introduction to ethical decision-making for undergraduate engineering students.

In the M.S. and PhD programs, Garcia teaches a number of electives, including Crisis Management for Engineers, Crisis Prevention for Engineers, Advanced Ethical Decision-Making, and Advanced Leadership Communication for Engineers. He also teaches once-per-semester workshops on Lessons for Leaders from the COVID-19 Pandemic. Garcia also mentors PhD students.

Additionally, Garcia partners with his fellow Adjunct Professor (and brother) Chuck Garcia to team-teach an online course on Leadership, Followership, and Teamwork. The two brothers also co-lead the school’s PDL Fellows program, where a select number of M.S. students participate in a multi-dimensional enhanced leadership opportunity.

Columbia Engineering’s Professional Development and Leadership (PDL) program was launched in the school’s Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research, and has since expanded school-wide for all degree programs. The program’s goal is to enhance the Columbia Engineering education by providing enrichment and development opportunities. The program assists students with in a number of ways, including:

  1. Obtaining skills to find and keep a role
  2. Learning how to grow and cultivate a career
  3. Recognizing effective leadership
  4. Learning to become an effective team player and follower
  5. Cultivating ethical behavior and values

… and striving to have fun while doing these things!

Garcia did his graduate studies at Columbia University in the late 1970s and early 1980s, where he studied ancient Greek philosophy, ethics, and political philosophy. His studies included advanced ethics.

In addition to his faculty position at Columbia University, Garcia has been on the New York University faculty since 1988, where, among other things, he has designed and taught courses on business and communication ethics. He is the author of five books on leadership, trust, and related topics.

The following is an excerpt of a guest column by Helio Fred Garcia published on August 10, 2022 by New York University School of Professional Studies’ biweekly LinkedIn newsletter, The Pitch.

Misinformation kills. Both people and democracy.

In May, the head of the Food and Drug Administration warned that misinformation has become the leading cause of death in the United States.

In 2020 misinformation about COVID-19 led to the worst handled pandemic response in the developed world and caused hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths. Starting in mid-2021 misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine and vaccinations continued the wave of preventable fatalities.

As of mid-summer 2022, more than one million Americans – one in every 324 – has died of COVID-19.

The risks of misinformation go well beyond public health. The January 6 Committee hearings show how misinformation inspired thousands of people to attack the Capitol on the day that the 2020 presidential election was to be certified. Some of those domestic terrorists sought out and threatened to assassinate Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and other members of Congress.

But misinformation doesn’t just put human life at risk. Misinformation risks killing democracy itself.

Political misinformation continues as hundreds of candidates for state office persist in trafficking in the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen, and promise to take control of the voting bureaucracy in many states. Misinformation also erodes civic trust and the public’s confidence in civic institutions, which are essential for democracy to work.

COVID-19 Misinformation

Cornell University’s Alliance for Science conducted the first comprehensive study of COVID-19 misinformation. It reviewed more than one million articles with COVID-19 misinformation published in the first six months of the pandemic. It found that President Donald Trump was directly quoted in 37 percent of all instances of misinformation. But when the researchers included Trump misinformation that was retold by others, they concluded that he was responsible for fully 50 percent of all misinformation statements about COVID.

The study concluded that Trump was “likely the largest driver of the COVID-19 misinformation ‘infodemic.’”

It further noted that:

“These findings are of significant concern because if people are misled by unscientific and unsubstantiated claims about the disease, they may attempt harmful cures or be less likely to observe official guidance and thus risk spreading the virus.”

We saw just this phenomenon play out in the summer of 2020.

In the final two months of Trump’s presidency, vaccines were approved and distributed to the individual states. But there was no plan on how to get the vaccines into people’s arms. Even worse, there was no public education campaign to help citizens understand the vaccine’s safety and efficacy, or to promote the civic duty to get vaccinated in order to stop the spread.

U.S. Army four-star general Gus Perna, who managed Operation Warp Speed (OWS), which developed and delivered vaccines in record time, notes that this failure gave an opening for misinformation to flourish:

“Where was the long-term strategy for getting people ready to start taking the vaccine? … That was not part of the OWS portfolio. It’s a personal choice to get the vaccine or not. But where was the presentation to inform everybody, so that they could make the best decision? Where was the responsibility to not let this get politicized? … It just didn’t exist.”

And in that information vacuum, vaccine skeptics, and later political actors opposed to President Joe Biden, spread vaccine misinformation that continues to the present day. More than a third of Americans are not fully vaccinated. A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis in April concluded that nearly a quarter million COVID-19 deaths between June 2021 and March 2022 could have been prevented with vaccinations:

“These vaccine-preventable deaths represent 60% of all adult COVID-19 deaths since June 2021, and a quarter (24%) of the nearly 1 million COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began… Unvaccinated people now represent a small share of the population, but a majority of COVID-19 deaths.”

The Fraud About Election Fraud

The January 6 Committee hearings have definitively demonstrated that the Big Lie claiming that the 2020 election was stolen was not only false but known by President Trump and his inner circle to be false.

Then-Attorney General Bill Barr, who for 22 months had been sycophant-in-chief for Trump, eventually told truth to power. After the 2020 election Barr told Trump that the Department of Justice had investigated all the claims of voter fraud and concluded that there was none.

Barr testified to the committee:

“I made it clear I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff, which I told the president was bullshit.”

After the January 6 attack failed to prevent the certification of electors, Trump was still repeating the lie that he had actually won the election. In out-takes of a video the day after the attack, presented by the January 6 Committee, Trump told his staff, “I don’t want to say the election is over.”

In early July 2022, more than 20 months after the 2020 election, Trump called the Wisconsin House Speaker and urged him to overturn Wisconsin’s 2022 election results. In its coverage of that phone call, NBC News noted that Trump “has repeatedly claimed without evidence” that there was widespread voter fraud.

In mid-July 2022, more than 18 months after the January 6 attack, Trump told a rally in Arizona, “I ran twice. I won twice and did much better the second time than I did the first, getting millions more votes in 2020 than we got in 2016.” While the second half of the sentence is true – he did get more popular votes in 2020 than in 2016 – the first part of the sentence, for which the second is support, is false. He did not win the presidency twice. In 2020 Joe Biden received more popular and electoral votes than Trump did. But much of the news media ran his quote without noting that it was false.

Communicators’ Professional Obligation to Combat Misinformation

Tim Snyder, Yale history professor and author of On Tyrannywrote in the New York Times after the January 6 attack,

“Post-truth is pre-fascism… Without agreement about some basic facts, citizens cannot form the civil society that would allow them to defend themselves. If we lose the institutions that produce facts that are pertinent to us, then we tend to wallow in attractive abstractions and fictions. Truth defends itself particularly poorly when there is not very much of it around.”

Silence, in the face of misinformation, is complicity. Whether among civic leaders or communication professionals – in journalism, public relations, marketing, and public affairs.

The slogan on the Washington Post masthead is “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” It refers to the news media’s obligation to truth, especially when misinformation is putting democracy at risk.

Public relations professionals share a similar duty. The Public Relations Society of America’s Code of Ethics makes clear how those of us whose profession is influencing public opinion have a particular duty. The Code’s first principle is:

“Protecting and advancing the free flow of accurate and truthful information is essential to serving the public interest and contributing to informed decision making in a democratic society.”

Under the Code, the first three obligations of a public relations professional are:

“Preserve the integrity of the process of communication. Be honest and accurate in all communications. Act promptly to correct erroneous communications for which the practitioner is responsible.”

So what can professional communicators do?

We can recognize that misinformation is a significant problem and that communication professionals have a particular standing to take the problem seriously. And once we take the problem seriously, we can deploy our gifts to tackle the problem head on:

  • First, don’t be a misinformation mercenary. Don’t create or disseminate misinformation, on your own or for a client. Just say No when invited to help others lie.
  • Second, call out the misinformation when you see it. Diminish the likelihood that it will take hold and become the new normal. Our obligation as professional communicators extends well beyond not lying. It includes preserving the integrity of the communication process. Communication professionals are far more likely to recognize intentionally misleading information early than the public at large is. As important, we have the capacity and tools to call attention to it.
  • Third, rally other communicators – journalists, PR people, marketers, public affairs leaders – to do the same.

Just one example: In late July public relations wise man and executive editor of Business in Society John Paluszek wrote a LinkedIn column in which he called misinformation a “pandemic of the mind.” He provided tools and links to help communicators and others become well informed about misinformation and its antidotes.

Paluszek called on journalists and PR pros to work to confront the pandemic. At the strategic level, he says, it requires prioritizing the issue; committing for the long term; and persisting. And at the tactical level, Paluszek advises, “communicate, communicate, communicate.”

I am doing that now, in this column; and you can as well. Engage your network, as we professional communicators know how to do, and turn our individual efforts into a movement.

One way to think about American democracy and misinformation is the proverbial frog in a pot of water on a stove. American democracy is the frog. The information environment is the water. Misinformation is the flame that heats the water. And many Americans may not notice the water getting warmer. It’s our job to sound the alarm, and to remove the water from the source of heat – before it is too late.

The power of communication has never been stronger. The risks of misinformation have never been more serious. And the need for communicators to protect the integrity of the communication process – and thereby to protect democracy – has never been greater.

Read the full guest column and more from The Pitch here.

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:

On Tuesday, February 15, 2022, Logos president Helio Fred Garcia’s interview on the PR Pace Podcast was released. PR Pace, hosted by Annie Pace Scranton of Pace Public Relations, breaks down each week the biggest news stories through a PR lens.

In their conversation, Garcia discuss how to effectively in a crisis. Garcia describes the work we do at Logos Consulting Group, how we approach our work across industries and around the world, core principles of crisis response, how PR professionals can win a seat at the table, and more.

Listen to the full interview below:

On Thursday, October 14, 2021, Logos president Helio Fred Garcia’s interview on the Pursuing Perfect Podcast was released. In this podcast, lifelong entrepreneur Marc Kashke interviews leaders on notions of perfection and how they discovered how to reach perfection in their work.

In this episode, Garcia and Kashke discuss the power of communication, both to affect powerful change and to inflict meaningful harm. In their exchange, Garcia describes the rigor required to communicate effectively at work and in positions of leadership, what communication is designed to do when used effectively, the ways in which rhetoric can (and has) been used to provoke violence, and more.

Watch the full interview below:

Click here to listen to this podcast episode on Spotify.

This is an excerpt of a guest column by Helio Fred Garcia, originally published on Commpro.biz on September 21, 2021, in honor of International Day of Peace.

Around the world, and here at home, ideologically-driven opportunists are very good at using communication in ways that lead to oppression, exclusion, and violence.

Communicators of good will have an opportunity to channel our gifts to counter this prevalent and dangerous trend.

The Holocaust Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide defines “dangerous speech” as:

“speech that increases the risk for violence targeting certain people because of their membership in a group, such as an ethnic, religious, or racial group. It includes both speech that qualifies as incitement and speech that makes incitement possible by conditioning its audience to accept, condone, and commit violence against people who belong to a targeted group.”

We see examples of such dangerous speech all around, here and abroad:

  • Fundamentalists of every stripe hijack the identity and vocabulary of religion to promote oppression, exclusion, and violence in the name of religious purity.
  • Nationalists hijack national identity and the vocabulary of patriotism in ways that lead to violence in the name of racial, ethnic, national, and ideological purity.
  • Supremacists hijack the vocabulary of science and society to commit cruelty and violence against immigrants, religious and ethnic minorities, and those who support such groups.
  • Even some American governors hijack the language of liberty and freedom in ways that put their citizens at risk of contracting a deadly disease. And they stand idly by as their hospitals overflow with unvaccinated patients and announce that they can no longer accept patients with other life-threatening conditions. Worse, citizens so mobilized commit violence and threats of violence against healthcare workers, school districts, restaurant owners, and others who are simply trying to protect themselves and the people in their care.

There is much hand-wringing in the media and elsewhere about just how polarized American society has become. And with good reason.

But engaged citizens can do something about it, here and elsewhere in the world.

In particular, members of the communication profession can challenge the use of communication to divide and to oppress. We can model communication in ways that protect those at risk. We can call out the dangerous speech and its consequence when we hear it. We can hold leaders accountable when they persist in using such language.

And we can help institutions to reclaim their identity and vocabulary to more fully fulfill their missions:

  • We can help religious organizations reclaim the identity and vocabulary of religion as a source for peace. We can highlight the deeply-held and widely-shared moral teaching of all faith traditions: kindness, reciprocity, and service to community.
  • We can help reclaim national identity and the vocabulary of patriotism to show that we are part of a common civic enterprise. We can show that not only are all created equal, but all are also equally deserving of respect and dignity.
  • We can help at-risk communities harness their power, and we can hold those who attack those communities accountable for the consequences.
  • And we can use the ballot box to hold accountable those political leaders who know better but who pander to an ideological agenda that puts their citizens at unnecessary risk of catching and succumbing to a deadly disease.

Silence in the face of oppression always helps the oppressors.  If ever there was a time for communicators to up our game and deploy our gifts, it is now.

Read the full article here.

On September 3, 2021, Logos President Helio Fred Garcia was quoted in Loss Prevention Magazine on how 7-Eleven has invested in technology to better execute crisis communication.

 

7-Eleven has heavily invested in both crisis communication processes and software to ensure both company leadership and franchisees can share information with each other and report on specific needs and issues.

 

Garcia noted the importance of having multiple communication channels available for times of crisis to lessen any communication gaps in times of crisis. “You also need to plan for redundancy in the manner of delivering messages. If phone lines are down if the email is down, you still need to communicate,” he explained.

 

Read the full article here.

On July 26, 2021, Logos President Helio Fred Garcia was quoted in an article on Ragan Wellness on what organizations should consider when planning their employees’ return to work post-COVID-19.

 

The article outlines the internal issues organizations are currently facing, noting that a recent survey found that 58% of remote workers would look for a new job if a hybrid work option is not on the table.

 

Garcia highlighted the importance of expectation management when communicating decisions on what a return to office looks like for organizations. “Expectation management is the key to a successful transition back to the office,” he explained. “Clear, frequent communication about what employees can expect—and what is expected of them.

 

Read the full article here.

On July 21, 2021, Logos President Helio Fred Garcia was mentioned in NeoMarketing Podcast on civility and decency in crisis communication.

In the podcast, hosts Pritch Pritchard and Kyle Golding of The Golding Group, discussed how communication professionals like Helio Fred Garcia and Jim Lukaszewski highlight the importance of civility and decency in crisis communication.

Click here to listen to the podcast here.