Tag Archive for: crisis response

On November 29, 2023, Logos president Helio Fred Garcia participated in the second annual Global Brand Convergence, a free online experience for higher education students, faculty, and professionals around the world in public relations and marketing.

Conceived by Jacqueline Strayer, the second annual Global Brand Convergence boasted registrants from more than 35 countries. This year’s event focused on the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and other topics around social impact and leadership.

Garcia spoke at the event on how artificial intelligence is the next disruptor in crisis management. He described how emergent technologies are always disruptive when it comes to crises and crisis response. However, he also noted that there are clear patterns and dynamics when emergent technologies are introduced into society that we can be mindful of as generative AI becomes a more widely used and understood technology.

Watch his full address here:

 

Garcia also introduced David Epstein, Professor of Practice and Executive Director of the Susilo Institute for Ethics at Boston University, for Epstein’s address on the ethical considerations around AI. Watch that discussion here:

 

To learn more about the Global Brand Convergence, visit https://www.globalbrandconvergence.com/.

 

On Wednesday, October 25, Logos president Helio Fred Garcia‘s conversation with award-winning advisor and trainer of NBAU Consulting Natalia Smalyuk on core principles of crisis response was published on the NBAU Consulting website. Their conversation was part of Smalyuk’s Coffee-Break Q&A series. Garcia and Smalyuk discussed the need for mental readiness in a crisis, the importance of defining a crisis clearly, and some of the predictable patterns of crisis and crisis response.

Below is an excerpt from their conversation:

Natalia

Fred, one of your books is called “The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis.” In my experience, mental readiness is not something we hear a lot about in the offerings of the PR firms, which is the world I am coming from. Is there a gap in the preparation of leaders for high-stakes scenarios?

Fred

I came out of the PR firms, too. They can be really good at executing communications, but not necessarily helping leaders avoid wrong choices. And if you execute wrong choices, you are making the crisis worse.

The firm I run, Logos Consulting Group, is a management consulting firm. We counsel leaders on how to make smart choices under stress, and how to execute them in a way that maintains or restores trust. As a professor of management, leadership and communication at several universities, I tell my students that crises follow predictable patterns, and patterns have two kinds of power – explanatory and predictive. First, they help us make sense of what happened in the past. Second, they give us the power to predict what might play out in the future. Knowing the pattern, we can tell the leader that, if they do A, here’s the likely consequence. If they do B, here’s what they can expect. In a crisis, we know things are going to be bad. The leadership discipline is about finding the “less bad” outcome and then making choices that get you closer to that “less bad” outcome.

Natalia

In our earlier conversation, you said that, to put crisis management on the right track, it’s important to ask: “What problem are we trying to solve?” How do you get decision-makers to think clearly in the heat of the storm?

Fred

The best way to get leaders to make good choices in a crisis is to have a really thoughtful crisis planning process that defines a crisis and has a sequence of questions to ask. Here’s an example. A client approached me with what they called a “60 Minutes problem.” Their PR people defined it as a news media enquiry leading to an embarrassing story. I asked a series of questions about what was happening and ultimately told the client: “You don’t have a 60 Minutes problem.”

The company was discovered to have systematically cheated customers and was being sued for this. Essentially, lawyers were trying the case in the media. Hypothetically, it was possible to get 60 Minutes to walk away, but the lawyers would just give the story to the Wall Street Journal or someone else.

I told the client they needed to recognize several things:

a)       The company had committed misconduct.

b)      Their customers had been cheated.

c)       As soon as this became public, the regulators would be all over them. They would sanction the company and might hand this over to criminal investigation.

So, I told the client they had a business problem.

My advice: stop the business practice that is dishonest and possibly illegal. Remediate the customers that were cheated. Fire those who allowed the practice to happen. Hire a high-quality auditing firm to monitor behaviour. Then take all this to the regulators and tell 60 Minutes that you’ve done all that.

The client was horrified that I was that candid, but the CEO and the board took my advice to heart and followed it. The regulators thanked them for bringing the issue to their attention, put investigators on the premises and ultimately sanctioned the firm. However, that outcome was far less severe than it could have been, and regulators commended the company for self-reporting. The story on 60 Minutes was still horrible. The customers talked about all the ways they had been cheated. However, the company’s side of the story was there, too: “We screwed up. We fixed it. We apologized. We self-reported to regulators. We are working closely with them.”

The bottom line is that every crisis is a business problem before it is a communication problem.

Similarly, every crisis is a business problem before it is a legal problem.

The United States is the most litigious country in the world. When the lawyers hear a company is or may be sued, they worry that anything you say will increase your liability in litigation. Here’s a paradox. If you can show that you take the issue seriously and are committed to fixing it, instead of creating legal liability, you are keeping the company healthy.

Here’s what I’d tell the CEO: “For what I know, you’ve gotten excellent legal advice. However, you don’t have a legal problem. You have a business problem. Whatever legal problem may emerge in the future, you have shareholders, employees and customers now, and you have the control of how they think about you. So please don’t make a legal decision. Make a business decision.”

When the lawyer says “you can’t say anything,” I believe what they actually mean is: “don’t say anything dumb.” We don’t want the company to say something dumb. Quite the opposite. We want it to say something smart and helpful. So, here’s how a series of questions with the lawyer might unfold.

I’d ask: “Can we acknowledge that we are aware of this problem?” The lawyer may say: “Yes, but we have to do it very carefully.” Great. We can very carefully acknowledge that we are aware of the issue.

Next question: “Can we express empathy for those who were disadvantaged by this?” The lawyer might say: “We can’t admit guilt.” Well, I am not asking to admit guilt. I am asking to express empathy. The lawyer’s response: “We have to do it very carefully.” Great. We can very carefully express empathy.

Next question: “Can we declare the values that drive us in this crisis?” It’s hard to say no to this – even though, in my experience, one lawyer did. After all, values are on the company’s website. The lawyer might again say: “We have to do it very carefully.”

Can we describe the process we have begun and will continue to get through the crisis? Yes – if we do it carefully.

Finally, can we make some form of commitment?  Yes. It could be a procedural commitment, such as: “We’ll update you at 3:00 p.m.” or a substantive commitment, such as: “We’ll get to the bottom of this and we’ll fix it.”

These five questions are five elements of a well-structured stand-by statement. 1) Acknowledge the problem – or at least your awareness of it. 2) Express empathy. 3) Declare your values. 4) Say what you are doing to fix the problem. 5) Make a commitment.

Between self-defeating silence, which is what the lawyer is suggesting, and self-destructive blabbering, which is what the lawyer fears, there’s a lot of room to maneuver.

 

Read their full conversation here.

On Monday, August 28, Logos president Helio Fred Garcia‘s interview on the Shaping Opinion podcast was released. Hosted by communications professional Tim O’Brien, Shaping Opinion is an award-winning podcast that dives into the people, events and things that have shaped the way we think.

In this episode, Garcia and O’Brien discuss ethics and crisis communications. In their exchange, Garcia and O’Brien discuss some of core principles and best practices of crisis communication, the kinds of ethical issues and dilemmas that occur in crisis communications, and how Garcia built his career in crisis management and communication.

Listen to the full podcast interview here.

On Friday, June 10, 2022, Logos president Helio Fred Garcia delivered a Columbia Engineering Alumni Day lecture on the US response to COVID-19 at the first in-person reunion of graduates of Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Garcia is an adjunct associate professor of professional development and leadership in the Professional Development and Leadership program at Columbia Engineering. He delivered one of three lectures in the school’s alumni association REUNION 22 LECTURES on-campus event.

In his lecture, Garcia focused on the intersection of crisis response and ethics, and demonstrated how COVID-19 – as a crisis that simultaneously affected every institution and every individual on the planet – provides a useful case study to see the patterns of effective and ineffective crisis response and ethical decision-making. Garcia quoted the Greek philosopher Plato, who noted: “To understand something difficult, study the biggest instance of it that we can. That’s because the patterns are easier to see. And the pattern is then laid up on heaven for anyone who wishes to contemplate it.”

Garcia began his lecture by laying out the foundational principles of effective crisis response:

  1. Show you care.
  2. Take risks seriously.
  3. Work to mitigate those risks early.

He then contrasted the U.S. response to COVID-19, the worst in the industrialized world, and the Republic of Korea response, among the best. Both nations had their first confirmed case of COVID-19 on the same day, January 20, 2020. South Korea followed the principles of effective response and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines; the United States did not. After one year, the South Korean death rate was 1 fatality for every 39,000 South Koreans; the U.S. death rate was 1 fatality for every 809, or a fatality rate 49 times Korea’s.

Garcia also highlighted the ways that misinformation and the modeling of unsafe practices led to hundreds of thousands of preventable COVID deaths. He quoted the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, who in May 2022 called misinformation the leading cause of death in the U.S.

You can watch the full lecture here:

At Columbia Engineering, Garcia teaches ethics and integrity for engineers for all incoming undergraduate, MS, and PhD students. He also teaches graduate electives in advanced ethical decision-making, crisis prevention, crisis response, and leadership communication. Garcia is the author of five books, most recently Words on Fire: The Power of Incendiary Language and How to Confront It. His next book is The Trump Contagion: How Incompetence, Dishonesty, and Neglect Led to the Worst-Handled Crisis in American History.

On Sunday, June 26, 2022, Logos president Helio Fred Garcia was quoted in a commentary in the San Antonio Express-News on the failure of law enforcement to effectively communicate during the tragic Uvalde school shooting and the loss of trust that has followed.

The commentary was written by Brandon Lingle, who several years ago attended a lecture by Garcia at the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Md. Lingle recalls the lessons he learned from Garcia during that lecture, including the criteria for what to do and say in a crisis, “What would reasonable people appropriately expect a responsible organization to do when faced with this?” In his commentary, Lingle describes the reasonable expectations held before the shooting, how those expectations changed after the shooting, and the ways in which the failure of the local police department to meet those reasonable expectations.

Garcia reflected on the wider context of the Uvalde tragedy within American society. “It’s impossible to separate the aftermath of Uvalde from the national disagreement about firearms,” Garcia explained. “This isn’t a Texas thing. It isn’t a Uvalde thing on its own. It is in the context of this massive problem of gun violence that coincides with this massive division in American political life.”

On the communication failures of the local police department, Garcia commented, “They got themselves caught in some form of miscommunication or misinformation, and then they withdrew, and now they seem to be pointing fingers. It’s easy to point fingers at the less robust, less experienced police departments when there’s been a massive failure like this.”

Read the full article below or here.

 

On April 21, 2022, Logos president Helio Fred Garcia participated in the inaugural Global Brand Convergence, a free online experience for higher education students, faculty, and professionals around the world in public relations and marketing. Garcia participated in a panel discussion on “Crisis in an Enduring Pandemic,” alongside renowned communicator and crisis advisor Dr. Guanpeng (Steven) Dong.

Conceived by Jacqueline Strayer, the Global Brand Convergence was designed to connect and create a community to share ideas, innovations, and concepts to advance them in the classroom and in the profession. The inaugural event boasted more than 500 registered attendees from 50 countries and 54 colleges and universities.

In their session, Garcia and Dr. Dong discussed lessons learned from of how the COVID-19 pandemic was handled by the US and by China and several core principles and best practices in crisis response. Garcia and Dr. Dong have worked together in several capacities over the past 10 years, and in 2019 Dr. Dong was awarded the Logos Institute Outstanding Leader Award.

Watch the full panel discussion, moderated by Iliana Axiotiades here:

In addition to Garcia’s participation in the event, Logos Consulting Group was proud to be one of the sponsors for this annual event. To learn more about the Global Brand Convergence, visit https://www.globalbrandconvergence.com/.

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:

The following is a guest column by Helio Fred Garcia, originally published on CommPro.biz on January 3, 2022.

This week marks the start of the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.

By the end of 2021 more than a half million Americans were catching COVID-19 every day. One in every six Americans had come down with the virus; one in every four hundred had died.

Much of this was avoidable. And we return from our holiday facing the latest surge and wondering whether it’s safe to reopen as planned.

COVID-19, Crisis Management, and Leadership

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the United States has mounted the worst COVID-19 response in the developed world. In 2020 the American response was driven by incompetence, dishonesty, and neglect.

2021 began with a glimmer of hope, and by April – when vaccines became universally available – the daily death rate plummeted.

But by late June both vaccinations and masks became highly politicized and deaths began to soar again. By year end hospitals were at capacity; the overwhelming percentage of hospitalizations and deaths were among the unvaccinated.

 

https://www.commpro.biz/?s=crisis+management+helio

Illustration 1, Source: New York Times

 

But there is opportunity in every crisis. COVID-19 provides an active case study to learn not only about public health, but also foundational principles of crisis management. As the Greek philosopher Plato said in The Republic, if you want to understand something difficult, study the biggest instance of it that you can. Then apply those learnings to smaller matters. There’s no bigger crisis right now than COVID-19.

For decades in my crisis management practice, I have preached that the severity of an underlying crisis does not determine how the crisis turns out. Two organizations in the same crisis at the same time can have dramatically different outcomes. Rather, the timeliness and quality of the response determine whether or not an organization suffers a catastrophic outcome. Act effectively and quickly and the crisis resolves or plays out with minimal damage. Delay, deny, or dither and things get disproportionately worse.

It is uncommon for multiple organizations to go through the same crisis simultaneously. But COVID-19 is a crisis with which every organization around the world has been grappling. We now have experienced a kind of laboratory experiment of how different jurisdictions responded to the pandemic differently. We can track the different outcomes. We can learn from them. And we can apply those lessons, not only in the continued pandemic response but in future crises, as well.

Crisis Management Works

All the trends point to a common conclusion: Crisis management works. But only when we manage the crisis effectively. Failing to follow crisis management principles can have devastating consequences. There are four rules that lead to the successful resolution of a crisis:

  1. Take the crisis seriously.
  2. Take the risks seriously.
  3. Mitigate those risks.
  4. Act quickly: the longer it takes to mitigate the risks, the harder it is to do so.

We can see clearly how the death rates in different jurisdictions varied based on leaders’ adherence, or lack of adherence, to these rules.

Continue reading here.

The following is a guest column by Helio Fred Garcia, originally published on Forbes on October 19, 2021.

In mid-September the United States passed a tragic milestone: one in every 500 Americans had died of Covid-19. By early October, it was one in every 469 Americans. And counting …

For decades in my crisis management practice, I have preached that the severity of an underlying crisis does not determine how the crisis turns out. Two organizations in the same crisis at the same time can have dramatically different outcomes. Rather, the timeliness and quality of the response determine whether or not an organization suffers a catastrophic outcome. Act effectively and quickly and the crisis resolves or plays out with minimal damage. Delay or dither and things get disproportionately worse.

It is uncommon for multiple organizations to go through the same crisis simultaneously. But Covid-19 is a crisis with which every organization around the world has been grappling. We now have experienced a kind of laboratory experiment of how different jurisdictions responded to the pandemic differently. We can track the different outcomes. We can learn from them. And we can apply those lessons, not only in the continued pandemic response but in future crises, as well.

Crisis Management Works

All the trends point to a common conclusion: Crisis management works. But only when we manage the crisis effectively. Failing to follow crisis management principles can have devastating consequences. There are three rules that lead to the successful resolution of a crisis:

1. Take the crisis seriously.

2. Take the risks seriously.

3. Mitigate those risks.

We can see clearly how the death rates in different jurisdictions were different based on leaders’ adherence, or lack of adherence, to these rules.

A Tale Of Two Nations: Republic Of Korea And United States Of America

On January 20, 2020, the U.S. had its first confirmed Covid-19 case. That same day the first confirmed Covid-19 case was recorded in South Korea.

Unlike the U.S., South Korea took the crisis and the risks seriously. Six years earlier, it had been burned by its mishandling of a public health emergency that had led to dozens of deaths and that had almost brought down the government. Not this time: No dithering, denial or delay.

Initially, South Korea had the highest Covid-19 death rate outside of China. But its leaders quickly worked to mitigate the risks. They launched a whole of government response. In particular, South Korea followed all the mitigation guidelines that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised. These included mandatory masking, distancing, quarantines, contract tracing and testing. And it worked. Infection and death rates plummeted and have stayed low.

The United States did not take the crisis or the risks seriously, nor did the U.S. act to mitigate the risks. President Trump and his allies persistently denied or downplayed the reality of the virus.

The United States never had a whole-government response. And the nation never consistently followed CDC guidelines. In 2020, leaders, including the president, rationalized away the risks. They failed to model safe behavior, even including the wearing of masks. They continued to have large unmasked gatherings. And the pandemic itself became inexorably tangled into the politics of a presidential election, with large numbers taking sides about the reality of the virus itself, a disturbing trend that continues to this day, nearly a year after the election.

But public health experts have been sounding the alarm about the risks for more than a year. Last October, Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness concluded that of the 217,000 American Covid-19 fatalities to date, as many as 210,000 could have been prevented by taking appropriate precautions. At the time the U.S. had the highest Covid-19 rate among peer countries. Korea had the lowest.

At about the same time, the venerable New England Journal of Medicine said that the U.S. had failed at every step to take effective mitigation steps and said Americans were dying because of a leadership vacuum.

In February 2021, the British medical journal Lancet noted that as many as 40% of American Covid-19 deaths could have been avoided.

Even after the vaccines became widely available, the seeds of distrust and division continued to hamper mitigation efforts, especially in states whose governors forbade mask mandates and where vaccine hesitancy prevailed.

By late September 2021, American deaths had surpassed two round numbers — one in 500 Americans, for a total of 700,000 deaths. Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs noted that if the U.S. had done what was necessary to keep the death rate the same as our peer countries, 650,000 fewer Americans would have died.

So, what is the current Covid-19 death rate in South Korea compared to the U.S.? One in every 20,000 South Koreans, compared to one in every 469 Americans.

South Korea followed the three crisis management rules:

1. It took the problem seriously.

2. It took the risks seriously.

3. It did what was necessary to mitigate those risks.

The United States did not. The difference: American Covid-19 deaths are at 42 times the rate in South Korea. Most American fatalities were preventable, especially after the vaccines became available to anyone willing to take them.

We see at the national level dramatically different outcomes to the common crisis. There are many lessons we can harvest from the tragedies — including the dangers of misinformation and of political polarization of science. But the crisis management lesson, devoid of politics and ideology, is clear: In a crisis, take the crisis seriously, take the risks seriously, mitigate the risks fully. The outcomes will be far less devastating.

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.