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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/.

The following is an excerpt of a guest column by Helio Fred Garcia published in the May 2022 issue of PRSA’s Strategies & Tactics

Effective crisis communication can help organizations maintain trust, inspire confidence, and build competitive advantage.

The pandemic, the Great Resignation, political polarization in the United States and war in Europe have made the need for effective crisis communication even greater.

Increasingly PR professionals are being seen not only as communicators, but also as business problem-solvers, who can help their clients navigate the challenges of maintaining the trust of stakeholders in rapidly-changing times where the stakes are increasingly high.

But PR people don’t deserve a seat at the leadership table simply because of our function. We need to earn that seat. And that means we need to elevate our game and become a respected voice when CEOs and other leaders are under stress and worried about their enterprise and their legacy. Take, for example, the common struggle PR people have with lawyers. And how easy it is for CEOs to take lawyers’ well-intentioned advice.

Making the business case

Over more than 40 years I have advised lawyers and been hired through lawyers to advise our mutual clients. I have taught lawyers through bar associations and have trained individual lawyers in crisis management. And I have fought with lawyers; sometimes I have won those fights. And I have learned from lawyers.

A typical interaction is this: In the CEO’s office the lawyer will give all the legal reasons to say as little as possible – ideally nothing – in the early phases of a crisis. The CEO will then look at me.

My reply is not to make the PR case, but to make the business case:

“I believe you have received excellent legal advice. And you should take it seriously. But please recognize that you don’t have a legal problem, at least not yet. You have a business problem. And you need to make a business decision. You need to consider the risk of legal liability seriously. But not exclusively.

You should also consider the consequences of losing the trust of those who matter to you: your employees, customers, investors, regulators, and others. Silence now will be interpreted as indifference, or worse, and will lead to loss of trust of those who matter most to the company. You can protect yourself from legal liability that will play out years from now, but lose the company in the process. Or you can attend to the immediate needs and concerns of your stakeholders now, in ways that manage future legal liability.”

It’s very hard for the lawyers to object to that. But the key is that we need to be in the room in the first place, to make the case directly to the CEO in the lawyer’s presence. Otherwise, the CEO could reflexively take the lawyer’s advice, without considering the short-term implications. And we’d then be tasked with implementing a suboptimal response.

The CEO then typically asks me to advise on what we could say that would pass legal muster. I ask the lawyer about categories of possible communication:

  • Acknowledge: Can we acknowledge awareness of what has happened? The answer is usually Yes, but very carefully. My reply, Great. Let’s do it carefully.
  • Can we express empathy toward those who are affected? The lawyer usually says, Yes, but we need to be careful to not admit blame. Same reply by me:  Great. Let’s do it carefully, in a way that doesn’t admit blame.
  • Can we declare our values? When the lawyers object, I point out that we typically have them published on our website.
  • Can we describe the overall approach we will take to address the crisis and resolve it? The lawyers usually say we need to be very careful. I again reply, Great. Let’s do it carefully.
  • Can we make some kind of commitment? How about a procedural commitment: We’ll update you when we know more. Or a substantive commitment: We’ll get to the bottom of this and fix it.

In essence, when the lawyers say we should say as little as possible or say nothing, they are channeling an unspoken fear that the company’s leaders will say something dumb; something that will not only increase risks in future litigation but also energize adversaries, regulators, and others to come after the company.

I don’t want the company to say something dumb either. But between self-defeating silence and self-destructive blabbering, there’s lots of room to maneuver. This recognition often leads to the lawyers and communicators collaborating early in the crisis to find the balance. It doesn’t need to be adversarial or either-or.

Managing the choices

At a high level of practice, crisis communication is a rigorous process of managing the choices we make with a view on the desired outcome. The discipline is that leaders should never make choices based on personal preference; they usually do so in ways that make them feel less vulnerable that that can infuriate stakeholders.

Rather, we need to have clear criteria on the choices leaders make – of what to do and say, of when to do and say it; of whom to say it to; of who should do the talking. The more rigorous the approach, the more likely we’ll be seen to be business problem-solvers, and to be in the room before decisions are made.

 

Read the full article and more 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 January 21, 2022, Helio Fred Garcia was featured in an article on Communication Intelligence about a recent webinar Garcia led for the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

The webinar, titled “Maintaining and Restoring Trust in Times of Great Change,” focused on the drivers of trust and techniques to maintain and restore trust in times of crisis.

In this interview, Garcia shared some of the core ideas and key takeaways from his webinar on January 20.

“Trust is the natural consequence of three related but distinct factors,” Garcia explained. He then described each of these factors in detail: promises kept, expectations met, and values lived. When you take these drivers of trust seriously, you are more likely to ask the right questions and make smart decisions in a crisis.

Garcia also explained one of the key reasons why organizations and leaders struggle to respond to crises effectively.

“Most failed crises arise when leaders fail to think of the crisis from the perspective of stakeholder expectations, but rather start from their own personal preferences, fears, anxieties, etc. This is the case in celebrated failed crisis response, from Volkswagen to BP to United Airlines to Trump COVID,” Garcia explained. “Making decisions in a crisis from personal preference is a mark of poor leadership and nearly always makes the crisis worse.”

Click here to read the full article.

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 30, 2021, Logos advisor Katie Garcia was quoted in Platform Magazine on crisis communication in the age of social media. Platform Magazine is a student-run online public relations magazine based at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Garcia was interviewed by the magazine after she participated in a panel discussion at the university about what a career in crisis communication looks like on September 20.

In the article, Garcia defines what a crisis is and what is at stake in a crisis: “A crisis is a turning point where you can no longer operate as usual, and depending on how you respond, you can either gain competitive advantage or suffer meaningful harm.”

She also noted that in the age of social media, the core principles of crisis communication remained the same, even as the execution of crisis communication has somewhat changed. “Now there is an expectation that we are going to engage on those platforms, engage quickly and at times engage in particular ways,” she explained. “The expectation always is that the organization [involved] in the crisis cares. The way you demonstrate that you care has changed, and that is where social media comes in. It means that you need to reach out further and demonstrate care on different platforms than before.”

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 6, 2021, Logos President Helio Fred Garcia was featured in NYU School of Professional Studies Divisional Highlights for his teaching engagement at the 200th Military Police Command Hosts Detainee Operations Training Event (DOTE) in June.

Garcia is an adjunct associate professor in the MS in Public Relations and Corporate Communication (PRCC) program within the NYU SPS Division of Programs in Business.

Garcia, one of two civilian speakers at the three day event, was invited by Senior Military Officers to share lessons learned on crisis communications with over 350 high-ranking military leaders and US Department of Defense (DoD) officials.

“I was asked to provide guidance on how not to repeat the mistakes that were made from a public relations perspective at Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and Guantanamo Bay, which ultimately hurt the reputation of the US around the world,” he explained. “I gave lessons from my basic crisis communication course, including the Abu Ghraib case study that I teach in the NYU SPS (PRCC) program, and it was extremely well received.”

Garcia, who has been a guest lecturer for several different branches of the military, reflected on his experience at the event.

“What is fascinating about members of the military is how open they are to a civilian perspective on how to do things better,” he noted. “The senior officers have deep life experiences, but I have yet to find one who was not eager to learn more. They are more than warriors; they are leaders.”

Read the full article here.

On July 1, 2021, Logos President Helio Fred Garcia was featured in Reputation America on crisis management strategies and steps for leaders to mitigate crises effectively.

The article excerpts a speech given by Garcia on crisis management. The article includes excerpts on how to define a crisis, types of crisis readiness, common crisis missteps, how to manage social media in a crisis, and how to ask the right questions in the right order to get through a crisis well.

“The biggest mistake is to attempt to improvise in the crisis and ask the wrong questions in the wrong order. Concern about how to deflect blame or protect one’s own job is not the best strategy in crisis communication management. Companies need to resolve the stress and be rigorous in managing crises,” said Garcia.

Read the full article here.