Tag Archive for: crisis

On May 21, 2024, the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership Press published the latest title, The Trump Contagion: How Incompetence, Dishonestly, and Neglect Led to the Worst Handled Crisis in American History by Logos president Helio Fred GarciaThe Trump Contagion documents the consequences of not taking crisis management seriously, using the United States’ failed response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a case study to illustrate valuable lessons on effective and ineffective crisis response.

“As president of a crisis management firm and a professor of crisis management – and, at the time, with 40 years in the business – I was familiar with the public health playbook. There is a process for managing infectious disease outbreaks, and Ebola showed that the U.S. was pretty good at it,” Garcia explains. “Therefore, I was astonished in the early months of the pandemic that the U.S. was not following the infectious disease management playbook for COVID-19. Rather, it was making all the predictable mistakes that I and my colleagues always warn our clients against.”

The Trump Contagion demonstrates the American President’s incompetence, dishonesty, and neglect that made the U.S. COVID-19 response the single worst-handled crisis in American history. This book also provides valuable lessons to help leaders avoid similar failures when they manage future crises.

“I did not want to write another book about Donald Trump. However, as I began to document what was happening during the pandemic, I recognized the need to hold up the predictable missteps that led to the worst-handled crisis in our lifetime,“ Garcia shares. “This book is my attempt to bear witness to the decision-making that unnecessarily cost so many lives and disrupted life as we knew it.”

The Trump Contagion is organized in three parts. It begins with an overview of effective best practices in crisis management and details an example of how the Republic of South Korea learned lessons from a previous failed public health response that informed its effective response to COVID-19. The second part of the book highlights the run-up and the actual response to COVID-19 in the U.S., and the many missteps that led to an estimated 800,000 to 1 million preventable COVID-related deaths in the United States. The book closes lessons for leaders to find some glimmer of good out of the tragedy that was U.S. COVID-19 response, as well as an exhortation to take crises and their risks seriously and to do what they can to minimize harm to others as quickly and effectively as possible.

The Trump Contagion is a must-read,” says Jacqueline F. Strayer, professor, C-Suite leader, and Founder of Sound Advisory Group, Inc., and the Global Brand Convergence®. “Crisis expert Helio Fred Garcia illuminates the consequences of the Trump Administration’s mishandling of the COVID crisis and exposes their mistakes and resulting outcomes. It serves as a cautionary reminder of the imperative of having leaders who are adept at crisis response.”

The Trump Contagion documents for world history the legacy of Donald Trump,” writes James E. Lukaszewski, America’s Crisis Guru®. “More innocent Americans died or got sick with COVID needlessly during and following Trump’s single term than were lost in all wars Americans fought and died in. Trump intentionally targeted and continues to target the innocent and the victimized, the very definition of evil.”

The Trump Contagion is the fourth book published by the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership Press and the first volume in the Crisis Case Study Series. The Crisis Case Study Series will reflect on the predictable patterns of crises to help leaders make and execute smart choices when they face crises.

“The Trump Contagion is a fascinating story of the mishandling and avoidable mistakes of the U.S. COVID crisis communication and response activities. Importantly, it describes the proven steps for effective crisis communication that should have been followed by the Trump Administration,” reflects Matthew Lee Sawyer, Founder of USAcceleratorä and Adjunct Professor at Columbia University and New York University. “Business executives, government officials, and other leaders would be smart to read this book to learn valuable, hard lessons – without living them directly – by studying the missteps that occurred in this defining crisis.”

The Trump Contagion is available in hardcover, paperback, and Kindle editions on Amazon.com.

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 Thursday, October 19, Logos president Helio Fred Garcia was quoted in Inc. on what is required for the cryptocurrency industry to improve its reputation.

The article outlines how the industry’s reputation, which was already tarnished, has suffered following the collapse of FTX and amidst trial of Sam Bankman-Fried. Garcia notes that more regulation and strong, ethical leadership are required for for public perception of the industry to change.

Here is an excerpt from that article:

Still, convincing a skeptical public that crypto isn’t inherently plagued by fraudsters will be difficult. Imposing regulation will be paramount, Helio Fred Garcia, a professor of crisis PR at NYU and Columbia, explains. And the SBFs of the world will need to be properly censured. Indeed, says Garcia, the broader public won’t come around “until first there’s a shakeout. And second, there’s the imposition of adult supervision.”

Read the full article here.

On Thursday, October 12, Logos president Helio Fred Garcia was quoted in Inc. on why cryptocurrency proponents continue to believe in and defend the potential of the industry in the wake of FTX’s collapse and amidst Sam Bankman-Fried’s trial.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

Even with [Sam Bankman-Fried] facing possible life in prison and cryptocurrency fueling Hamas’s recent acts of terror in Israel, crypto firms’ message remains powerful, as some still believe decentralized currencies are destined to reshape finance, says Helio Fred Garcia, a professor of crisis management public relations at New York University and Columbia. “Just as with the dot-com craze, I think [it’s] a fear of missing out,” he says. “Once you’re in that bubble, it’s really hard to get out.”

Read the full article 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/.

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.