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The Feeling

For most of us, the days start the same way. You turn over, turn off your alarm, and then check your phone or email notifications.

Most of the time, the notifications you find are the typical daily intrusions or distractions.

But imagine this. One day you read the email, urgent text chain, social media feed, or news story and you discover that your organization has found itself in a crisis that has the potential to jeopardize the future of the organization. A future you and your colleagues have worked so hard to create.

Maybe it is a crisis you had foreseen.

Maybe it takes you completely by surprise.

But in that first moment, you feel the walls coming down around you. For many, a heavy feeling hits them in the gut and weight compresses their chest. A question inevitably sets in:

What are we going to do?

The feelings of fear and desperation are real. In that initial moment, panic quickly sets in and it may feel like the end of the world.

That feeling is okay. In fact, it is natural. In another blog, I will explain the neuroscience behind what’s happening to your brain and your body, and why you feel what you feel during a crisis, including the immediate inability to make rational decisions. (Check back on our site for the release of this blog.)

In the meantime, I’d like to talk through some things you can focus on right now, so you know how to move past that initial flash of panic and gain ability to make decisions. The goal is that in that moment of crisis you are able to move forward and respond to what is happening calmly, clearly, and effectively.

The key to doing so is readiness.

Readiness

Readiness determines how an organization responds to a crisis. The common misconception is that the severity of the inciting incident determines the response. However, when properly prepared and applying the right mindset, your level of readiness will be the deciding factor of whether or not the organization will get through a crisis unscathed and stronger than before.

Most organizations have some structures of operational readiness to respond to a crisis. But the truth is that well-built structures alone are not enough in moments of crisis. That is why so many companies that have well-built structures of operational readiness still fail to respond to a crisis effectively and suffer meaningful harm as a result.

The key is combining operational readiness with mental readiness.

Mental Readiness

Effective crisis response is a combination of both operational readiness and mental readiness. This combination equates to the ability to make smart choices quickly and execute them well in a crisis. Mental readiness helps people faced with crises respond calmly, think clearly, and make smart choices when it matters most.

Mental readiness consists of three parts:

Emotional Discipline. The ability to regulate your emotions to execute decisions well in moments of crisis. In a crisis, making smart choices in timely ways is not always easy. Sometimes there is no good choice, free of pain or discomfort. Sometimes there is only the least bad choice, which may involve discomfort to you but will ultimately serve your stakeholders (those who matter to your organization) the most. Discipline and practice is required to remain calm and make the difficult, but necessary choices.

Deep Knowledge. The understanding of the patterns that drive effective and ineffective crisis response, including why some actions always work while some other actions never work. By studying as many different crises as possible, you are able to learn from others’ mistakes without having to live those mistakes yourself.

Intellectual Rigor. The ability to think clearly and ask the right questions in the right order in order to identify the problem accurately and understand the best course of action forward. The ability to remain focused and ask the right questions, rather than letting distraction take hold, enables you to make smart choices quickly.

By building your mental readiness for moments of crisis, you will be able to foresee crises that are foreseeable. You will be able to assess unforeseen crises and respond effectively as they arise. And you will be able to move past that initial moment of panic when the crisis breaks to lead your team through what needs to happen next.

This is part of a series of blogs on crisis response principles. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series.

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Reach out today for personalized coaching by visiting www.logosconsulting.net or email the author directly at mzheng@logosconsulting.net.


About Maida Kalić Zheng

Maida is an Advisor at Logos Consulting Group and a Senior Fellow at the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership, where she helps corporate leaders maximize presence and enhance communication skills to become more effective in managing both their reputations and relationships. She also serves as the Chief of Client Services.

 

 

About Logos Consulting Group

Leaders change the world. But they don’t do it alone. They ignite others toward a common cause. At Logos Consulting Group, we believe in this world and we see this world in the work that we do. Our mission is to build a better world by equipping people to become leaders who ignite change in the world for the good. We do this by helping our clients inspire those who matter to them to make a difference in their own industries and communities, and the world at large. We advise and coach our clients in three key areas: crisis managementcrisis communication; and executive coaching.

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

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

 

WHAT IS THE LOGOS LEARNING CENTER?

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

 

WHY DID YOU CREATE THE LOGOS LEARNING CENTER?

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

 

WHO IS THE LOGOS LEARNING CENTER FOR?

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

 

HOW IS THE LEARNING CENTER DIFFERENT FROM THE WORK YOU DO WITH CLIENTS?

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

 

WHAT COURSES DOES THE LOGOS LEARNING CENTER OFFER?

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

 

WHAT CAN I EXPECT OF THE VIRTUAL IN-CLASS EXPERIENCE?

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

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

 

WHEN ARE CLASSES AND HOW DO I SIGN UP?

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

 

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

PS: If you have questions about the Logos Learning Center, please email us at learning@logosconsulting.net.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is an excerpt from a guest column by Helio Fred Garcia, originally published on Commpro.biz on January 4, 2021.

The first American case of COVID-19 was diagnosed on January 20, 2020.

Exactly one year later Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States.

What happened in the United States in between is different from what happened in other developed countries.

Twenty million Americans contracted COVID-19 between the first case and the end of the year.

2020 was the single deadliest year in American history. The first U.S. COVID-19 fatality was on February 6. By year end another 351 thousand Americans had died from the virus. For context, that is more than all the U.S. combat fatalities in World War II and Vietnam combined, but in a single eleven-month period rather than in the 24 years of those wars. For several weeks in December we were seeing the equivalent of a 9/11 casualty rate every day, with total 2020 COVID-19 fatalities equal to 118 separate 9/11 attacks.

Much of this was avoidable. And yet, here we are. So the question is – why did this happen?

Everything Changed

It was a year that changed everything: what it means to be “at work” or “at school”; how we visit the doctor; how we greet each other; how we shop for groceries and other goods; how we say goodbye to loved ones as they take their final breath.

It was a year of great trauma: medical, emotional, spiritual, economic, social.

And it was a year that saw great sacrifice and some of the best of humanity: in the front-line medical workers, in the agility of many companies to re-imagine their business models and their product offerings, in the emergence of a new class of heroes – postal workers, delivery drivers, and grocery clerks, who risked infection to keep us supplied.

And it was a year that intensified much that had already been fraying in the fabric of American civic life: hyper-polarization in politics, mistrust of each other and of civic institutions, and the shattering of social and political norms.

In the time of the pandemic we saw the explicit elevation and endorsement of white supremacist and conspiracist groups, such as the Proud Boys and QAnon. But also the largest civil rights protest in American history, with more than 25 million Americans marching in support of Black Lives Matter – and this in the days and weeks following the first wave of reopening after two months of stay-at-home orders.

After decades of one party discrediting science – from refusing to accept the reality of evolution, to redefining when human life begins, to denying the reality of climate change – we saw millions of Americans deny what scientists, public health experts, and their own doctors told them: that the virus is real, that it is deadly, that you can transmit it even when asymptomatic; and that masking, distancing, and handwashing are keys to prevention. The American population seemed to divide into those who believe what science teaches and those who choose not to. But as a popular T-shirt and internet meme noted, Science Doesn’t Care What You Believe.

The pandemic coincided with one of the most bizarre and contentious presidential election campaigns in American history, in which despite no evidence of fraud the sitting president refused to acknowledge defeat and lost more than 50 lawsuits challenging the results. And who for the eight weeks between the election and the new year seemed to give up on being president. He stayed out of sight and silent on anything having to do with the pandemic, even as fatalities approached the 350 thousand mark and infections soared to 20 million, and as he rage-tweeted about the so-called “massive fraud” that had prevented his re-election.

But the hardships were real and were devastating. In the weeks before and after Christmas, hospitalization rates reached record highs, with whole regions, including southern California, reporting zero intensive care beds available. At least one Los Angeles hospital started treating patients in the gift shop; another in a cafeteria; yet another in its chapel. But the real shortage was of medical personnel to treat the record number of patients. Doctors began talking about the need to choose which patients to treat, and which to leave to die.

The nation saw the infection rate grow by a million cases every few days. And despite pleas from public health officials and hospital front-line workers, Americans continued to travel for the holidays, risking what health workers called a surge on top of a surge. And some governors refused to require citizens to wear masks in public. Florida’s governor even forbade Florida cities and counties from requiring masks and social distancing in their jurisdictions. And the White House, the State Department, and other federal agencies held dozens of holiday parties indoors and without a masking requirement: yet more super-spreader events.

Incompetence

It did not need to be this way.

Much of the suffering, the hardship, the sacrifice could have been avoided. It resulted from a lethal combination of incompetence, dishonesty, and neglect.

The United States, alone in the world, intentionally refused to follow or mandate basic public health steps: a national masking, distancing, testing, and contact tracing policy. There was no whole of government response; at best there were fragments of government responses. And some parts of the government seemed to be at war against other parts. Indeed, some parts of government seemed to be at war against themselves, such as the White House Pandemic Task Force, where in a single press conference the politicians would contradict the public health experts, and vice versa.

The president and other senior government officials modeled the opposite of the public health guidelines, remaining unmasked in public and holding super-spreader events where the crowd was unmasked and packed close together – in violation also of local masking and distancing ordinances.

Continue reading here.

On November 4, the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership Press published the third title in its Best Practices Series, The Power of Genuine Leadership: How Authentic Leaders Earn Trust by Patrick Donahue, PhD. The Power of Genuine Leadership draws upon Donahue’s doctoral research on the relationship between trust and authenticity, as well as his decades of experience working as a senior executive in leadership development at two global corporations.

The Power of Genuine Leadership is an accessible, clear guide on how to effectively – and measurably – build trust and enhance one’s leadership ability. “It can take a lifetime to earn a reputation of being a great leader, which is earned through consistent behavior over time,” says Donahue. “This book makes a complicated concept easier to digest through models, stories, assessments, and applicable tools.”

Donahue’s research reveals the true power of behavioral consistency as an essential yet under-appreciated driver of trust. His Authenticity Trust Model (ATM) helps readers visualize the relationships among the behavioral components that, when applied consistently, create deeper trust: communication, coaching, and respect.

Of the many valuable learnings in Donahue’s book, perhaps his most insightful, is that authenticity without guidelines is irresponsible; that authenticity without empathy is careless; and that humility is much more than a willingness to be vulnerable. Readers can assess their leadership strengths and development areas using the Authenticity Trust Assessment (ATA), which can be taken time and again to track progress and compare results for deeper analysis.

“With so many books, articles and webpages clamoring for our attention, it’s hard to decide what’s ‘worth the time.’ As a leadership professional, I can tell you, this book is a winner,” says Darryl Spivey of the Center of Creative Leadership. “Dr. Donahue captures the stories of leaders and their impact on people. The engaging anecdotes are entertaining and readable, but interwoven with valuable lessons of introspection, laser focus and excellence. It’s a quick, valuable and important book for leaders.”

The Power of Genuine Leadership is the third volume in the Logos Institute Best Practices Series. The Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership stands at the intersection of scholarship and practice, providing rigorous analysis and practical application of key leadership principles. The Logos Institute Best Practices Series showcases conceptual frameworks that help clarify complex issues, combined with insightful case studies, examples, and actionable tools, tips, and techniques that help leaders make smart choices and build competitive advantage.

“In each of the companies where I have had the privilege to have Patrick as a client, I have watched Patrick as he created leadership learning opportunities for high-potential future leaders from around the world,” says Publisher Helio Fred Garcia. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share Patrick’s insights into the relationship between authenticity and trust with the broader world.”

The Power of Genuine Leadership is available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.com. Logos Institute Press is hosting a virtual book launch event on Thursday, December 10 at 5:00 pm EST, where attendees will have the opportunity to hear from the publisher, the author, and endorsers of the book. If you have not received an invitation or would like to request one, please visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/logos-institute-press-book-launch-for-the-power-of-genuine-leadership-tickets-129244719435?ref=estwhttps://www.eventbrite.com/preview?eid=129244719435

On November 4, the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership Press published the third title in its Best Practices Series, The Power of Genuine Leadership: How Authentic Leaders Earn Trust by Patrick Donahue, PhD. The Power of Genuine Leadership draws upon Donahue’s doctoral research on the relationship between trust and authenticity, as well as his decades of experience working as a senior executive in leadership development at two global corporations.

The Power of Genuine Leadership is an accessible, clear guide on how to effectively – and measurably – build trust and enhance one’s leadership ability. “It can take a lifetime to earn a reputation of being a great leader, which is earned through consistent behavior over time,” says Donahue. “This book makes a complicated concept easier to digest through models, stories, assessments, and applicable tools.”

Donahue’s research reveals the true power of behavioral consistency as an essential yet under-appreciated driver of trust. His Authenticity Trust Model (ATM) helps readers visualize the relationships among the behavioral components that, when applied consistently, create deeper trust: communication, coaching, and respect.

Of the many valuable learnings in Donahue’s book, perhaps his most insightful, is that authenticity without guidelines is irresponsible; that authenticity without empathy is careless; and that humility is much more than a willingness to be vulnerable. Readers can assess their leadership strengths and development areas using the Authenticity Trust Assessment (ATA), which can be taken time and again to track progress and compare results for deeper analysis.

“With so many books, articles and webpages clamoring for our attention, it’s hard to decide what’s ‘worth the time.’ As a leadership professional, I can tell you, this book is a winner,” says Darryl Spivey of the Center of Creative Leadership. “Dr. Donahue captures the stories of leaders and their impact on people. The engaging anecdotes are entertaining and readable, but interwoven with valuable lessons of introspection, laser focus and excellence. It’s a quick, valuable and important book for leaders.”

The Power of Genuine Leadership is the third volume in the Logos Institute Best Practices Series. The Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership stands at the intersection of scholarship and practice, providing rigorous analysis and practical application of key leadership principles. The Logos Institute Best Practices Series showcases conceptual frameworks that help clarify complex issues, combined with insightful case studies, examples, and actionable tools, tips, and techniques that help leaders make smart choices and build competitive advantage.

“In each of the companies where I have had the privilege to have Patrick as a client, I have watched Patrick as he created leadership learning opportunities for high-potential future leaders from around the world,” says Publisher Helio Fred Garcia. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share Patrick’s insights into the relationship between authenticity and trust with the broader world.”

The Power of Genuine Leadership is available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.com. Logos Institute Press is hosting a virtual book launch event on Thursday, December 10 at 5:00 pm EST, where attendees will have the opportunity to hear from the publisher, the author, and endorsers of the book. If you have not received an invitation or would like to request one, please visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/logos-institute-press-book-launch-for-the-power-of-genuine-leadership-tickets-129244719435?ref=estwhttps://www.eventbrite.com/preview?eid=129244719435

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

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

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

Watch the full webinar here:

On Friday, October 23, 2020, Helio Fred Garcia spoke with Deirdre Breakenridge of Women Worldwide about the power of communication to both ignite and inspire positive change, as well as provoke hurt, harm, and violence.
During their exchange, the pair spoke about Garcia’s journey to the field of communication, how communication can be used to either ignite the better angels in our nature or appeal to the very worst impulses within us, and key lessons from his latest book, Words on Fire: The Power of Incendiary Language and How to Confront It. Garcia also spoke about the ways that we have seen the continuation and intensification of the patterns he has outlined in his book in the past several months, including the spread of mis-information, the dehumanization of at risk groups, and more. They also spoke about how engaged citizens, civic leaders, and emerging leaders can hold people accountable who use incendiary language that predictably causes harm.

Garcia’s closing message:  “Words have power.”

Watch the full interview here:

A version of this post appeared in CommPro.biz.

Last week Cornell University’s Alliance for Science published the first comprehensive study of coronavirus misinformation in the media, and concluded that President Trump is likely the largest driver of the such misinformation.

Lost in the News Cycle

In any other administration this would have led the news for at least a week.

But the report came five days after President Donald J. Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. It came four days after publication of a massive New York Times investigation that revealed that President Trump paid no federal income taxes for years. It came just two days after the debate debacle in which the President refused to condemn white supremacy and seemed to endorse the Proud Boys. And it came just hours before the news that the President and First Lady had tested positive for COVID-19.

I wish the President and the First Lady a speedy and complete recovery.

But it is important that this news not be lost, and that the President be held accountable for the consequences of his words, actions, and inaction.

Language, Inaction, and Consequences

I am a professor of ethics, leadership, and communication at Columbia University and New York University. This summer my book about Trump’s language and how it inspires violence was published. I finished writing Words on Fire: The Power of Incendiary Language and How to Confront It in February. But since then the effect of Trump’s language has been even more dangerous.

In the book, I document how charismatic leaders use language in ways that set a powerful context that determines what makes sense to their followers. Such leaders can make their followers believe absurdities, which then can make atrocities possible. If COVID-19 is a hoax, if it will magically disappear, if it affects only the elderly with heart problems, then it makes sense for people to gather in large crowds without social distancing or masks.

There’s just one problem. None of that is true. But Trump said all those things. And his followers believed him. And the President and his political allies refused to implement policies to protect their citizens.

What The President Knew, and When The President Knew It

As I write this, 210,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 and the President is being treated for it at Walter Reed Military Medical Center.

But it didn’t have to happen. Three weeks ago Dr. Irwin Redlener, head of Columbia University’s Pandemic Resource and Response Initiative, estimated that if the nation had gone to national masking and lock-down one week earlier in March, and had maintained a constant masking and social distancing policy, 150,000 of fatalities could have been avoided.

Trump knew about the severity of the virus in February and March.

In taped discussions Trump told Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward what he knew about how dangerous COVID-19 is:

  • It is spread in the air
  • You catch it by breathing it
  • Young people can get it
  • It is far deadlier than the flu
  • It’s easily transmissible
  • If you’re the wrong person and it gets you, your life is pretty much over. It rips you apart
  • It moves rapidly and viciously.
  • It is a plague

But he was telling the nation the opposite.

“Infodemic” of COVID-19

The Report Cover

President Trump likes to label anything he doesn’t agree with Fake News. But it turns out that he’s the largest disseminator of misinformation about Coronavirus.

Cornell University’s Alliance for Science analyzed 38 million pieces of content published in English worldwide between January 1 and May 26, 2020. It identified 1.1 million news articles that “disseminated, amplified or reported on misinformation related to the pandemic.”

On October 1, 2020 the Alliance published its report. It notes,

“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.”

Its conclusion:

“One major finding is that media mentions of President Trump within the context of different misinformation topics made up 37% of the overall ‘misinformation conversation,’ much more than any other single topic.

The study concludes that Donald Trump was likely the largest driver of the COVID-19 misinformation ‘infodemic.’

In contrast only 16% of media mentions of misinformation were explicitly ‘fact-checking’ in nature, suggesting that a substantial quantity of misinformation reaches media consumers without being challenged or accompanied by factually accurate information.”

But Trump may be responsible for more than the 37% of the news stories that name him. The report says that

” a substantial proportion of other topics was also driven by the president’s comments [but did not explicitly name him], so some overlap can be expected.

Graphic from Cornell Alliance for Science Report

The most prevalent misinformation was about miracle cures. More than 295,000 stories mentioned some version of a miracle cure. (Note that the study looked only at stories that were published before the end of May, long before the president’s statements about a vaccine being ready by the end of October.)

The report notes that Trump prompted a surge of miracle cure stories when he spoke of using disinfectants internally and advocated taking hydroxychloroquine.

The second most prevalent topic, mentioned in nearly 50,000 stories, was that COVID had something to do with the “deep state.” The report notes,

“Mentions of conspiracies linked to alleged secret “new world orders” or ‘deep state’ government bodies existed throughout the time period and were referenced in passing in conversations that mentioned or listed widespread conspiracies. Indeed, President Trump joked about the US State Department being a ‘Deep State’ Department during a White House COVID press conference in March.”

The third most prevalent misinformation was about COVID-19 being a Democratic hoax, mentioned in more than 40,000 stories.

 

Human Consequences of Misinformation

The report closes with a warning: Misinformation has consequences:

“It is especially notable that while misinformation and conspiracy theories promulgated by ostensibly grassroots sources… do appear in our analysis in several of the topics, they contributed far less to the overall volume of misinformation than more powerful actors, in particular the US President.

In previous pandemics, such as the HIV/AIDS outbreak, misinformation and its effect on policy was estimated to have led to an additional 300,000 deaths in South Africa alone.

If similar or worse outcomes are to be avoided in the present COVID-19 pandemic, greater efforts will need to be made to combat the “infodemic” that is already substantially polluting the wider media discourse.”

In my book, I help engaged citizens, civic leaders, and public officials recognize dangerous language and then confront those who use it. I urge such citizens and leaders to hold those who use such language responsible for the consequences.

I wish President Trump a full and fast recovery. He and those closest to him have now been affected by their own denial of science. I hope that now he can start to model appropriate safe behavior.

But even as Trump is being treated in the hospital his campaign says it will stay the course, including an in-person rally for Vice President Mike Pence the day after the vice-presidential debate in several days. This is both irresponsible and dangerous.

I urge civic leaders, engaged citizens, and public officials, regardless of party, to stop having super-spreader events such as in-person rallies. And finally to begin modeling responsible behavior: Wear a mask, maintain social distancing. Masking and distancing are not political acts; they are a civic responsibility.

“When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”

~ George Washington Carver

So: You’re wearing a mask and keeping a socially responsible distance. You’re staying safe but taking long daily walks in the nearly empty streets of New York City to keep yourself healthy and sane. You peer into the dark, empty storefronts as you stroll along. You arrive at the place you always found familiar and comforting; it now looks abandoned and forbidding. There is no human to greet you, only a few words on a single page attached to the front door. Almost every door on every street has a similar sign.

As the days of shutdown have dragged on, I’ve become intrigued by these signs, snapping pictures of at least 100 of them. I’ve read the words again and again. They are breathtaking in their sameness, leading me to the question: How much difference can a few words on a simple sign possibly make?

Businesses reopening in the aftermath of the current crisis may soon find out.

Sometimes the message on the door is just one word – “Closed.” Not terribly helpful, is it? That feels more like the end of a relationship than a reassurance that you and your spot will be reunited in the future.

While heavily trafficked commercial chains may have a following who look for convenience alone, a cozy neighborhood haunt cannot exist without building an emotional bond – appreciation, affection, even love – with its customers. When that business closes indefinitely, or its hours are suddenly and severely curtailed, anxious customers need to see words of gratitude, emotion, and empathy: “We thank you.” “We appreciate you.” “We miss you.” “We understand what you are going through because we are going through it, too.”

Empathy should start right there at the front door.

Surprisingly, even in these difficult times, when those words of connectivity matter most, when customers expect to find love letters from deeply grateful owners, they find crisis boilerplate instead, often written in haste, dashed off as a formality and perhaps copied from a neighboring establishment. Even worse, sometimes, the desired words do not appear at all.

That strategically placed sheet of paper – occasionally drafted with the assistance of a lawyer or a communications professional – may be instructive but it’s not terribly personal. Or authentic. Or meaningful.

That kind of corporate jargon often makes me stop reading – I imagine you know the phrases: “our top priority,” “we are closely monitoring,” “we are committed to …”  But owners use them because they know they need to communicate quickly with customers coming to the door, and they want the message to sound official. Professional communicators reading this will understand that the sign on the door is a kind of stand-by statement to let the entire world, including those critical customers, know what is going on in that moment and what they can expect while the crisis – and temporary closure – continues.

As my colleague, Helio Fred Garcia, has written in The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis, an insightful guide to crisis decision-making (even during one not of your own making), critical communications like that sign on the door should embrace five fundamental elements:

  1. ACKNOWLEDGMENT – a statement of awareness that something has happened.
  2. EMPATHY – an expression of empathy or sympathy to those who are hurting or inconvenienced – and in COVID-19 times, everyone is hurting and inconvenienced.
  3. VALUES – a declaration of the business’ values – including how much that business values those customers.
  4. APPROACH – a summary of the actions the business is taking in the wake of the crisis.
  5. COMMITMENT – a statement that sets future expectations, i.e., “We will keep you up-to-date as we hear any important news and will let you know when we can reopen. We will be here for you online even while we are closed.”

[For a quick summary of these elements, see the Leadership Lesson on Standby Statements]

In all fairness, I’m sure these independent owners also mean to communicate how much they love and miss their customers. But their words – crafted out of necessity and in great haste from a template – don’t quite resonate. They don’t quite say: We are closed, but we miss you and are still there for you.

Contrast those signs with recent updates that a certain coffee company has posted on Instagram – the digital front door for many contemporary consumers. Note the likes and comments.

So, for owners of shuttered businesses – small or large, mighty or nimble – here are two important questions you should ask yourself:

1. How can you communicate your message in conversational human language, rather than boilerplate jargon? You’re dealing with ordinary humans. Why not sound like one?

2. How can you include a message of gratitude at the very top of the page? Owners should express their sincere thanks to the customer who has arrived at the door in the first sentence or two. What would happen if the language of the sign started there? Only good things, I promise you.

Here are some signs that hit the mark beautifully. Which ones do you like best?

One last thought: many of the signs that I see on the doors have been left there unchanged for weeks.

Dear shop owners— It’s not too late to change that sign!

Love,

Your Devoted Customer