Tag Archive for: PRSA

On April 11 – 12, 2024, the Logos team led a two-day, immersive Master Class in Strategic Communication for the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) in Chicago, Illinois.

This two-day Master Class brought together more than 30 professionals from across the country. The Master Class was designed to elevate communication professionals’ capacity by applying principles of strategy to the processes of communication. It focused on how to think clearly; how to influence people; and how to use language with impact.

Logos president Helio Fred Garcia and Logos Senior Advisor and Chief of Staff Katie Garcia served as faculty for this program. Logos has previously led five Master Classes in Crisis Communication for PRSA – in 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2023. This was the first year Logos led a Master Class on strategic communication for PRSA.

On the first day we began by centering participants around foundational elements of strategy. Strategy is a system of ordered thinking that helps an individual or organization mobilize resources to accomplish clearly defined goals. The first rule of strategy is to think clearly:

  • to understand the situation that presents a challenge or opportunity;
  • to understand the desired outcome; and
  • to deeply understand an audience and what it will take to change what that audience thinks and feels and how it behaves.

We then turned to how communication professionals can prevent or overcome the marginalization of the communication function and earn a seat at the table as important decisions are being made. We explored how communication professionals can use their craft in the service of goals that matter to management, in ways that deliver value to an enterprise, and in ways that transcend specific functional areas.

We began the second day by taking a deep dive into framing and the management of meaning. Specifically, we looked at how to create context that leads audiences to a desired conclusion. We then explored how we could use elements of effective storytelling to structure content in ways that inspire audiences to support an idea more quickly, change a behavior, or say yes to a request.

We then transitioned to how to convey executive presence when speaking. We explored how incremental changes in posture, body movement, facial expression, and gestures have a disproportionate effect on voice intonation and on audience attention and engagement. We also explored specific techniques on how to effectively engage audiences through a screen.

The Master Class featured robust discussion, learning, reflection, and network building between the participants in the program.

Some feedback we received from program participants included:

  • “This photo [of the Master Class] represents one of the best classes I have attending in my over 30-year career… Together we learned how to bring valid strategy, compelling storytelling, and thoughtful outcomes to any communication we develop.”
  • “I recently had the privilege of attending one of the most impactful classes in my career… This session, with over 30 communication strategy professionals, emphasized the critical role of being trusted advisors within our organizations… The experience was enriching and will undoubtably shape my approach to communication strategy moving forward.”
  • “Thank you for equipping us with a new set of tools and making complex concepts easily accessible and understandable.”
  • “If presented with the opportunity to learn from Helio Fred Garcia and Katie Garcia, I implore you to run, not walk to sign up. Thankful to Fred and Katie for not only sharing their wisdom, but creating an environment where we could also be authentic and vulnerable in sharing our experiences and insights to learn from one another.”

We are always grateful to have the opportunity to teach, learn from, and be in relationship with participants in PRSA programs.

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 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.

NEW YORK (September 29, 2021) – On September 28, 2021, president of Logos Consulting Group Helio Fred Garcia was awarded the 2021 John W. Hill award for lifetime achievement by the New York Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA-NY).

The John W. Hill Award, PRSA-NY’s highest honor, recognizes professional achievement in the practice of public relations. Named for the founder of one of the world’s preeminent PR firms, the award has been presented annually since 1977. Previous recipients have included Jon Iwata, Fellow of Yale School of Management, Andy Polansky, CEO of Weber Shandwick, and James E. Lukaszewski, America’s Crisis Guru® and a mentor of Garcia.

“However far we can see, it is because we stand on the shoulders of those who came before. And I have been blessed to stand on the shoulders of some giants.” Garcia noted in his acceptance speech. “Thank you for this award. I am humbled and honored.”

The award winner is chosen by the chapter’s Executive Committee for confirmation and endorsement following a public nomination period. To be considered for this award, nominees must meet the following criteria:

  • Leadership in the development of the practice of public relations.
  • Demonstration of the highest standards of integrity.
  • Fostering and promoting understanding among people.
  • Service to the public beyond the scope of the nominee’s regular duties.
  • Promoting communications and understanding through education and the exchange of ideas.

For 40 years, Garcia has helped leaders build trust, inspire loyalty, and lead effectively. He is a coach, counselor, teacher, writer, and speaker whose clients include some of the largest and best-known companies and organizations in the world. He is the author of five books on crisis, communication, and leadership. Garcia is an adjunct professor at the NYU Stern School of Business and an adjunct associate professor of management and communication in NYU’s School of Professional Studies, MS in Public Relations and Corporate Communication program, where he has received numerous awards for teaching excellence.

“Of all the things I have had the good fortune to do in my career, the one I am most proud of is my teaching at New York University, where over the last 34 years I have taught more than 4,000 students,” Garcia reflected. “Bringing the next generation of PR into the field is one of the joys in my life. And I invite the young people here to take the opportunity to find ways to bring the next generation up.”

The award was presented at the 2021 Big Apple Award ceremony, a public relations industry gala recognizing outstanding team accomplishments, as well as exceptional achievements by individual public relations practitioners.

Garcia closed his acceptance speech with a message to the young public relations practitioners in attendance: “However far we see, we stand on the shoulders of others. You have stood on the shoulders of others. And others can stand on your shoulders.”

This is an excerpt of a guest column by Helio Fred Garcia, originally published in the May issue of PRSA’s Strategy & Tactics.

A foundational principle of any organization’s crisis response is that indifference to the situation is toxic. Leaders must show they care. This was true before COVID-19 and it will become even more essential as we recover from the pandemic, which has been the most disruptive crisis most of us have ever faced.

To be clear, the need for leaders to care during times of crisis is neither sentimental nor soft. Rather, caring is a necessary discipline for leaders — a fact made clear when we analyze the factors that build trust and reputation.

For all organizations, a common goal in every crisis is to maintain or restore the trust of stakeholders — which include investors, employees, customers, suppliers and increasingly, communities. And it’s much harder to restore trust after it’s been lost than to maintain that trust in the first place.

Trust is the natural result of promises fulfilled, expectations met and values lived. When people experience a company fulfilling its promises — whether those promises are explicit or merely implied by a brand’s identity — their trust in the organization remains or increases. When people see a brand break its promises, on the other hand, their trust in the organization falls.

Similarly, when customer expectations for a company are met, trust in the brand remains or increases. But when leaders or companies fail to meet those expectations, trust erodes.

Such expectations can be set by the company itself, through explicit or implicit promises and/or through precedents set by the organization’s past behavior. Consumer expectations also derive from laws and social mores, which change over time. Company leaders should always stay abreast of social expectations.

When it comes to the trust that rises or falls according to the values lived by a business, the company’s stated values set an expectation. When people experience a company living up to its stated values, their trust remains; conversely, when they see a company failing to live up to its stated values, their trust diminishes.

One of the disciplines of effective crisis response is to get the decision criterion — the basis of choice — right. A poorly handled crisis often results from leaders making decisions based on what scares them least. In times of crisis, leaders need to make decisions based on the tested criteria that determine trust.

 

Caring builds trust

When deciding how to respond in a crisis, leaders do well by first identifying their most important constituents and then asking themselves: What would reasonable people expect a responsible organization to do in this circumstance?

Reasonable people don’t take their cues from internet trolls or bots, from critics or adversaries or even from the news media or social media. Instead, reasonable people respond to those they trust and to those whose trust they need for themselves. Reasonable people have expectations that are appropriate to the crisis, to the harm that people have experienced and to the kind of organization that is experiencing the crisis.

A responsible company asks what reasonable people would expect it to do, which leads to the company having a fuller array of predictably helpful options.

Consider, for example, the scenario that an explosion has occurred at a factory. Reasonable people won’t expect a responsible company to immediately know what has caused the blast. Reporters will ask for an explanation and people on social media will speculate, but stakeholder trust won’t dissolve simply because the company doesn’t know the cause at the time of the explosion.

Reasonable people will expect the company to acknowledge what has happened, to work with first responders to rescue those inside the factory and to provide for the families of employees who were injured or killed.

We can inventory the specific expectations of different stakeholders — including employees and more particularly, those workers directly affected by the disaster; customers and more precisely, those who have used a certain product from a certain retailer on a certain date.

Regardless of the nature of crisis an organization faces, every interested party shares a common expectation: that the organization and its leaders will care. Customers, employees, investors and others expect leaders to care that the organization’s processes, systems or judgment have failed; that as a consequence people have been placed at risk and need to be protected; and that the company may need to make changes to prevent similar crises from occurring again.

In any crisis, what it means for leaders to care can vary according to the circumstances, but the need to care is universal. At a basic level, caring means that leaders mitigate any ongoing risk to people and help them out of the crisis.

 

Building for the future 

In the past year, half a million Americans have died from COVID-19 and 30 million others have been infected by the virus. The pandemic crashed the economy, forcing hardships on many people. Collectively, our mental health has suffered from the stress of the coronavirus outbreak, including the strain of being confined in our homes. How we work has changed, perhaps forever. At the same time, social and political divisions seem to be growing, not shrinking.

Having suffered these hardships, people are fragile, exhausted and vulnerable, even as they try to feel hopeful for the future.

Leaders should know that people need them to care, now more than ever. Some leaders might feel tempted to assume (or to hope) that everything has already returned to normal, so they can step on the accelerator for their businesses. And in non-crisis environments, that may be the case. But for leaders of organizations still recovering from the pandemic, the need for caring has only increased.

Caring requires empathy; and empathy requires humility. Leaders who have successfully guided their organizations through the pandemic have demonstrated humility within themselves and expressed empathy for others. As we move into recovery, we can follow their example.

Read full article here.