Author, professor and crisis communicator Helio Fred Garcia joins Tim to talk about ethics and crisis communications. Fred has had a long career at the highest levels advising organizations of all sizes on crisis communications and crisis management matters. In this conversation, we Fred tells his story, and he talks candidly about the kinds of ethical issues and dilemmas those of us in the crisis communications field face every day.
Before we meet our guest today, it may be worth setting the stage by giving you a little background on what exactly we mean when we talk about crisis communications or crisis management.
Sometimes, people think a crisis is when something goes wrong at work, or when an organization’s social media page gets bombarded with negative feedback. To be sure, these can certainly be indicators of a crisis, but they are not crises in themselves. In other words, a bad day for a company or an organization does not a crisis make.
At the same time, no company or organization is immune from crises. A crisis is when something happens, could happen or may happen where the very operations of the organization are threatened. Here are some examples:
A bankruptcy filing;
A labor strike;
A train derailment;
A chemical spill;
A boycott of a famous brand;
Sexual harassment allegations;
Major litigation – you get sued;
Or, a viral social media post that totally disrupts the organization.
These are just some examples. For the past 35 years, I’ve been one of those in the public relations fields who handles such crises. In that time, I’ve handled hundreds of crises for clients. I’ve seen it done right, and I’ve seen crises handled horribly.
Over the years, I’ve become aware of others in the crisis communications field who’ve built strong reputations for themselves in the process. Helio Fred Garcia is one of those people. When we sat down for this interview, I wanted to know his whole story, and he told me. But my first question could best be described as “inside baseball” from one crisis communicator to another. I wanted to know what Fred saw as the more common myths surrounding crisis communications and crisis management.
Logos Consulting (Website)
The Essential Crisis Communications Plan: A Crisis Management Process that Fits Your Culture, by Tim O'Brien (Amazon)
About this Episode’s Guest Helio Fred Garcia
For more than 40 years Helio Fred 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, most recently, of Words on Fire: The Power of Incendiary Language and How to Confront It, published by Radius Book Group in 2020. He is also the author The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis, Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership Press, 2017. Prior to this, Fred wrote The Power of Communication: Skills to Build Trust, Inspire Loyalty, and Lead Effectively, FT Press, 2012.
Fred is president of the crisis management firm Logos Consulting Group and executive director of the Logos Institute for Crisis Management & Executive Leadership. He is based in New York and has worked with clients in dozens of countries on six continents.
Fred has coached more than 400 CEOs of major corporations, plus thousands of other high-profile people in other complex fields, including doctors, scientists, lawyers, financial executives, military officers, and government officials. In the 1980s he worked at leading public relations firms and served as head of public relations for a global investment bank and for a large public accounting firm. Through the 1990s Fred headed the crisis practice of a leading strategic communication consulting firm.