By: Sophia Iannelli
Since March 2020 we have been hearing about how we are living through unprecedented times full of uncertainty. Though, one thing we can be certain about is that this year has been one of chaos and crisis. In a breakout session called Navigating Through Crisis with Confidence at PRSA ICON 2020, James Wright, global CEO of Red Havas and global chairman of Havas PR Global Collective, walked us through the seven lessons of leadership that are vital in times like these.
Build trust with transparency.
“Trust is the glue of life.” This one is pretty simple. As PR practitioners one of the most crucial things we practice is transparency. Honestly is truly the best policy and recently we have seen that CEOs are actually becoming more comfortable accepting that they don’t have all of the answers.
Connect to purpose.
During crisis, people are always searching for some sort of meaning. Unilever CEO, Alan Jope, released a statement touching on this topic saying, “Purpose counts. This will be even more in a post COVID-19 world. Young consumers will really care about the behavior of companies. People entering the workforce believe this. We will not once waver in our purpose.”
Mind the six C’s.
It is important to remember all messaging should be calm, candid, confident, credible, compassionate and consistent. Wright highlighted a quote from the Harvard Business Review. “Like a virus, words are infectious. They can instill fear and panic, or facilitate understanding and calm. Above all, they can spark action. So choose them carefully.”
Execute with a bold vision.
As leaders, especially in crisis, it is important to lead from the front. One of the best examples of this described by Wright was when the Commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA), Adam Silver, was one of the first to make a strong statement about the coronavirus outbreak. He took swift action and suspended the basketball league on the same day the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 as a pandemic.
Simplify the complex.
Throughout this pandemic we have been confronted with a lot of scientific and economic terminology which, to be honest, can be hard to understand. Good leaders know how to decipher information in a way that helps people simply understand the facts. Dr. Anthony Fauci is a well known good example of using ordinary language to break down a high-level, complex topic like coronavirus.
Be human first.
Wright opened this segment stating, “storytelling is one of the most powerful techniques we have.” During a crisis statistics often make headlines. It is vital to remember that stories have the power to cut through numbers and really connect with people. Personal anecdotes can reveal vulnerability and authenticity while also allowing brands to really walk the walk instead of just talking the talk.
Meet people where they are.
A beautiful example of this that Wright shared with us was when the Prime Minister of Norway held a children’s only press conference. I know this may sound kind of odd, but the intent is quite endearing. The Prime Minister wanted to create a space where children could ask questions about what was happening with the coronavirus. She also wanted to use this time to reassure children that it is normal to be scared during a crisis.
Wright ended the session by reminding us that times of turbulence and trouble, like these, help leaders grow and become more innovative and well-rounded. He tells us to think about our grandchildren and how they will look back at our successes and be proud of the role we played and how we navigated the hardest times of our lives with confidence.
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