dr Anthony Fauci probably has more experience dealing with health-related emergencies than anyone else in the public or private sector. When Fauci, as he announced today, retires as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in December, he will leave important crisis communication lessons for leaders.
No place for disinformation and dishonesty
The news of Fauci’s upcoming retirement “should serve as a ‘teaching moment’ for those in the crisis management space,” said Adam H. Brill, senior director of communications at public relations firm Harrison Edwards, where he oversees crisis communications and reputation management. told via email.
“DR. Fauci’s consistent leadership, objectivity, and dedication to doing what is right is precisely why he was the right leader at the right time when our nation needed commonsense and logical information to navigate the pandemic,” he noted .
“In a crisis – especially when lives and property are lost – there is no place for disinformation and dishonesty. Messages must be clear, factual, timely and supported by evidence. Not by mere opinion or empty rhetoric,” Brill said.
“That is, why [Fauci] prevailed in the court of public opinion, garnering legions of supporters who respected his integrity. Because integrity counts, especially in a crisis. In short, people believe people who break bad news with respect and compassion and sincerity.
“In addition, Dr. Fauci is not deterred or afraid to change direction if necessary when new information has to [be] delivered to save more lives,” he noted.
Present calm and transparency
“In a crisis, business leaders must demonstrate a sense of calm and transparency in their responses to the worst of situations,” Amy Levy, president of Amy Levy Public Relations, said in a statement.
“Dr. Fauci was steadfast in his messages and often took great personal risk for himself and his family when clashing with our former President. He offered a reasonable voice and held our attention with factual information that he delivered gracefully,” she said.
“Only half the answer”
“As Fauci noted, the greatest threat to the health and well-being of our country was not the coronavirus or other deadly killers. Instead, it’s intense polarization that’s keeping our country from moving in together in response,” Wendy Smith, a professor of management at the University of Delaware, said via email.
“Having studied both and thought for the past 25 years, what we can learn from Fauci is that the answer is only half the answer,” she commented.
“More importantly, we need to know how to bring people together for collective action. This is particularly challenging in conditions of uncertainty, fear and apprehension – as in the pandemic. Fauci’s ability was to listen, engage and connect across borders,” concluded Smith.
build up trust
“Developing and maintaining public trust during Covid-19 has been a significant and unshakable responsibility for Fauci,” said leadership expert Antonio Gardo and author of My daily guidance: A powerful roadmap To the leadership success told via email.
But “despite severe criticism, he remained committed to advising the public using available science and data. As Fauci himself says, ‘stick to the truth, not what people want to hear.’”
“Throughout the pandemic, Dr. Fauci continually strives to build and sustain public trust during an unprecedented – and unforeseen – crisis,” said Christy Reiss, senior account executive and member of the crisis communications team at Matter Communications, in a statement.
“He made himself available to the public through press conferences, providing regular updates on the status and explaining the nuances of the pandemic in an easily digestible way,” she recalled.
Fauci “consistently demonstrated one of the most important elements of effective crisis management … by saying what is and isn’t known at any given point in time,” Brian Ballou, EY professor of accounting and co-founder of the William Isaac & Michael Oxley Center for Business Leadership at Miami University Farmer Business School, in a statement.
“Further, [Fauci] was kept informed by his agency about the latest research results; partner agencies; and world-renowned agencies, universities and other practicing scientists.
“Political forces at times caused opponents to question his efforts to be ‘open and honest’ when his updates on required behaviors became unpopular due to fatigue or other reasons. However, he remained persistent and continued to provide updates based on direct dialogue with scientists and other informed parties,” Ballou stressed.
As I wrote in January, “A best practice in dealing with a crisis is to respond to allegations and allegations that you or your business believe are harmful, false or misleading. dr Anthony Fauci did just that Tuesday in response to statements from Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).
According to NPR, “Paul has falsely accused Fauci of being responsible for millions of deaths, and at a Senate hearing on Covid-19 on Tuesday, Fauci said the charges are ‘stoking the crazies out there.'”
“A blueprint for others to follow”
“In a crisis of this magnitude, with a lot of misinformation, it’s critical to choose a spokesperson who will become your go-to place and who imparts authority and knowledge,” advised Reiss of Matter Communications.
“Most importantly, your spokesperson must speak to the reality of a situation, draw on the most up-to-date data, and provide recommendations and next steps that the public can easily act on and that give them a sense of control.
“DR. Fauci has met each of these requirements, and it is a blueprint for others to follow closely and for business leaders to study in dealing with their own crisis,” she concluded.