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Session Recap: Crisis Communications in the World of COVID-19: How To Handle It, What We’ve Learned

On day 3 of ICON 2020, I attended a session titled “Crisis Communications in the World of COVID-19: How To Handle It, What We’ve Learned and What We Should Do Going Forward?” with Gerard Braud, founder of Braud Communications and He discussed what crisis communication is, its importance, and how it was used in the Hurricane Katrina and COVID-19 crises.

He began with a comparison: “Crisis communication is like an umbrella, you don’t buy an umbrella because you hope it rains today, you buy it in case you need it.” This really stuck with me. It’s so important to have a crisis communication plan in place, since it’s better to have one and not need to use it than to not have one when it’s necessary. With a crisis communication plan, it’s important to have a pre-written statement ready to go in case something goes wrong. This is a template for what a crisis communicator should say, and is edited to fit the unique situation.

Braud also talked about what it means to be a good leader during a crisis. He said, “A title doesn’t make you a leader. Your behavior in your darkest hour and in your darkest need makes you a leader.” I think this really speaks volumes about what is going on during the COVID-19 pandemic. Just because our government is considered to be comprised of “leaders,” it doesn’t mean that they match the title. They are being reactive rather than proactive; they didn’t prepare for the issue and are reacting rather than working towards fixing it.

This seems to be deja vu of what happened during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Braud mentioned how the mayor of New Orleans at the time didn’t tell anyone in one section of the county to evacuate, which caused thousands of people to drown. A similar situation is occurring now with the U.S. government. Our government didn’t take any action in the beginning of the pandemic besides close the economy. They didn’t mandate masks or issue a stay-at-home order: they left that all up to individual states to do. This caused over 220,000 people to die of COVID-19.

Overall, this session with Gerald Braud was very informative and insightful. He brought a new perspective of COVID-19 and compared it to another crisis that could have been handled a lot better.

This blog post was written by Secretary and Interim Vice President, Christina Billie.

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