Communication and PR During the Global Pandemic – with Adele Cehrs

Whether you own your business or work for someone else, communication is the key to PR. Never is the importance of communication highlighted more fully than in times of crisis. If you want to know more about PR in the time of a global pandemic or just want to make it through any other type of PR crisis, join me for today’s conversation. 

Adele Cehrs is CEO and founder of Epic PR, When+How Agency, and a bestselling author. Beginning her career as a journalist for George magazine and the Asbury Park Press, Adele cut her teeth on marketing and PR on Madison Avenue and K Street. In her 16 years at the helm guiding Epic PR’s success, Adele became a renowned authority on how organizations can get into the news and get out of the news. Today, Adele is heralded as a crisis communication expert by the Wall Street Journal. She works with companies such as Lockheed Martin, DuPont, and Verizon, and helps their executives and leaders navigate the ups and downs of tough customers, hostile rooms, and challenging situations. In this episode, Adele shares actionable steps for staying cool in a crisis, and how to make rapid decisions without losing sight of your long – term goals. She also shares an actionable framework for reading people, navigating crisis situations, and negotiating to win. Whether you’re in management, HR, or sales, effective communication is crucial to success. 

What makes a good PR person?

Adele says that it’s tough to be a good publicist if you haven’t spent time in a newsroom. You really need to spend time on the other side of the fence to understand the intricacies of how the media works. This experience gives you a decided advantage. Getting caught up in the glitz and glamor of PR will make you lose your creative edge, but Adele has been able from the beginning to work with celebrities without being awed by the spotlight. Her experience working for JFK, Jr. at George magazine gave her the foundation for later success and gave her much empathy for the celebrity experience. 

Becoming a crisis communication expert

Adele helps people get into and out of the news. Becoming a crisis communication expert was an accidental journey that began when she was at a PR firm, and a crisis arose with a client. Adele came up with a strategy, and the firm used it. She loved that feeling of solving the problem and alleviating the crisis, and she was hooked on crisis communication from that point forward. Being naturally adept at gauging possible outcomes and predicting human behavior, Adele was able to merge her interests of journalism, messaging, human behavior, and emotions to form a fast-paced career that she loves. In addition, her personal 9/11 experience taught her how she could be calm and thoughtful in the middle of others’ crises. 

From Epic PR to When+How 

A unique and unlikely partnership was born when Adele met Chip, a former FBI hostage negotiator. She became curious about the language of crisis communication, and she and Chip teamed up to teach a master class together. They realized that they made an unprecedented team of crisis communication firm meets FBI hostage negotiator. Their skills merged into a unique perspective in that she helps people with career suicide moments, while Chip’s experience is in helping people in a real suicide crisis. It’s become a partnership that works well as they each bring their interesting gifts, strengths, and skillsets to the table. 

The nuts and bolts of effective negotiation

With When+How, Adele and Chip are launching the idea of behavior-based crisis negotiations regarding the different personalities that show up in a crisis. They have identified 12 different personality types. One of these types is the Quick Draw, a person who has too many ideas and makes decisions too quickly. With their new system, When+How identifies your personality type under stress, how other people see you and react to you, and how you can improve your reactions and modify your behavior.  

Turn those triggering situations around

We all are triggered by certain people, their behaviors, and how they speak to us. Adele shares an example of a business colleague whom she finds extremely triggering, especially with his brusque and misogynistic manner. She’s taken that situation to change her perspective, using these interactions to learn about herself and grow, removing herself from the caustic situation without relinquishing her power. It’s a matter of wanting the knowledge more than the pain. The key in many business relationships is not to personalize these triggering interactions, but to look at these moments as plot twists in your journey. Figure out how you can grow and become better because of those triggers. 

Compete with yourself

For a competitive person like Adele, the key she’s found is to compete with herself and not other people. She tries to set 12 – 15 goals on a yearly vision board as a way to inspire her to reach every day for those larger goals. However big or small those goals are, she says to look at them every day and feel great satisfaction as you achieve them. It’s easy during a crisis to lose focus on those goals, but they can keep you grounded.

Applying Adele’s work to real life

Check out Adele’s website for free resources about communicating during a crisis. She says to look at any crisis as an opportunity for your company to take risks. A year from now, people everywhere will be receiving awards and recognition for the risks they took during this global crisis. Use any crisis as a chance to get ahead and take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. 

Highlights of this episode:

  • 7:24 – What it takes to be a good PR person
  • 18:52 – Journey to becoming a crisis communication expert
  • 24:12 – A transition and an unlikely partnership
  • 29:55 – Nuts and bolts of effective negotiation
  • 38:24 – How to learn from what triggers you
  • 49:03 – Competing with yourself
  • 59:12 – Applying Adele’s work to real life
  • 1:04:28 – Fem Five

Resources mentioned:

The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth by M. Scott Peck

The Fem Five

1. Favorite book to recommend for women?

  • The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth by M. Scott Peck

2. Favorite self-care hack?

  • Exercise

3. Best piece of advice and who gave it to you?

  • “A former boss showed me why I should work for my own success and not the success of others.”

4. Female CEO or thought leader you’re into right now?

5. One piece of advice you’d give your five years younger self?

  • “Make decisions that will make you happy.”

Last Time on The NextFem Podcast

Creating A Company That Puts Its Values Into Practice – with Shannon Adkins

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