The Power of Communication by Helio Fred Garcia is on of my new favorites in 2012. The book focuses on building trust and loyalty through strategic communications and offers a well-rounded view of how to win “the hearts and minds” of the public. Most importantly, it educates you on how to communicate effectively and without self-inflicted harm, especially during a crisis. [Disclosure: Fred is one of my NYU colleagues].
Before I get into my favorite parts in the book, I want to tell you why this book is so different, and, in my opinion, A MUST READ. The Power of Communication uses the Marine’s Corps doctrinal publication, “Warfighting,” to apply proven leadership skills. It is fascinating to relate Marine Corps thinking and effective execution to our communications initiatives. I have to admit that I was a little skeptical at first, but believe me this book does not disappoint. I was truly inspired by how Fred took the Marine Corps framework and illustrated to communications professionals and business leaders a different way to take initiative and “control” the agenda.
Although I have many favorite parts in The Power of Communication, here are a few interesting highlights:
Chapter 2 on “Taking Audiences Seriously” sets the stage for understanding audiences on their own terms. Here, you will learn the careful balance between Logos, Ethos and Pathos. According to the author, in order to truly engage an audience you must master these three things. Logos is the logic or argument you apply, Ethos is the personal character you inject into your communication and Pathos is the passion that will trigger a personal emotion. One without the others will not work.
Chapter 3 on “Words Aren’t Enough” illustrates how many leaders cause more harm than good in a crisis situation. Clearly the loss of trust by the public is a gap between the words that come out of a leader’s mouth and the actions of that same person and his or her staff. The author stresses how we are judged by our actions. If you have a “First Mover Advantage” when crisis strikes, you have a greater opportunity to define a negative situation, and how you are going to handle and move forward … not allowing any other person or entity do that for you.
In Chapter 5 on “Initiative, Maneuver, and Disproportionality” the author has designed a chart on “The Golden Hour of Crisis” which basically says you have 45 minutes to get behind a crisis before you risk reputational damage. He shows how “Time” directly relates to “Impact” with a scale that ranges from 45 minutes to what happens after 2 weeks and the effects of negative visibility to your organization’s reputation. According to the author, what is especially important to remember is that speed should not be based on an impulse, but rather what type of communications are expected by the market.
Lastly, what I found most interesting were the detailed examples of the many leaders who fell to their own demise by their own words, based on a lack of clear or orderly thinking during a crisis situation. The Power of Communication gives you an opportunity to be clear and orderly, and most of all to be strategic. By reading this book, you will learn quickly that it’s not what you want to say, but rather asking a different set of questions (from what is the challenge and what is our goal to who matters and what do they need from us).
If you are looking to add a really good book to your 2013 reading list, then The Power of Communication should definitely be at the top of your list!