Archive for the ‘Crisis Communication’ Category

Worth Reading: Lukaszewski on Crisis Communication: What Your CEO Should Know About Reputation Risk and Crisis Management



However far I may be able to see, it is because I stand on others’ shoulders.  And there’s no set of shoulders that has allowed me to see as far and as well as Jim Lukazewski’s.

Crisis Guru Jim Lukaszewski

Crisis Guru Jim Lukaszewski

I’ve had the good fortune to know and work with Jim for more than 25 years.


To Change Gun Laws, Control the Debate

On the Wednesday after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, President Barack Obama called for changes in gun laws to prevent similar tragedies in the future. He said:

“We may never know all the reasons why this tragedy happened. We do know that every day since more Americans have died of gun violence. We know such violence has terrible consequences for our society. And if there is only one thing that we can do to prevent any of these events we have a deep obligation – all of us – to try. Over these past five days a discussion has re-emerged as to what we might do not only to deter mass shootings in the future, but to reduce the epidemic of gun violence that plagues this country every single day.”


The Power of Communication Named to US Marine Corps Commandant’s Professional Reading List


Late last month the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps sent a letter to all Marines laying out a philosophy of life-long learning as an essential part of being a Marine, and included the Commandant’s Professional Reading List.

I’m delighted to announce that The Power of Communication: Skills to Build Trust, Inspire Loyalty, and Lead Effectively is on that list.

General James F. Amos, the 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps, said,

“The idea of Marines diligently pursuing the profession of arms by reading on their own has resonated inside and outside the Corps… Marines take great pride in being part of a thinking and learning organization.  The emphasis on thoughtful reading has stood us in good stead over the last 11 years.  The adaptation and flexibility shown by Marines faced with a variety of different situations and challenges was anchored in many years of mental preparation for combat.”

About the Commandant’s Professional Reading List

The Commandant’s Professional Reading List was launched in 1989 by then-Commandant Gen. Alfred Gray.

In his letter to all Marines, the current Commandant says that General Gray

“clearly understood that the development and broadening of the mind is a critical aspect of the true warrior’s preparation for battle.  General Gray viewed reading as the means of preparing for the future, and combat in particular.  He ensured that his Marines knew he considered mental preparation as important as physical conditioning or even MOS [Military Occupation Specialty] training.”

The current list is organized by rank and level (recruit through general officer), and also by category (Strategic Thinking, Leadership, Regional and Cultural Studies).  The Power of Communication is one of eight books in the Leadership category.

General Amos emphasized that reading wasn’t just something for Marines to do in their spare time.  He said that the list of books “forms the core of an expanded professional military education program that I expect to be overseen by Commanding Officers and unit leaders at every level.”

He then directed the Marines on how to implement this expectation:

“Every Marine will read at least three books from the list each year.  All books listed at each level of rank are required, while the books listed under categories are recommended readings to expand understanding in specific areas.  The list represents only a starting point, and will ideally whet the appetite for further reading and study.  Commanders and senior enlisted will reinvigorate the critical emphasis on reading in their units and develop a unit reading program.  Books will be selected for reading and discussion, with time set aside in the schedule to that end.  The idea that true professionals study their profession all the time – not just in MPE [Professional Military Education] schools – will continue to be a strongly emphasized theme in all of our professional schools… officer and enlisted.”

A Philosophy of Life-Long Learning

General Amos laid out his vision of the Marines as a life-long learning organization and the role of critical thinking, reading, and reflection as an essential element of being a Marine.

“Faced with a period of fiscal austerity and an uncertain world, it’s more important now than ever before to dedicate time to read and to think.  As we prepare ourselves for whatever is to come, the study of military history offers the inexpensive chance to learn from the hard-won experience of others, finding a template for solving existing challenges, and avoid making the same mistakes twice.  As it was once wisely put, reading provides a ‘better way to do business… it doesn’t always provide all the answers… but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.’  Any book thoughtfully read sharpens the mind and improves on an individual’s professional potential.”

But General Amos expressed concern that the two wars and other commitments made it harder and harder for Marines to live those values:

“Over recent years I have become increasingly concerned that Marines are not reading enough anymore.   Many are not reading at all.  This has happened for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost, the last 11 years of continuous combat in Iraq and Afghanistan have been characterized by a high operational tempo that made extraordinary demands on time.  Under the pressure of competing requirements, reading was one of the first things to go.  For all practical purposes it has been gone for years.  Our senior leaders have not emphasized the importance of reading….

“Whatever has caused our emphasis on reading to atrophy, we as Marines and as leaders, need to restore its preeminence at every level.  The Marine Corps will return to its roots as an organization that studies and applies the lessons of history.”

The Commandant’s Professional Reading List

The Commandant’s Professional Reading List consists of more than 150 books divided into 19 groups; ten of the groups are rank-specific, nine are in categories such as Leadership, Strategic Thinking, Counterinsurgency, and Aviation.

One of four books in the Commandant’s Choice category is Warfighting: United States Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication Number 1,  which is adapted in The Power of Communication to create a conceptual framework for effective leadership communication.

Other books of note on the Commandant’s List include:

The Art of War by Sun Tzu, for First Lieutenants.
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, for Sergeants, Staff Sergeants, and Captains.
Blink: the Power of Thinking without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell, for Majors and Lieutenant Colonels.
Hot, Flat and Crowded by Tom Friedman for Majors and Lieutenant Colonels.
Diplomacy by Henry Kissinger, for Colonels and Generals.

Besides The Power of Communication, other books in the Leadership category, encouraged for all Marines, are:

Developing the Leaders Around You: How to Help Others Reach Their Full Potential, by John Maxwell.
Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year Old Company That Changed the World by Chris Lowney.
Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times by Donald Philips.
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek.


I have had the honor of teaching Marines and of getting to know them for more than 20 years.  In that time I’ve been impressed with their commitment to training, teaching, and learning.  General Amos’ letter — and his personal commitment, framed as an order for all Marines to follow, for reading, thinking, and reflecting — just enhances my view of Marines.  I think that would be the case even if my book wasn’t on the list.  But it’s an added honor, privilege, and delight for me to know that I can continue to influence Marines and their way of thinking at a distance.


Semper Fi!

Small World


One of the joys of launching a book is that you never know who will read it and where.

The Power of Communication launched in May. The publisher, the FT Press imprint of Pearson, is global and the book got broad distribution.  But because it was launched in the US in English, I focused most of my attention on the US and in countries where I’ve recently done teaching or have clients (China, Switzerland, Italy etc.).

So imagine my delight and surprise when in early August I received an e-mail from a graduate student in Chile who had been assigned to read the book.

Fernando Godoy is an industrial engineer in Santiago, studying in the Global MBA program of the Universidad de Chile.  In his Business Management course students are assigned a number of books, and each week a group of students presents a book to the rest of the class.  Fernando and his colleagues Natalia Ruz and Christian Aravena had been assigned The Power of Communication, and they took the initiative to reach out to the author for resources.  They had done their homework.  They had seen the companion video.  They had read the book.  And asked whether I had any visuals I could share.  They also asked if I could do a short video introduction.


So I did.  I sent slides and illustrations, and recorded a video greeting.  As it happens, and unbeknownst to Fernando and his team, I have a Chilean connection.  Although born in Brazil and a native speaker of Portuguese, my grandfather was raised in Chile – in fact, my last name is Chilean – and my Spanish is passable.

Fernando, Christian, and Natalia presented to their class, and told me that the students were surprised to hear the video greeting in Spanish.  They say they had a very good response and lots of interaction.

As part of their global MBA Fernando and his colleagues will be traveling the world this year, studying in the US, Britain, Australia.  It’s a very small world.  I look forward to connecting with them when they’re up north.



Tonight I’ll be heading to Lima, Peru, to speak next week at the International Public Relations Association (IPRA) annual meeting and concurrent Latin American Congress.

I’ll be speaking Wednesday, September 19 on The Power of Communication in a Crisis.  I’ll blog and tweet (@garciahf) about that from there.  I’m looking forward to spending time with a number of folks from the States whom I know directly or by reputation.  But mostly I’m looking forward to spending time with folks from elsewhere, expanding the community of the book to a broader audience, even as my publisher begins the process of securing translations into other languages.

Stand by for updates from Lima.



(In Latin America, I go by my first name, Helio…)

Teachable Moments from the Aurora, Colorado, Tragedy

Even as America mourns and tries to make sense of Friday morning’s massacre in Aurora, Colorado, there are some lessons emerging on appropriate — and inappropriate — response to tragedy.

Context Drives Meaning

Context drives meaning.  Words, actions, or events that are perfectly appropriate one day may be wildly inappropriate, distasteful, offensive, or even inaccurate the next.  One key discipline for leaders and organizations is to continuously adapt to changing circumstances that may alter the context in which communication takes place.

The shooting that left 12 dead and 58 wounded in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater is such an event.

Unknown Object (more…)

SmartBlog on Leadership: Lessons on the Anniversary of “I’d like my life back”

Two years ago yesterday BP CEO Tony Hayward inadvertently got his wish when, in the thick of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, he told a press conference, “I want my life back.”   He was sacked soon thereafter.  In the battle for public opinion – for trust, support, the benefit of the doubt – Hayward lost.  It was a failure of leadership on a massive scale.  And it began with a failure of communication.  And that failure, in turn, was a failure of discipline.

Hayward’s blunder is not unique to him.  It should be a wakeup call to CEOs and other leaders, to all whose leadership responsibilities require inspiring trust and confidence verbally.

Whatever else leadership may be, it is experienced publicly. While it may emanate from within, it is a public phenomenon.  And however technically proficient someone may be, if her or she does not communicate effectively, he or she will not lead well. Communication has power.  But as with any form of power, it needs to be harnessed effectively or it can all too often backfire.

In 33 years of advising leaders on the actions and communication needed to win, keep, or restore public confidence, I have concluded that many leaders, much of the time, fundamentally misunderstand communication. This misunderstanding has consequences: corporations lose competitive advantage; NGOs find it harder to fulfill their mission; religious denominations lose the trust and confidence of their followers; nations diminish their ability to protect citizens and achieve national security goals.

Today SmartBlog on Leadership published an excerpt from The Power of Communication: Skills to Build Trust, Inspire Loyalty, and Lead Effectively, starting with Mr. Hayward’s blunder, and moving from there.

The full excerpt is published below.

General Management, Inspiring Others
Guest Blogger

Leadership communication isn’t about saying things; it’s about taking change seriously

By Helio Fred Garcia on June 1st, 2012

Tony Hayward, then CEO of BP, told the media in 2010 that he wanted his life back. He got it, but not in the way he intended. His quote was part of an ineffective attempt to show he cared about the consequences of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion.

The full quote: “I’m sorry. We’re sorry for the massive disruption it’s caused their lives. And you know we’re — there’s no one who wants this thing over more than I do. You know, I’d like my life back.” But the back end got all of the attention. He had stepped on his message.

It was the beginning of the end for Hayward. He was out of a job a few months later, having lost the trust and confidence of those who mattered to him. His blunder was a failure of leadership on a massive scale. And it began with a failure of communication. And that failure, in turn, was a failure of discipline.

A burden of leadership is to be good at communicating. If you can’t communicate effectively, you will not lead. But there’s a paradox: Unlike most other skills a leader needs to master, communication seems to be something leaders already know; they’ve been communicating their whole lives. So leaders often are unaware of their communication abilities, or lack thereof, until it’s too late.

Harnessing the power of communication is a fundamental leadership discipline. Effective leaders see communication as a critical professional aptitude and work hard at getting it right. And getting it right requires becoming strategic as a first resort: thinking through the desired change in the audience and ways to make that happen. And then making it happen.

Effective communicators take change seriously: They ground their work in moving people to be different, think differently, feel differently, know or do things differently. Effective communicators also take the audience seriously. They work hard to ensure that all engagement moves people toward their goal. That means caring about what the audience thinks and feels and what it will take to get the audience to think and feel something else. It means listening carefully to the reaction, adapting where needed and not saying things that suggest they care only about themselves (I want my life back!).

Effective communicators also take words seriously. They know that words trigger world views and provoke reaction. They plan engagement so the right words are used to trigger the right reaction. Effective communicators also know that the best communication can be counterproductive if it isn’t aligned with action. And effective communicators take seriously the need to package all that an audience experiences — verbal, visual, abstract and physical — into one powerful experience.

The Discipline of Effective Leadership Communication

Six questions to ask before communicating

Effective leadership communication never begins with “What do we want to say?” but rather with a sequence of questions. An effective communicator always begins by asking questions in a certain sequence.

  1. What do we have? What is the challenge or opportunity we are hoping to address?
  2. What do we want? What’s our goal? Communication is merely the continuation of business by other means. We shouldn’t communicate unless we know what we’re trying to accomplish.
  3. Who matters? What stakeholders matter to us? What do we know about them? What further information do we need to get about them? What are the barriers to their receptivity to us, and how do we overcome those barriers?
  4. What do we need them to think, feel, know or do to accomplish our goal?
  5. What do they need to see us do, hear us say or hear others say about us to think, feel, know and do what we want them to?
  6. How do we make that happen? Excerpt of The Power of Communication excerpted Chapter 2 of the Power of Communication, focusing on the need to take audiences seriously:

Will We See a Netflix Summer Sequel? How Brands Can Rebuild Trust and Inspire Loyalty

Posted on May 21, 2012 in Crisis Communications, Public Relations

By Helio Fred Garcia, Author, The Power of Communication: Skills to Build Trust, Inspire Loyalty, and Lead Effectively

Let’s hope Netflix doesn’t see a summer sequel this year. While it was easy to critique the company during its Qwikster fiasco a year ago, it’s looking like a third of its new customers are actually returning customers who were angered and disgusted.

Forgive and forget? Maybe for Netflix’ subscribers—but its shareholders aren’t yet hopping on the bandwagon, according to Daily Finance and other media sources. There’s a reason for that—and a lesson for all other companies.

Let’s dig into it here: (more…)

Winning Hearts and Minds at the National Level

Marrakech Mosque at Sunset

Over the past 8 months I have had the good fortune to spend time in Beijing, Paris, Zurich, and Marrakech, Morocco, speaking with leaders of governments, the military, religious institutions, humanitarian organizations, universities, and other social institutions.

And in my travels I detected something I hadn’t noticed before: a meaningful deterioration in the regard with which the United States is held. Not about particular events, but a general decline in respect and admiration. Not of Americans, but of the nation’s role in the world.

I’ll blog about this more later, but Sunday’s New York Times has a series of pieces that prompt me to revisit those observations and also to use them as a teachable moment to illustrate some key principles from my latest book.


Now Available: The Power of Communication: Skills to Build Trust, Inspire Loyalty, and Lead Effectively

Now in Circulation



I am pleased to announce that The Power of Communication: Skills to Build Trust, Inspire Loyalty, and Lead Effectively is now in circulation!


Worth Reading: The Power of Communication: Skills to Build Trust, Inspire Loyalty, and Lead Effectively



Friends, I’m very pleased to announce the pending publication of my new book, The Power of Communication: Skills to Build Trust, Inspire Loyalty, and Lead Effectively.  It is being published by FT Press/Pearson.

The formal publication date is May 6, but pre-orders are available now for both print and e-books, individual or bulk orders. E-book versions will be available April 26 directly from FT Press.   Amazon says that pre-ordered books should be received by customers in New York by May 9.  Bulk orders at a discount can be made at CEO Read.