By: Bob Hope
The world changes, but great storytelling never does.
I have more experience in public relations and communications than anyone else on earth. That’s not bragging. It is just the way it is.
After all, I started working in public relations when I was in college and became public relations director of the Atlanta Braves at age 24, immediately dealing with hundreds of media who were traveling with Hank Aaron during his chase of the all-time home run record. That counts for dog years of experience. Then, I worked directly for Ted Turner during the “make me famous” phase of his life. That counts for hyper dog years. I also worked for years in New York City at the top level of the largest public relations agency in the world, and my specialty was dealing with big-name CEOs, so that adds up to even more dog years of experience. So, conservatively, in a normal world, I have abnormal experiences. It is fair to say I have well over a century of experiences jammed into a half-century of working in communication. So, I must have learned something or at least developed some seasoned observations.
So, here are 10:
- There are good leaders and bad ones. The good ones typically know how to communicate well. Management and leadership are nothing more than being able to communicate well. Think about the kids’ game of telephone, where a group sits in a circle and whispers a message from one to the next until it circles the room. In the end, the message that started is typically distorted and nowhere close to the one that started. Now, think of the CEO at the top of a company with hundreds or even thousands of employees. If the message at the top isn’t clear, there is no way it will make it to the workers. It is all about communication.
- If you are a leader, there is no such thing as a casual or inconsequential comment. Because of your leadership position, people tend to listen and react to what you say. Don’t take that for granted. There is power in your words.
- If you are speaking to a crowd, realize that the attention span of the average person is seven minutes, and everyone isn’t on the same time clock. You need to get the attention of the group and keep their attention. So, every seven minutes, it is necessary to reset their clocks, even by saying something like, “Listen closely to what I am about to say; it is very important.”
- Some words are much more impactful than others. The average movie contains about 30,000 words. Yet, one sentence from a movie can live on in memories while others are forgotten. “Make my day…… Frankly my dear…. There’s no crying in baseball.” Try to master the art of creating a memorable phrase. We go on a “wild goose chase” or “break the ice” at the start of a meeting or think “love is blind” because Shakespeare told us those things 400 years ago.
- A big idea is in the eye of the beholder. Something similar is said about beauty. Sometimes ordinary ideas can be great simply because of the passion and power that are put behind them.
- Fame has power. If you aren’t famous, you chase down opportunities one at a time. If you are famous, the world comes to you. It is much easier to have people line up and present opportunities to you than to chase them down one at a time.
- Great stories take on lives of their own. We too often worry about how to communicate rather than what to communicate. The power is in the message.
- Organizations are like people. They have distinct personalities based on more than what product they sell. In a competitive environment, the most beloved company most often wins.
- Newspapers are still alive and well. It is popular to say that the newspaper industry is dying, and in fact, the industry is changing. However, because of the internet, newspapers have more readers today than in the past. Also, business leaders sometimes say they don’t care about the local newspaper because of their perception that people don’t read it. One thing they can count on is that every one of their employees will read it if the news is about their company. Newspapers still have power, and mainstream media still leads and prioritizes the news.
- Creativity makes a huge difference when communicating and motivating. In a cluttered media world, the clever phrase or approach is needed more today than ever before. P.T. Barnham wrote a paper called, “The Art of Publicity,” which is an education in creativity. He wrote about his opening the P.T. Barnham Museum in New York and how he did everything smart marketers told him to do – ran ads, gave out free tickets, passed out flyers. They didn’t work, and then his money ran out. What he did to make the museum successful teaches more about marketing than any four-year degree. Brilliant.
Good communication is at the heart of informing, motivating, inspiring, creating devotion, love, and reaction. Bill Gates is famous in the PR industry for saying that he would spend his last dollar on PR and that telling the story of any product is at the core of success. That makes perfect sense. It is amazing how some corporate leaders understand that and others don’t.