Mike McCurry: Career Reflextions

26 03 2009

Earlier this week I attended a brown bag lunch session hosted by Progressive Communicators Washington DC at the World Wildlife Fund.  The guest speaker was Mike Curry, former White House Press Secretary to President Clinton.

Mike is the consummate communicator who peppered his experiences over the past 30 years with short stories and anecdotes that grabbed the audience’s attention and spurred lively discussion. He spoke on a variety of themes including internet grass-roots activism, the value of humor in communicating effectively with an audience and the Obama campaign’s focus on aggregating key messages around a core unifying idea (we can change).

What I found most interesting was Mike’s explanation of the lessons he has learned, his five Cs:

  1. Credibility: You must tell the truth and information you provide must be useful and factual.  People are looking for less opinion and more substance.  He stresses: “The era of the spin doctor has ended”.
  2. Candor: Every communicator must find ways to believe their own denials.  They need to break down the barriers that prohibit effective interchanges with their audiences.
  3. Clarity: Messages cannot be “dumbed down”.  Rather they must have an edge by being visual, anecdotal and visceral.  The narrative of the story must always be compelling.
  4. Compassion: We need to create an authentic dialog with our audience that will foster a rational debate.  This will only be achieved if we appreciate the nuances in difficult problems.
  5. Commitment: Resources (people, time , funding, etc.) must be invested in order to effectively communicate.

I was struck by the applicability of Mike’s five Cs to personal and business life.  Finding the right way to get our message across is critical part of our unique branding (unique selling proposition) and for building and maintaining our networks.

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