We don’t often connect Albert Einstein [pictured above] with insights about communications, but as one of the most brilliant minds in the last century, I think it’s fair that we at least hear him out. I often draw on minds greater than my own to help me get a point across, for if there is one truism in this world, it’s that it has all been said and done before.
So, whether you’re looking for guidance, inspiration or validation, quotes from notable communicators can be just the thing to remind you why you got into public relations and communications in the first place.
Over time, I’ve clipped a few lines to keep me motivated when the going gets rough, and I’d like to share some of my favourites with you and why they’re important to me.
1 – George Bernard Shaw
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
So many meetings end with ambiguity. I do my best to ensure everyone knows what they need to do before they leave, and that they understand why it matters. Anything else and we risk a lot of wasted time and effort.
2 – Albert Einstein
“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”
If I need to describe a highly technical or complicated topic, a deep understanding of the subject matter gives me the confidence to boil it down for my audience. It helps to build relevant and relatable analogies that encourage questions and real understanding.
3 – Sydney J. Harris
“The two words information and communication are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.”
Too many presentations, collateral materials and comms pieces provide little more than an info-dump. I want my key messages to lead my audience down a path [whether it be down the sales funnel, or changes to behaviours and attitudes], and let the facts support it.
4 – Jim Rohn
“Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know.”
This one directly relates to Sydney Harris’ remarks, but from a slightly different angle. I think about this one during crisis or issues management situations where the facts can often be secondary to the emotions involved.
5 – John Powell
“Communication works for those who work at it.”
Practice, practice, practice. It pays to be honest about my shortcomings [to myself at least] because it allows me to focus on the things that will pay dividends in the future. Incidentally, blogging would be one of them.
6 – Jeff Daly
“Two monologues do not make a dialogue.”
Pushing information will only get me so far. If I want people to understand and process what I’m saying, I need to make it interactive and make it a conversation.
7 – Carla O’Dell
“If you don’t give people information, they’ll make up something to fill the void.”
Few things can be as damaging as the phrase ‘no comment’. As difficult as it is, I’d rather say the wrong thing than let someone else tell my story.
8 – Edward R. Murrow
“To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful.”
Open and honest communication is always the best policy. This quote speaks to everything we need to know about successful product – and personal – branding.
9 – Brett Morrison
“Of all the life skills available to us, communication is perhaps the most empowering.”
I’ve always said that communications is the most transferable of skills. If it were me, I’d be more assertive and remove the word ‘perhaps’. No matter the product, the client, or the personality, the same set of principles guide and shape our efforts.
10 – William Albert Allard
“Words and pictures can work together to communicate more powerfully than either alone.”
One last reminder that written, verbal and visual communication must work in concert with each other, and that we as practitioners need to be proficient in all aspects of the craft to be truly effective.
I hope this list is helpful when you find yourself against a wall, or just need a little encouragement from afar. What famous quotes or idioms do you turn to in your time of need? Please share them in the comments below!