Know your endgame. It is not enough to merely say something, but you must always plan for reactions to your message.
Words have consequences – none more than those uttered by a head of government in a time of crisis.
An example that comes to mind is President Obama’s red line to Syria, when he said publicly and on a number of occasions that if Syria used chemical weapons, that would be a red line. The Syrians apparently used chemical weapons, the red line was crossed, and President Obama did nothing. It took Russia’s President Putin to put in place an agreement whereby Syria would give up all of its chemical weapons although, at the time of writing this book, this has not yet happened.
President Obama and his team should have had a well defined course of action developed and ready for implementation should his threat be ignored. This was not the case, and the President was left twisting in the wind in a very public manner.
Know your endgame. Once again, during the week of February 24, President Obama spoke forcefully about apparent Russian plans to take military action in Ukraine. Russia now has invaded the Crimea in southeastern Ukraine, and, at time of writing, we await the consequences of crossing this latest red line.
Part of the endgame on this occasion should have been to show how the United States and its allies would directly affect Russian interests, especially those of the ruling class in Russia.
President Putin and his supporters have tens of billions of dollars of their own money invested in western financial institutions. These funds could be immediately frozen. Russia is a proud member of the G-8. This group could expel Russia and not let it return until Russia demonstrates a determination to live by international law and live up to its agreements.
The endgame need not be military action. Today, trade in technological products, open markets, cash deposits in banking institutions, and investments are all potentially effective and less violent weapons of war.
Know your endgame. This is an essential element of any communications plan. Be ready for any contingency, and be ready to act decisively on your messages when the penny falls. If you don’t, it will come back to bite you.
The endgame should be the objective of your guerrilla communications. Just as the possible reactions described above are part of guerrilla diplomacy, your communications strategy should aim to destabilize the opposition by keeping them off-guard.
Empty promises lead to nowhere but defeat. A solid communications plan, with an array of possible further actions depending on reactions to messages and strategies, are essential if you are to succeed and be taken seriously.
Not knowing your endgame is not an option. It is better to say nothing than to say the wrong thing. And making empty promises without the willingness or ability to achieve them is the wrong thing.
Eduardo del Buey
Crosshairs Communications Ltd.