The Gatehouse Blog

Ferrabee book celebrates People Power

Those of you who subscribe to may have already seen my review of David Ferrabee’s new book, People Power. If you don’t subscribe (and why not?!), here it is:

If you like David Ferrabee’s blog, the chances are you’ll love his first book, People Power. In what is essentially the distillation of two years’ worth of blog posts, the Hill & Knowlton internal comms chief has produced a fascinating 240-page compendium of his thoughts, musings, insights and anecdotes on employee communication, engagement, change and much more besides.

I once described David’s blog as a lucky dip at the bazaar – you have no idea what you’re going to find in there, but you know you’re always guaranteed a treat. People Power is no different.

He covers a bewildering array of topics, from the impact of Sarbanes-Oxley on communicators, to the growing economic power of India, from CEO communication to crisis management.  Indeed, there are very few subjects relating to our profession that he doesn’t touch upon.

This isn’t the sort of book you read from cover to cover though. Be warned, People Power is definitely not a text book. Nor, thankfully, is it the sort of tome top consultants typically churn out, complete with their obligatory four box models. No, this is something altogether different.

Like the blog it’s based on, People Power represents a rather eclectic collection of material; more Schott’s Almanac than Idiot’s Guide. Had it been published in the traditional way, I’m sure it would look quite different. The electronic (PDF) version I purchased obviously isn’t the product of a large publishing house – there’s no fancy cover, beautifully crafted illustrations or cheesy head and shoulders shot of Mr F. And because it’s made the leap from the blogosphere to print, it doesn’t quite flow in the way you’d expect. But it nevertheless works.

A courageous experiment in self publishing, People Power is largely the work of one man (albeit with a little help from his friends and family – apparently David’s children helped with the typesetting.) As such, it’s very much in keeping with the spirit implied by the title – a tribute to People Power.

Once you understand what kind of book you’re dealing with, it’s doesn’t disappoint. David has reorganised his posts into 14 chapters covering broad topics like communications, communicators, leaders and employees. There’s also a comprehensive index to help with navigation. The result is something you can easily dip into for inspiration and mental stimulation.

Within this loose framework the content meanders between the serious and the sublime. David gets his teeth into some meaty subjects – his thoughts on the impact of poor redundancy communication, the importance of depth in CEO communications, disaster planning and reviewing your communication function are useful and thought-provoking.

The entertainment is never far away though. Alongside the serious stuff you’ll find ramblings on Halloween, the Foo Fighters, Lily Allen, Ketamine and facial hair. Now that’s what I call eclectic.

People Power has a distinctly global flavour to it. Over the years Ferrabee has clocked up more Air Miles than Posh and Becks and it shows. An astute observer of global trends and cultural idiosyncrasies, he provides a rare and valuable insight in to the challenges communicators face when trying to do their thing across national boundaries. This is one of the big take-aways for me.

So is this a useful addition to your bookshelf or PC desktop? Is it worth the cover price? The answer is a wholehearted yes. David Ferrabee is, for me, one of the leading thinkers in employee communications today.  His views are insightful and his ramblings thought-provoking.  He’s a great writer, with a style that’s both engaging and pacey. People Power is a rare find in our sometimes over-complicated and jargon-heavy world. It is educational and entertaining, insightful and fun to read.

An assortment box it may be, but there is a consistent thread running through People Power. At its heart is Ferrabee’s belief that every employee deserves to be a hero. That may sound quaint, but, as David continues to demonstrate so well, it’s not a bad philosophy for an internal communicator to follow.