Gustavo Petro prepared for 12 years to reach the Presidency of Colombia. He lost in the first three seasons but finally prevailed with tenacity and persistence in the fourth. When Petro was proclaimed president-elect in June 2022, it was clear that he had prepared himself to win the elections but not to govern. He lacks communication in the new role of President. He does not know how the media moves. He misunderstands social media. Because of all this, the first problems are happening.

Petro is not a communicator and does not have the leadership to be one. His government and his statements are not aligned with any communicative management model. He does not know the essence of communication and would be ill-advised. As President becomes disorganized and erratic and sends highly debilitating messages. Photo by: Las2orillas

By: Otto Gutiérrez (

At the end of his first month as President of Colombia, Gustavo Petro clarified several things. First, he does not know the principles of communication, the media, social networks, and the dynamics of how they move. Petro is the first President of the left elected in Colombia. He raised the flag of change that the citizens accepted and voted for him. So far a historic achievement. President Petro gained a lot of experience as a candidate and showed by winning that he was a complete novice as President. From an experienced senator and head of the opposition, he became a trainee executive leader. Here we will see how he is not a communicator and does not have the leadership to be one. His government is based on five ministers who carry the weight of change policies and are not good communicators. Over the first few days, he becomes disorganized and erratic and sends highly debilitating messages. His government and his statements are not aligned with any communicative management model. He does not know the essence of communication and would be ill-advised.

NEITHER COMMUNICATOR NOR LEADER. Serious communication problems surfaced at the end of the campaign. He had not had a communication reference and was desperately looking for one. Several advisers accompanied him in the campaign, but he never had a press officer. Once elected, he hired the press officer for candidate Fajardo, but she ended up as a private secretary. Information and communication were always ambiguous, clumsy, and disjointed from any strategy or strategic axis. Once elected, he never set guidelines for his ministers. He also did not organize a plan or a workshop to say how he understood communication or wanted to be seen. These are basic things. He let chaos grow among his ministers, who came out with all kinds of statements, contradictions, and announcements without meaning or disconnected from reality. Despite taking office on August 7, the government’s disorder continues, and the worst does nothing to stop it. These mistakes already affect his reputation and his positioning.

DISORGANIZED AND ERRATIC. Efficiently, an elected president takes care of putting together his cabinet after the election. He organizes it and sets a plan, guidelines, goals, and measurements individually and collectively. He did not attend key events without a credible and public excuse. He worried about personal things and was not seen communicating a change plan or a legislative agenda in Congress. His members of Congress handled that with the political parties, which affected him. For several weeks the country did not know anything about its elected President. Petro gave up important spaces and times to build his position, leadership, agenda, reputation, and solidarity. Between July and August, he made it clear that the President does not value the order and control of the message. Perhaps he believed that the Presidency lasted four months, not four years, like the campaign.


THE MINISTERS DO NOT HELP. President Petro seems to have left the government’s communication adrift or to each minister’s knowledge. Each acts as a loose wheel. The critical issues of the government are concentrated in five of them. They have already shown that they are not good communicators despite their excellent training in their professional specialties. Those five ministers are Finance, Defense, Foreign Affairs, Health, and Energy. They all make the same statements and mistakes. They have no media skills. They believe only in the traditional press that today competes with the new media. They do not understand the form and substance equation of messages and communication. They believe only in the argument. They show a significant risk of falling into error due to a lack of skills in speaking as spokespersons. They suffer from the syndrome of the dictatorship of knowledge, believing that they should speak for the 50 colleagues of their intellectual level and not for 50 million citizens. They are terrified by the maxim, “Reality is not what it is but what the media say it is.”

Along with the five key ministers, three other officials will be a source of problems later when they take more flights. The Ministers of Justice, Culture, and Vice President promise to be the source of many caricatures, memes, and jokes. They have no empathy for the citizens.


CAMPAIGN vs. GOVERNMENT. At this point, President Petro has the most severe problems with his idea of communicating. He believes he can continue campaigning, and people want to see him as President. He assumes that as President, he can continue to use negative information and discredit strategies. He blindly trusts Mr. Guanumen. He is unaware that, as a government official, the media dynamics are not the same as that of the campaign. The media have sources that feed them and egos that seek to stand out. The constitution offers duties and rights for the press and officials. For their part, citizens have a powerful weapon, that is, perception. With it, they penalize the dignitary who is not clear. Guanumen promises to be more damaging if he continues the harmful campaign practice. Also, when you are in government, the image is built with messages backed by attitudes that people see. If Petro does not lead, does not execute, and fails to communicate his goals, there will be no Guanumen who can do much.

SOLUTION IN SIGHT. All these defects, vices, and problems have an answer. Every day that goes by without corrective action is valuable time lost. President Petro must take the leadership that he has not had. Organize his team, instructing them on the value of positive, constructive, and holistic communication with citizens. He must organize his agenda, fulfill it, generate attitudes that support his words, and build a message. Defining his style, brand, attributes, and the desired perception will be imperative. He must stop improvising speeches and measures. Be more strategic. Make better use of the time of the processes in the government. He must understand that he is the President and not the leader of the opposition. He must show that he is the President of all to unite a polarized country. Communicate that his detractors are included in his government and not excluded. He must be a leader, draw attention to his team, demand dedication, and highlight achievements. He has to disclose how he will measure his performance and that of his entire cabinet. The people must see everything. The deadline to take all these actions is the 100th day. After that, it will be challenging to align with public opinion. He has already lost 24 days. You still have time. As President, he can have whatever help he wants or needs.

Given everything happening, the question arises: why has something so chaotic been allowed to happen? There would be two answers. On the one hand, that communication was not effectively the virtue of President Petro, and media prominence was achieved by his role as an opponent rather than by his communicator. That is why it does not give value to the way of being perceived by the majority. On the other hand, the theory is gaining strength. Petro would allow wear and tear to lower standards, free the government from those challenges and not have to worry about meeting high goals in communication matters. Critics compare it to the famous controlled explosion made famous by his campaign circle to cover up the candidate’s mistakes.

The historical opportunity of the change that Petro wants to execute is unique. The value of this government’s communication is not only that it shows that he did everything he promised because that may be impossible in four years. The importance for Colombia of this first step of change is that if it is communicated well, there will be more presidents like Petro. On the other hand, if it is done wrong, the door will be closed to these leaders of change. The presidents of the establishment will return, like those who came before him. Carrying out the reforms will be very important. Still, it will also be decisive for the citizens to understand that they were not mistaken in opening the door to new airs. That is achieved with pure and authentic communication. It is in your hands to endure over time or remain as a fact in history. If you are interested in implementing government communication strategies or are already in the process of improving one and think I can help, do not hesitate to write to me. To learn more about this topic or if you have specific needs, write to me at, tell me about your project or demand, and I can surely help you.

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EXPERIENCED CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER Marketing ~ Targeting ~ Multimedia Content Dynamic, forward-looking Communications Expert with a wealth of expertise in developing and implementing strategic communications programs “On” and “Off” line in alignment with business objectives to drive growth and profitability. Demonstrated success in public and media relations, employee communications, brand and image development, and targeting. Influential consultant accomplished in advising senior leadership in crisis and issues management. Expert-level degree of knowledge in visual production and presentation skills. Innovative, entrepreneurial, and high energy leader with solid interpersonal skills and ability to solve tough problems through effective relationship building. Additional areas of expertise include Public Affairs • Major Event Communications • Media Management • Bi-lingual: English / Spanish • Crisis Communications • Community Outreach • International Relations.

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