Showing posts with label Barack Obama. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Barack Obama. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 30

Bankrupting Credibility: Nobody Believes BP Anymore


When Facebook disabled the profile of Boycott BP, the reaction from 750,000 members was almost immediate. Within minutes, most people, including Public Citizen, believed a BP complaint prompted the action.

Facebook, which reinstated the content, later issued a statement that said its automated systems made the mistake. The page was reinstated after the error was discovered. Public Citizen says the statement was insufficient.

Regardless of the why, it raises interesting questions for communicators, suggesting a need for new rules governing how crisis communication is managed. And, it also serves as an indicator of how damaged the BP brand really is. Even when BP isn't responsible for attempting to censor communication, blame is automatically assigned to the company.

It's anticipated and expected, because the public expects no less from a company that has broken trust. BP has made several mistakes in attempting to control communication as opposed to managing information. It doesn't even matter if almost half of all censor incidents were created by the government. It's BP's fault.

The Rise Of The Anti-Brand, Fake Public Relations, and Instant Journalism.

Andrew Fowler suggested several steps worth considering. But any solutions have to be situational.

In the case of BP, company communicators might as well consider the site an asset. BP boycotters and BPGlobalPR actually help corral all communication about the company, providing insights into where the communication is crumbling and what miscommunication or inaccurate information might exist.

The goal isn't to control communication. There isn't much use in sharing an opinion about them. The goal needs to be focused on managing information, with an emphasis not on trying to preserve the brand (BP is well beyond that) but by clarifying factual information (and not necessarily directly).

BP does some of this well. Some of it, not so well. Some of it well. Some of it, not so well...

You may reproduce the images on the understanding that (i) any reproduction of these images will include the following acknowledgement adjacent to the image(s) used - '© BP p.l.c.' and (ii) these images will not be used in connection with any purpose that is prejudicial to BP, its officers or employees or any other third party. The images may not be sold.

From a classic crisis communication standpoint, some communicators are giving BP a "B" for hitting all the main points. Personally, I would give it an "F" and that seems pretty generous.

The reason for my low mark is simple enough. Classic crisis communication bullet points do not address several key challenges that arise when communication isn't handled properly.

The Anti-Brand. Whether spontaneous or organized by advocates with agendas, anti-brands already know the tenets of crisis communication and are well-prepared to discount every step. Any apology will be labeled insincere. Any accounting will be inadequate. Any acceptance of responsibility will not be believed.

Fake PR. Whether you borrow Fowler's term or call them Mock Brands, the general disposition is the same. These people aim to mock you and your company. Sometimes the efforts are a form of flattery; sometimes they are not. Obviously, the various fake accounts related to BP have very little to do with admiration.

Instant Journalism. While there are mainstream reporters and established citizen journalists, a crisis of this magnitude draws out people who have never been reporters before to suddenly feel compelled to cover it. En masse, handling every request just doesn't scale.

What's the remedy? As I wrote early on in the crisis, actions speak louder than words. And in this case, there were only three words tied to actions that could have helped preserve BP (and the Obama administration for that matter). What were those words?

We need help.

Imagine how different the communication might have been had this action been the cornerstone of the crisis from day one.

Skimmers would have dispatched. Booms would have been deployed. Media would have had front row seats. People would have known exactly what to do to help. Environmentalists would have been standing by. Localized emergency response crews would have been ready for multiple crises if and when they occurred. Nonprofit organizations would have coordinated economic impact. And so on and so forth.

Had this occurred, BP wouldn't even be the story and neither would the Obama administration. The story would have been the generosity of the Dutch and other countries sending skimmers. The story would have been local citizens preparing for the worst. The story would have been about a country uniting against a common problem. In sum, the story would have been about everything and everybody else except BP and except the government.

By not being the story, the damage to both could have minimized and, as a result, the respective brands preserved. Instead of a Boycott BP Facebook group, there might have been a "Help BP" Facebook group. Instead of "BPGlobalPR," there might have been an "DailyGulfHero" Twitter account. Instead of writing and reporting on all the problems, citizen volunteers documenting their own volunteer efforts, uncensored, would have quelled the need.

Neither BP nor the Obama administration seem to understand this simple truth. Action or inaction dictates brand value. Instead, they continue to make themselves the story and inexplicably tell people to sit back and rate their performance. The sheer magnitude of ego to "own this crisis" cannot be underscored enough.

They got what they asked for. You don't have to ask for it.

The first step toward a remedy for anti-brands, fake PR, and investigative journalists is to recognize that they are outcomes, symptoms that prove your actions are not aligned with your message. And knowing this, there are only four possible actions.

• Acknowledge them and let them live, unhindered. (Apple)
• Selectively interact, correcting facts but not opinions. (AT&T)
• Engage them by opening up a direct communication channel. (CBS)
• Change your actions until they no longer seem relevant or needed. (Dominos)

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Wednesday, June 16

Seizing Leadership: Jamie Hinton Is A Patriot


Although President Obama addressed the nation about the oil spill last night, he neglected to mention one local hero who deserves more attention as a role model for other Gulf Coast community leaders. Jamie Hinton, chief of the Magnolia Springs Volunteer Fire Department, took matters into his own hands to protect his idyllic community off Mobile Bay.

He deployed a combination of barges and oil-blocking booms to keep crude out of the Magnolia River. The Associated Press reported that his solution, which came from the collective ideas of locals hoping to safeguard the Magnolia River and the nearby Fish River, to do something despite being told not to.

"It's illegal to block this waterway. But if the oil comes, we're going to bring a barge in and use it as a gate to block it," said Gib Hixon, friend of Hinton and chief of Fish River/Marlow Fire and Rescue. "They can arrest me and Jamie if they want to."

Unlike many communities on the Gulf Coast, Hinton decided it was his responsibility to do something despite being blocked by red tape and what the Associated Press described as bumbling government and corporate executives. According to the story, Hinton was initially told by county officials that the oil spill was being blown out of proportion. Much of the delay to finally approve the community's plan once it became clear the oil spill was not blown out of proportion, is attributed to a breakdown of who could approve measures to safeguard Magnolia Springs.

"First, the cleanup," said President Obama last night. "From the very beginning of this crisis, the federal government has been in charge of the largest environmental cleanup effort in our nation’s history..."

This single quote from Obama's speech explains the reality and gravity of the situation. It explains why the government attempted to prevent people like Hinton from taking action. It explains why the Norway's offer of eight skimming systems was disapproved. It explains why the Dutch offer of three sets of COSEQ sweeping arms was denied. And Canada's offer of 3,000 meters of containment boom was passed upon too.

In sum, other governments were prepared to respond to this crisis faster than BP and the Obama administration. Why didn't they? Unlike previous administrations, which granted waivers for the Jones Act in the wake of a national crisis, this administration has held fast to the act, which requires vessels working in U.S. waters be built in the U.S. and be crewed by U.S. workers. Meanwhile, other early efforts to clean up the spill were discouraged by environmental policies.

If the oil spill is a "siege," it seems it is a siege of the administration's own making. Fortunately, there are a few communities like Magnolia Springs that have stepped up against the siege to protect themselves while the White House attempts to manage a spill of a different kind. Spin is not enough. We need more Americans like Jamie Hinton. They tend to talk less and then step up.

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Wednesday, June 9

Listening: The Most Important Lesson In Communication


Yesterday, Nevada held its primary elections. If you were listening to pundits, it was a night filled with surprises. If you were listening to the public, most races played out exactly as expected. And despite a few upsets, some people still aren't listening.

Listening isn't only about politics. Listening is about business too.

There are dozens of studies and hundreds of surveys making the rounds right now. All of them are hoping to catch a snapshot of how consumers might behave. Most of them have useful data, but most people don't listen. They only "hear."

There are several developing stories that underscore the point. It's why Utterli died. It's why Digg is struggling (but probably not dead). It's why the BP oil spill response has eclipsed Hurricane Katrina as the worst response in American history. It's why not everyone is cheering Santa Clara, Calif., for banning Happy Meal toys. And, there are dozens of more examples.

Politicians are "hearing" constituents. Business executives are "monitoring" social media. But few are "listening."

Utterli heard Utterz turned some people off at a glance, but they didn't listen to how people came to love their enduring cow mascot. Digg heard that being allowed to share content among a Digg network fueled some spammers, but they didn't listen to understand that people love to share social media while tuning out spammers anyway. There are several other social networks in jeopardy too.

BP and the Obama administration hear that people don't think they did enough, but they are not listening closely enough to understand the public wants them to admit their mistakes and that they don't have anything under control. Santa Clara elected officials that heard parents wanted something done about childhood obesity, but they didn't listen to responsible parents who consider McDonald's and Happy Meal toys a once-every-few-months treat. They can make decisions about Happy Meal toys with their own pocketbooks.

Even researchers are becoming deaf nowadays. There is another portion of the Harris Interactive poll I mentioned yesterday that proves the point. Harris Interactive couldn't understand why 70 percent of Americans gave the Constitution high marks, but low marks to the government (43 percent) and political system (23 percent) it empowers. They heard, but didn't listen.

Most Americans think that the political system to driving government is operated well beyond the Constitution, which was originally written as the people's contract with its government. This also set the stage for a volatile election cycle because people don't believe politicians are meeting their commitment to protect the Constitution.

How a lack of listening undermined several campaigns in Nevada.

If you want to understand how this all played out in Nevada, never mind what the pundits say. Sue Lowden, who is a dynamic business woman I had the pleasure to do work with years ago, didn't lose the primary because of her chicken comment. The gaffe could have easily been corrected, but her campaign didn't know how (we did, ho hum).

But what really underscored the race was that she wasn't listening. Candidate Sharron Angle was listening. People are tired of hearing about what establishment representatives want to do for them. They want elected officials to represent them.

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid isn't listening. Almost immediately after Angle won (he'll face her in the general election), Reid's campaign launched a release attempting to label her ideas as "wacky." Someone didn't think to tell his staff that the block who voted for her might be put off by it. At least she's representing Nevada, some might say.

The story played out the same in the gubernatorial race. Gov. Gibbons could have turned his time in office around, but he consistently didn't listen. It wasn't the economy that cost him his incumbency. It was how he handled the economic downturn. While he made some of the right decisions, he only "heard" people didn't want tax increases. That's true (they can't afford them). But what he didn't hear is that they wanted him to demonstrate leadership. By the time he did, it was too late.

In the one race I was engaged with, it was much the same. Tim Williams was an underfunded underdog. His opponent was "anointed." Some insiders were so convinced that he could not win that they advised him to directly attack his opponent. He refused. The public is tired of games. Williams listened.

Are you listening or are you hearing?

Whether it is a political campaign or consumer product, the public is much more sensitive to who is listening and who is not. Generally, you can tell the difference in whether they react to what they hear or respond because they are listening.

Case in point: the Obama administration thinks that they didn't communicate their response to the BP oil spill clearly enough. So, he reacts by defending what the government did do. He's not listening. People don't care about what they did do or whose "ass" he intends to kick. They want someone to clean up the spill. Use hair. Use hay. Use air filters. Just clean it up and stop making it worse.

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Friday, June 4

Planning For Disaster: Communicators And PR Must Step Up


While my grandparents were poor by most definitions, my grandfather would go to great lengths to protect one of the last remnants of his family's possessions in the north woods town of Minocqua, Wisconsin. It was a summer cottage, for which he mortgaged his city home in Milwaukee every year in order to keep and maintain it until he retired. My uncle also owned a nearby home.

As one of the few four-season families in the area, my uncle was a natural leader. In addition to being to a small business owner, he served as a volunteer fire chief, mayor, and led teams to mark snowmobile trails across the partially frozen lake every winter. My grandfather, who was a former engineer and seasonal painter, was much the same.

Both men had experience in disaster planning. Coming from a small somewhat isolated community, it was a skill set that could not be left to other people. I even remember my grandfather putting his skills to good use when tornadoes interrupted a Boy Scout paper drive in the heart of Milwaukee. People immediately turned to him to lead.

Nowadays, there are fewer men like my uncle and grandfather, especially in urban areas. Disaster response tends to be left to professionals. But in considering the Gulf Coast catastrophe, it seems we need more citizens to understand response.

In fact, looking back on my recent guest host conversation on The El Show with Geoff Livingston, I think we might have invested some time on disaster planning beyond discussing how communicators can address unethical behavior. Communicators, even public relations professionals, need to establish a role within any disaster planning. It's vital that they do.

The Four Basic Tenets Of Disaster Planning.

1. Mitigation. Mitigation focuses on long-term measures to reduce or eliminate risk. These might include technologies or policies, set in place by companies or government.

2. Preparedness. Planning, organizing, training, evaluating, and improving activities that will ensure the proper coordination of efforts during a disaster.

3. Response. Response includes the mobilization of all necessary emergency services and first responders in the disaster area. Organized response requires a structure (leadership) and agility (creativeness).

4. Recovery. Recovery aims to restore the affected area to its previous state before the disaster. This almost always occurs after a disaster; it is the opportunity to assess where mitigation, preparedness, and response broke down.

Where Disaster Planning Broke Down With The Spill.

1. Mitigation. It seems obvious that neither the government nor BP (and subcontractors) had properly mitigated the potential for such a disaster. While policies were in place, it seems clear the regulatory agency did not have the technical expertise to oversee the procedural breakdown that led to increased risk at Deepwater Horizon.

2. Preparedness. To date, it seems obvious that the preparedness is almost non-existent. While the initial response saved most of the crew aboard the rig, neither BP nor the federal government has a plan for a large-scale coastal disaster. While this incident seems to have been caused by negligence, it strikes me as appalling that the government is largely unprepared for such a disaster.

3. Response. Given the failure of emergency response in the wake of Katrina, which was largely due to a complete breakdown in communications technology (I know because I've worked with the National Emergency Number Association, among other emergency response associations), it is perplexing that a new administration consisting of people who were hypercritical of and capitalized on Katrina would have done nothing to improve their ability to respond to a crisis. There is no communications technology breakdown this time. But there is a complete breakdown in appropriate federal leadership and agility over the response.

4. Recovery. Recovery is not simply litigation as our government has recently demonstrated as the answer for every problem ranging from the border issues in Arizona to the Gulf Coast oil spill. There is an apparent need to understand where the government's disaster planning continues to break down, not only with this administration but also prior administrations. The fundamental responsibility of any government is to protect its people — not from themselves — but from threats beyond the control of citizens. This time around it seems negligence played a role in the breakdown, but what about next time?

Where Any Communicator Can Effectively Play A Role.

Communicators, along with public relations professionals, have a real opportunity here to place a greater emphasis on tangible skills over manipulating public procedures. But to do it, they move beyond push marketing and puffery and embrace the much harder work that used to fall to people like my grandfather and uncle.

In many cases, they won't learn these skills from a textbook or building social media communities. It requires an ability to move from behind the desk, meet with and appreciate the men and women on the front lines, collect their input and consolidate it into a workable plan that anyone can follow.

More importantly, through their investigative work, communicators need to provide the oversight within their companies to point out where mitigation, response, and recovery is especially weak. Nothing needs to be smoothed over. If anything, people tasked with this work need to be as hard as nails, providing proper assessments to the executive team.

As I mentioned last week, bad PR is only a symptom of bad planning, I hope this helps move the conversation away from understanding and toward proactive responsibility. Communicators need not only be internal reporters, they can cut themselves from the same cloth as my grandfather and uncle.

Where Any Citizen Can Effectively Play A Role.

I might offer up the same advice to anyone. It seems apparent that while many local governments and some state governments have disaster response plans that we can count on, these plans are not scalable in the face of a disaster such as Gulf Coast oil spill, the aftermath of Katrina, the border breakdown in Arizona, or even the flooding in Tennessee.

Once they become too big for local and state agencies, the federal government is ill-equipped to respond beyond providing oversight. That means there is a greater need for citizens, each and every one of us, to have enough skills — like my grandfather and uncle did — to protect ourselves and our families in the wake of a disaster.

After all, if I was writing a family disaster plan today, the most obvious conclusion I would have to draw upon from the recovery efforts so far is that there are organizations doing all sorts of things that increase the risks to our health and happiness. And when their own mitigation breaks down, they do not have a plan to save you. We are on our own.

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Thursday, June 3

Considering Spin: Obama Administration


"Those who think that we were either slow on our response or lacked urgency don't know the facts. This has been our highest priority since this crisis occurred." — President Obama

Depending on whose accounting of the Gulf Coast oil spill you read, the Obama administration was either on top of the crisis from day one or it was woefully behind. The truth, as it often is nowadays, is somewhere in the middle.

The differences in how the story is reported relates to whether you include the federal government in the timeline, the Obama administration, or the President himself; whether you accept statements over actions; and whether you account for the results.

"From the moment this disaster began, the federal government has been in charge of the response effort." — President Obama

While the U.S. Coast Guard was on scene from day one, most federal agencies represented were merely overseeing BP efforts.

It wasn't until April 29, nine days after the accident and four days after the unified command inaccurately estimated the leak was spewing 1,000 barrels or 42,000 gallons a day (which was estimated at five times as much and later much more), that the Obama administration recognized the spill to be of national significance.

The reporting reveals how much of the communication would be handled from that point forward. On April 25, the unified command provided the inaccurate oil leak estimate, which included federal officials. On April 28, federal officials say BP provided an inaccurate estimate.

Meanwhile, the same press conference Media Matters uses to build its case to prove the administration was in control of the situation paints an obvious picture. The President was "following the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico," the EPA was monitoring, and the secretary of the Interior accurately describes the operations as one of "anticipating," "planning," and providing "oversight."

April 29 is also the day President Obama pledges "every single available resource," including the U.S. military, to contain the spreading spill. He will visit the Gulf Coast to see cleanup efforts firsthand three days later. At the same time, almost every communication from the White House reinforces that the cleanup responsibility belongs to BP.

Almost a full month after Obama made the pledge, Bobby Jindal, Louisiana governor, said that he and other Gulf Coast governors were “taking matters into our own hands.” On June 2, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley questioned why parts of the Gulf Coast are left unprotected. On the same day, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is no longer downplaying the crisis. And while Florida continues to invest in tourism advertising free unlicensed fishing weekends while it can, the fishing industry has already been called a disaster.

Worse, the Gulf Coast may no longer be the only region to be impacted. There is growing concern that oil will reach the Atlantic Coast.

And yet, during President Obama's second visit to the area on May 28, with the prospect of the Top Kill procedure working, he declared "I am the president and the buck stops with me." Shortly after the procedure failed, the President launched a public relations offensive against BP and started to see the accident as an opportunity to press for an energy reform plan.

"I'm confident people are going to look back and say this administration was on top of what was an unprecedented crisis." — President Obama.

According to a release by the Global Language Monitor’s NarrativeTracker, President Obama's confidence ought to be shaken. Overwhelmingly, the public sees the the administration was slow to respond and more than half still don't believe the administration is in control.

• 95 percent of the social media conversations characterize President Obama as "slow to respond."
• Despite what President Obama has said, 52 percent still believe that BP is in charge of the spill containment.
• Most people compare the spill to Exxon Valdez, not Hurricane Katrina, which was a natural disaster.
• The public is split in deciding whether or not Obama is hands on or hands off on this event.

So where is the middle? The federal government (specifically, the U.S. Coast Guard) was on top of the spill from day one. The Obama administration merely positioned itself as an armchair player. Politically, it seemed like the safe bet. If things went well, the administration could claim being on top of it. If things went bad, they could blame BP. The communication bears this out.

As for public perception, it has become a result unto itself. With a catastrophe this large, the only possible way the public might be confused over who is in charge is a direct result of the communication delivered by the administration. As for the President himself, his schedule suggests he is correct in that this has been his administration's top priority, but not necessarily his priority.

And now? The most obvious priority is finding the right scapegoat. Even the international press sees it for what it is, with the President's reported "rage" framed up as just another sign of weakness. BP might be responsible for the spill, but it is not responsible for a plan that reads like more spin than response.

Other Reactions Around The Web.

Welcome to the Obama BP Spin War.
Obama Begins Spill-To-Bill Pivot.
Oil-Spill Spin: Who Can You Trust? (Obama Is Not Even On The List)
• James Carville Slams Obama on Oil Spill.
• How Washington Just Worsened the Gulf Oil Spill.

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Tuesday, June 23

Going Green: Free Iran


While most people have heard that social media has played a role in the post-election results in Iran, the consequences of immediate communication and online conversation have an impact that is equally compelling to on-the-ground coverage.

While Valeria Maltoni sees the potential for crowdsourcing to surpass CNN news (it can), we also see it as an interesting division. Whereas traditional media has been tending to cover the sentiment of the elected, social media tends to reveal the sentiment of those who elect. And that is making the elected take notice.

Mass Influence Over Influencers

Even in the United States, President Obama has been compelled to step up his stance on Iran. Originally, he hoped to avoid commenting about the democratic process of Iran over concern for future diplomacy with a country known to be developing a nuclear program and backing militant organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah. However, his initial hands-off stance had been largely viewed as timid and unrepresentative.

Yesterday, that changed. President Obama, who now says he was moved by the protest images, has called for an end to the violence while advising those who govern that they ought to lead by consent over coercion.

It's equally likely he wasn't moved on his own. Overwhelmingly, Americans have helped make the Iranian elections two of the top ten stories on the Internet — the election itself and the State Department asking Twitter to hold off on scheduled maintenance in order to ensure real-time citizen reporting.

News that used to die in a day isn't so easily forgotten. People all over the world want resolution.

BloggersUnite Hosts Spontaneous Event

BloggersUnite.org, which is a nonprofit platform that encourages bloggers to do good and raise social awareness, has launched an initiative that asks bloggers and network participants to use their blogs and accounts to do exactly that. They are asking bloggers and network members to continue their efforts, drawing even more awareness to the Iranian election and related atrocities in Iran through June 29.

“When we host organized campaigns, they are usually 90 days in the making,” said Antony Berkman, president of BlogCatalog.com and founder of BloggersUnite.org. “This time, the crisis is now, the need for action is now, the initiative is now.”

The event has already received praise by Amnesty International USA, which has its own action page condemning the violence and repression over the elections. Amnesty International says it is important for people to keep Iran in the public spotlight until it ends restrictions on freedom of expression and association, which includes the freedom to receive and impart information and ideas.

Bloggers and members of the media are asked to contribute to the Bloggers Unite for a Free Iran campaign by making it a dominant social media issue once again on June 29. Others are asked to participate by leaving supportive comments on participating blogs, sharing links to posts about this important effort, and/or by turning all avatars green in honor of the campaign. Bloggers who have already posted on the subject are asked to add their links to the BloggersUnite.org event page and post again on June 29.

Thursday, March 26

Revealing Inconsistencies: Timothy Geithner


U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner demonstrated why message consistency is important. Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations, he said the U.S. is "open" to a call for a new global currency to replace the U.S. dollar.

"We’re actually quite open to that suggestion — you should see it as rather evolutionary rather building on the current architecture rather than moving us to global monetary union," Geithner said, saying it deserved consideration.

Except, um, the U.S. is not.

"I don't believe there's a need for a global currency," said President Barrack Obama, rejecting a new global currency to replace the dollar at a press conference 24-hours before Geithner spoke.

The consequences of the Geithner gaffe led to the dollar immediately falling on world currency markets. In fact, it fell 1.3 percent against the euro within 10 minutes of his remarks.

It also opened a renewed flood of criticism over the Obama administration's plan to increase the budget deficit this year to 10 percent or more of the gross domestic product, with the most outspoken being Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek. He described the current U.S. policy as "a road to hell." He has since tendered his resignation, but will retain the E.U. presidency through June.

China is not alone in alluding to an abandonment of the U.S. dollar as it expresses worry over higher budget deficits resulting from increased spending. Russia has been pressing G20 members for a single world currency for some time.

This is also not the first time Geithner and President Obama had directly contradicted each other. Nor is it the only time the new administration has sent mixed messages nationally and internationally.

In fact, the current U.S. policy seems to be a contradiction in itself. While Geithner plans to impose government control over financial markets to "decide how much risk to take in the pursuit of profit," President Obama's policy races toward extreme spending, which carries overwhelming risk.

All of it demonstrates a growing communication challenge exhibited by the new administration. While always reasonably adept during the campaign trail to deliver a unified message, the President seems incapable of delivering a consistent message with his administration. And you know what that usually means. If there isn't a consistent message, then there likely isn't a cohesive plan, at least one that everybody knows about or anyone can agree on.

It applies to business communication as well. Inconsistent communication is often a symptom of something else, much like that initial sniffle before you feel sick. Someone might want to pass the administration a tissue. It seems to be going around.

Thursday, February 12

Blacklisting Vegas: President Obama


According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), Las Vegas hosted 22,454 conventions and meetings that attracted more 6 million business people and conventioneers in 2008. It accounted for an economic impact of $8.5 billion, employed more than 46,000 Southern Nevadans (75,000 with indirect employment), and represents close to 15 percent of the city's total visitor volume.

On Monday, President Obama said he wanted to end that.

“We’re going to do something to strengthen the banking system. You are not going to be able to give out these big bonuses until you pay taxpayers back. You can't get corporate jets. You can't go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers' dime. There's got to be some accountability and some responsibility.” — President Obama, Town Hall discussion in Elkhart, Indiana

There does have to be accountability and responsibility.

"Mr. President, I understand the enormous burden you carry in dealing with the worst economy since the Great Depression. I also understand the need for accountability, but your comments are harmful to the meetings and convention industry as a whole and Las Vegas specifically." — Mayor Oscar Goodman, Las Vegas, Letter posted at Las Vegas Now

Careless research and ill-advised words damage lives.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, President Obama based his decision on a report that cited "$300 hotel rooms" as an example of extravagance. The Venetian, which is a more upscale property, lists rooms for $189 per night. The LVCVA reports the average room rate was $119.19 in 2008, with a low of $96.39 in December.

Specifically, businesses attend conventions and meetings in Las Vegas because of its room rate discounts, reasonable air fare, diversity of offerings, and the strong local infrastructure to support it. Since 2000, the city has gone to great lengths to carry a dual message that, despite its party town image, it is an extremely smart and cost-effective choice for business.

At least four major companies have already canceled their plans to meet or hold conventions in Las Vegas this year. Some of the cancellations have to do with the perception of Las Vegas, while others might be because of their own financial constraints. State Farm planned to book 11,000 rooms in September, but those rooms will now remain vacant. Wells Fargo, which received some bailout money, also backed out of a 12-day junket in response to cries that the meeting represents wasteful spending.

Unless replaced, the damage caused by these lost bookings could be severe to a local economy already experiencing a 9.1 percent unemployment rate, well ahead of the national average. It is anticipated to hit double digits this year, with the state facing a economic crisis, which began after it was hit especially hard by the subprime mortgage situation.

The campaigning needs to end and bailouts too.

During campaigns, politicians are sometimes quick to call out and vilify opponents, industries, and government. The message becomes simple. Everything is bad, and we need to change it all. While I'm not a fan of peddling fear, many campaign managers understand all too well that these trumped up rally cries can move certain publics to the polls.

However, once elected, most politicians are seasoned enough to understand that the communication needs to shift in order to govern. As elected officials, most know that effective leadership requires the polarization to stop and productivity to begin. They recognize that they no longer represent campaign slogans but rather the Wall Street stock broker in New York and the maid in Las Vegas and the automotive lineman in Detroit. They are no longer entitled to pick and choose which American people they represent. They represent us all.

Regardless of how you feel about Las Vegas, President Obama's message did not communicate anything about this city as much as it communicated something about the recent waves of bailouts and the stimulus package in general. The power of the purse is the ability of one group to manipulate and control the actions of another group by withholding funding, or putting stipulations on the use of funds. This power grab is alive and well in America.

After Monday, it now seems all to clear that President Obama is intending to use this power and perhaps abuse it, under the guise of protecting taxpayer money. However, in delivering this message, he neglects the obvious. The 46,000 Americans directly employed by the convention industry in Las Vegas are taxpayers too. They are owed an apology.

Good night and good luck.

Tuesday, January 13

Commercializing The President: Everybody


First it was Ben and Jerry's "Yes Pecan,” and then it was Pepsi. And now, according to Brandweek, Ikea is jumping on the Obama brand wagon too.

Ikea's newest campaign includes out-of-home billboards featuring the "Embrace Change ‘09" slogan on local buses and trains. Ikea is also holding a "mock motorcade," touring the D.C. area Jan. 15-16, which includes strapping "furniture fit for a president" on top of vehicles. From Ikea's point of view, it's simply a good branding opportunity.

"We have never had an opportunity to do anything surrounding the message of change from a national standpoint," Marty Marston, public relations manager for Ikea told Brandweek. "[Obama's] notion of change and his commitment to fiscal responsibility match the Ikea philosophy of practical and affordable home furnishings for all."

But is it really a good branding strategy? Marvel Comics seems to think it's smart for Spiderman. And although BlackBerry didn't ask for an endorsement, it sure did appreciate it. But is it really a good thing? If you consider the fragile brand theory, then only if the original brand holds.

Thursday, January 8

Accepting Temporary: Complacency Is Circular


Last night, I noticed something unusual at my gym. Typically, Gold's Gym is packed with "resolution members," people who made fitness resolutions for the New Year. After two weeks, most of them conclude that it isn't working and slowly fade away into whatever daily routines seem more comfortable. Not this year.

When I shared the observation that my gym was void of resolution members this year, PJ Perez suggested "overweight Americans have accepted their designations."

He's right, but I'm not so sure we're talking about fitness. Eighty-five percent of people voting on a news poll believe that the economy will get worse before it gets better, and only 33 percent have faith that President-elect Barack Obama's administration will be able to turn the economy around.

When the question had been asked during the election cycle, those numbers were considerably higher. It's one of the reasons he won. So what changed? People aren't certain the Obama administration can turn the economy around because Obama has yet to change campaign criticism into a confident challenge. Consider the following …

"I don't believe it's too late to change course, but it will be if we don't take dramatic action as soon as possible," Obama said in a speech set to be delivered at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., outside Washington.

Most speechwriters know that "but" cancels out everything that precedes it. Then again, I'm not talking about politics. I'm talking about the acceptance of what seems to be and complacency as opposed to acknowledging what is and moving forward.

You see, complacency is circular in that it occurs in companies, countries, and people at two ends of the spectrum — when things are too good or when things are too bad. In either case, complacency is the general acceptance of a temporary situation or state of being as if it is permanent (or who we are). So if you haven't already, right now might be a good time to kick around the concept of complacency as a conversation in your office.

Are you making decisions based on (or complaining about) temporary situations? And if so, what happens if and when those temporary situations change? Will those decisions put you in a position to win or ensure you remain in the same place — at the bottom of the complacency circle (which might be where your company started anyway)?

Or in other words, if your company is waiting it out, you might rethink that. After all, times will change. They always do. It's the only certainty.

Friday, October 31

Eclipsing Nevada Day: Everything


Today is Nevada Day, but most Nevadans barely know it.

Nevada was the 36th state and admitted to the Union on Oct. 31, 1864, rushed in by President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. It became a state only eight days prior to the presidential election to help ensure Lincoln's reelection on Nov. 8. The only real reminder for some citizens is the phrase "Battle Born," which resides above a single star on our state flag.

Although I'm a native of Wisconsin, my family relocated here after a major airlines moved my stepfather to help open its first route to Las Vegas in the late 1970s. Perhaps it was my Midwest sensibilities or maybe being raised a good part of my life by grandparents, but one little bit of culture shock that still remains with me is the apparent lack of attachment to the state by a large percentage of our population.

What Eclipses Nevada Day?

The most obvious is Halloween. It's even more prevalent today since the population exploded from 250,000 people in southern Nevada in 1980 to about 2 million today; most kids relate to having the day off in celebration of Halloween. (To be fair, northern Nevada has a much better sense of things).

The pitfalls of a democracy. In 1997, voters advised the 1999 legislature they wanted to celebrate Nevada Day on the "last" Friday in October beginning in 2000. However, the few mini celebrations in southern Nevada occur on Saturday. It's more confusing than ever.

The proximity to Election Day. Since Nevada is a battleground state for the presidential election, some celebrations might be trumped by get out the vote efforts.

Why Bother With Nevada Day?

According to Las Vegas Sun, state admission is no big deal to post about. They report Nevada is one of the few states to celebrate its entrance into the Union, and then simply direct people to celebrate by voting on Nov. 4. If that's true, maybe that's something that states could reconsider.

Every four years, voters take an interest in elections because of the one office that probably impacts them the least. This isn't to say voting for President isn't important, but rather a nod to the notion that we don't pay close enough attention to local or state races, where our votes directly impact our daily lives. It's also the reason that other than the occasional communication issue post, I'm mostly quiet about the national races.

You see, unless you are a pundit, personal branding and political posts don't mesh well, which is why I haven't shared too much on the state races in Nevada despite the fact that dishonest campaigning has reached historic proportions. Likewise, all I can say about national campaign messaging is that neither side deserves congratulations.

While the election is still a few days away, most people recognize that Sen. John McCain's campaign has consistently missed the communication mark, that the media has been overwhelmingly quiet on some issues (such as the unfair investigation of Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher), and that Sen. Barack Obama was named Marketer of the Year.

However, winning Marketer of the Year is not necessarily a feather in the cap of the candidate, in my opinion. Sometimes he spins too much, including his joke the other day in an attempt to dismiss his previous comments on redistributing wealth.

"Y'know, I don't know when they decided they wanted to make a virtue out of selfishness," said Sen. Barack Obama. "Y'know, the next thing I know, they're gonna find evidence of my communistic tendencies because I shared my toys in kindergarten — cause I split my peanut butter and jelly sandwich with my friend in sixth grade."

No matter who you vote for in the upcoming election, framing up tax increases in this manner concerns me because wealth redistribution is not the same as a charitable contribution. When government "pre-collects" contributions, it denies people the opportunity to be selfless and distances them from the direct contributions they make to worthwhile causes every day.

In other words, if Sen. Obama really did split his peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a friend in sixth grade, it might be admirable. But if someone took three quarters of his sandwich, ate half of it, and then stole that selflessness by dividing the rest among three strangers, then all it accomplishes is leaving everyone, except the distributor, largely undernourished.

Yeah, it's Nevada Day. And for all the challenges our state faces, it reminds me why I'm glad we're part of the United States and not the United State or why there are still a few people in this republic who recognize that two foxes will vote to eat the one sheep in a democracy.

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Thursday, October 16

Advertising Negatives: From Soup To Nuts


Almost every editorial on the final debate between U.S. Sen. Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. John McCain leads the same way. It only took 20 minutes before both candidates forgot about the issues and shifted toward political campaign ads.

They were kidding, right?

No, no, I suppose not. While the last reason I would elect a president is based on the prowess of their television production teams, most political talk seems to be all about the ads.

Some are even arguing over which side has more negative advertisements than the other. The University of Wisconsin Advertising Project says Obama airs the larger percentage of negative ads. The Nation says that is not true and McCain ads are much more negative. Has everyone forgotten grade school?

When Billy lies about Sally twice and Sally lies about Billy once … Ms. Clark made them both clean erasers after class.

So let's talk soup.

When it comes to negative advertising, there is no clear winner in another brand battle taking place across America. There are only losers.

For several weeks, Campbell and General Mills have been in engaged in an ongoing soup battle. Cambpell launched the first attack ad in The New York Times, claiming General Mills' Progresso soups are made with MSG. They are. General Mills fired back, saying some Campbell soups have MSG. They do.

So Campbell counted all of its soups to conclude that 124 soups have no MSG.

"The pot can't be calling the kettle black if it has the same problem itself," Laura Ries, president of Ries & Ries, told Brandweek.

So let's talk nuts.

One would think that after noted author Geoff Livingston wrote that astroturf comes in a variety of colors, including blue, someone might get the hint. Not so with Allison Copening and crew. They are dead set to stay the course with a $1 million smear campaign against State Senator Bob Beers — a campaign that almost everyone calls pathetic.

Their solution? Allison Copening's backers, who admit that the negative advertising has backfired because some residents "have stopped opening election mail” are now moving their lies onto television. Some estimate they will spend up to $500,000 on television, splitting the figure between attacking State Sen. Bob Beers and State Sen. Joe Heck, who is another elected official targeted this campaign cycle.

Given the size of the media market in Las Vegas, the television buy is equivalent to tossing a glass of water into a swimming pool and hoping to splash a few people. If it does splash some people, one can only hope that those splashed will know that most messages move beyond distortion and are of the plain old-fashioned lie variety.

As it turns out, it would not be the first time Copening has played a PR spin game. She was once a marketing director at PurchasePro, a company charged with stock fraud. She also worked as a public relations specialist for a homebuilder when it dealt with rat infestations and home fire sales that left new residents with mortgages higher than their assessed value.

She claimed that the rats were part of the allure of the desert. She rebuffed reporters when the homebuilder cut home values by simply saying they were too busy with other things.

Ironically, she claims it is Sen. Bob Beers who makes up stories. For his part, Sen. Beers has remained focused on campaign issues. In one case, he criticized a third party mailer that attacked his opponent's math skills and called them below a fourth grade level. As it turns out, he is not the only one tired of campaign ads that deviate from the truth.

Several states away in Minnesota, U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman recently said his campaign would halt negative advertising in a race recently dominated by it. "I want folks to vote for me, and not against the other folks," he said.

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Wednesday, September 17

Communicating Politics: Has The Bar Dropped?


It’s a good thing I watched the John Adams miniseries this summer because I might otherwise believe it when many news outlets call the 2008 elections the dirtiest, ugliest, and meanest in history.

Somehow, for me, being reminded that Jefferson vilified his longtime friend and colleague Adams in 1800 or that Jefferson himself was later vilified by his political opponents, helps keep things in perspective. Joseph Ellis, in his book The Revolutionary Generation called this rivalry unequalled in terms of “shrill accusatory rhetoric, flamboyant displays of ideological intransigence, intense personal rivalries and hyperbolic claims of imminent catastrophe.”

Although, when you think about it, Ellis really could be writing about 2008, with the only notable difference being that many poorly executed ideas like Obama Waffles or the now debunked claims by the DailyKos that Sarah Palin faked her pregnancy are often beyond either campaign team’s control.

Much more manageable are the messages being put into play by both campaigns. Obama’s claim that McCain votes 88 percent of the time with President Bush is disingenuous at best, given that the reality is Obama and McCain voted together nearly as much. And, I’ve already commented on the McCain team’s silly Obama is like Paris Hilton comparison ad. Both were wrong. Both were ineffective. Both backfired.

The excuse? Everywhere I look, “they’ve” lowered the bar “first” seems to be the prevailing mantra. Yet, nothing could be further from reality. Somebody, eventually, has to be the better person and not expect voters to ferret out the truth on their own, just as I’ve been advising closer to home. As expected, the nasty national tactics have been spilling over into local and state races.

“The Nevada Democratic Party is showing an analogous moral bankruptcy in its effort to oust state Sens. Joe Heck and Bob Beers because it must believe the end — returning the upper house to the Democrats for the first time in 18 years — justifies the execrable means.” — Jon Ralston, Las Vegas Sun

Ralston is referring to a smear campaign being promoted by the Nevada State Democratic Party to help lift up their candidate who professes not to know who is behind the campaign (um, the same people financing her). yet, she is more than happy to benefit from it. You can find one example of the fictitious campaign claims on another local blogger’s site. You can find the truth here or here.

Since the campaign was launched, several communicators have asked me what do you do when the opposition intends to spend $1 million on a mountain of lies? Don’t you hit back?

Sometimes you want to, but that’s no answer. Reactionary communication is not very effective communication. So as much as the media loves to cover such conflict, there is only one remedy for political campaign lies, in my opinion. It requires more and more truth. And that is what Sen. Beers is doing.

Now, only if national campaigners would learn, because they have set the bar lower and some local campaigners seem to have set the bar even lower than that. Enough so, that I’ve already told most of my friends that I’m not making any national election decisions until after the debates and asked some not to subscribe to or promote sound bites from either side until it can be verified as fact.

Otherwise, we risk making liars of ourselves, even if it seems justified by the audacious notion that the sun will not rise on Nov. 5 if the other candidate is elected. On the contrary, the sun will rise.

The sun will rise on Nov. 5 just as it did on July 4, 1826, after two longtime adversaries realized that for all their wanted differences, the rest of the world perceived them to be largely the same. And “Thomas Jefferson survives.”

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Friday, August 29

Mocking Politics: Adweek & Agencies


Adweek recently challenged several creative directors to sell the next president of the United States. According to the special report, several declined and some took to tongue-in-cheek humor.

After the fine folks at The Rosen Group brought the special report to our attention, my team thought it might be fun to review some of these faux campaign concepts (here). After all, I’ve often felt that not all advertising agencies are cut out for political campaigns — the work sometimes leans too creative to really resonate with voters. Am I right? Let’s find out.

Mike Byrne, Anomaly: Disqualified

It’s not that we don’t like Byrne’s industry twist on the assignment that pits McCann Erickson against Obamaly (as opposed to McCain vs. Obama). We like the "agency as opposed to politics" spoof as well as well as the obvious old vs. new parallels that drives it. Unfortunately, it veers too far off from being applicable for this post.

John Butler, Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners: Below Average

Butler’s first contribution borrows the well-known 1984 re-elect Ronald Ragan spot and points out that Obama doesn’t have to run against John McCain. I’ve always had mixed feelings about the "choose a different opponent" approach. Why? “Running against others” has a relatively low success rate. Much funnier (though neither would make it) are his billboard contributions: the McCain billboard that declares “God is my running mate” while Obama’s reads “It’s Obama Time.”

Peter Nicholson, Deutsch: Not Good

Nicholson tosses in a refreshed “I Want You” poster with McCain playing the part of Uncle Sam. The supporting copy reads: … to feel sorry for my POW ass. While the Obama campaign team would have to pass, it might fly as an independent expenditure. Nicholson seems to have caught that McCain’s POW experience isn’t resonating with voters this cycle as it did when he ran against George W. Bush.

Jamie Barrett, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners: Average

Barrett doesn’t pick sides, except the one against political advertising. He positions McCain as the 174-year-old candidate and Obama an as the “?” candidate. He makes the right point, but without the payoff. What we do like, however, is Barret’s conclusion that “maybe, just maybe, they [voters] should pay less attention to half truths they see on commercials and think a little more for themselves.”

Tom Amico, The Kaplan Thaler Group: Above Average

Amico comes to the same conclusion as Barrett. For Obama, the contribution reads “I’m black” over and over again. For McCain, it reads “I’m old” over and over again. Both posters are summed up "If this is all you're hearing, you're not listening." Sure, the conceptual behind the ad has been done more than once, but it still edges out Goodby, Silverstein & Partners because the point he’s making seems to stick with us long after the ad is over.

Nick Law, R/GA: Good

Law’s motion billboard gives people a “Make History” message for Obama and a “Repeat History” message for McCain. It’s amazingly effective at targeting the emotions of those unhappy with the administration while driving home the point that McCain might represent more of the same. Law doesn’t let Obama off the hook either. He turns Obama into a Macy’s parade blimp, reading “Overblown.” I didn’t like the Obama take at a glance, but it starts to stick after repeated viewings. We have to give it up for Law. Both ads have the potential to work.

Scott Duncan, T.A.G.: Below Average

Duncan shoots for simple with both campaign ideas. He suggests placing a straightforward “Obama” billboard in key locations, like a steel factory setting. I liked the idea at first, but pulled back from it after it started to resemble a foreshadow of things to come. Likewise, dropping the “Mc” from McCain and running with the ‘Cain seemed okay. But over time, the initial attraction wears off and you start to wonder whether the new brand name will break down.

Rob Schwartz, TBWA: Average

Schwartz has a somewhat subversive idea by asking the world to vote for president of the United States, playing off of Obama’s global momentum. Is that a good thing? He does the same with McCain, making McCain a global action figure. Is that a good thing? The sad reality is Americans would likely be as mixed on these messages as they seem to be on the candidates. I give Schwartz some props; his additional ideas are worth the read.

So there you have it. Advertising can amuse us about the political process, but the industry doesn’t always translate well for politics. Somehow, political campaigns are different. Of the creative directors brave enough to have some fun, only Law seems to come close to a deliverable. And that makes me wonder too. Was any of this fun worth any of the comments that concluded every campaign a disappointment. I don't know.

Las Vegas Agency Example

But what I do know is that we recently found a local advertising agency attempting to play politics with equally disappointing results. After going to great lengths to hide their ownership of a smear blog aimed at State Sen. Bob Beers, Drex in Las Vegas outed itself after accidently posting the blog's project files on their agency site (right alongside a client roster that includes Sen. Bob Beers supporters).

Considering the secret campaign is reported to be a $1 million attack fund against Sen. Bob Beers (so his opponent does not have to attack him), we thought it was an amazingly amateurish mistake. It was also amateurish for Drex to reinforce its first half-truth post with an anonymous comment written by the same writer who wrote the post.

I guess that gives a lot of weight to speculators who said that advertising agencies would have a hard time resisting black hat social media. Comments by anyone else are, naturally, moderated.

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Friday, July 11

Paying For Politics: Hillary Clinton


Ever since online merchandising became possible, candidates have been looking for ways to employ it for fundraising purposes. According to the Tribune’s Washington Bureau (hat tip: The Hotline), at least one candidate is looking to push the possibilities.

Hillary Clinton is hoping to erase $20 million from her campaign debt by selling a T-shirt that was originally meant to raise campaign funds. The T-shirt is “limited edition” and costs $50. Clinton promoted the T-shirt in an e-mail blast to supporters and the New York Daily News has a shot of her pushing the shirt, mentioning how it sounds a little bit like a Budweiser rip off and what the contest-winning designer has to say about it.

A Clinton spokesperson would not comment, nor has there been much mention that a good part of that debt is money she loaned herself and shirt purchases could detract from fundraising efforts by Sen. Barack Obama or other candidates, regardless of their party affiliation. Of course, Obama doesn’t seem to mind. He is also urging supporters to help his former rival out.

While there is nothing wrong with helping to retire a candidate’s debt, some people might wonder what’s wrong with a little fiscal restraint before asking voters to foot another bill caused by too much spending. Oh right, never mind. Visa, Mastercard, and American Express are accepted by the T-shirt site.

Now if only some politicians would propose a T-shirt to help erase the United States’ national debt then they might be onto something. Now that one really would be for you.

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Monday, May 7

Panning Parodies: Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh has seemingly revived the Don Imus debate despite coming under fire for very different reasons.

Whereas Imus made racially insensitive statements that some consider bad humor and others call rampant radio racism, Limbaugh has been airing a parody song entitled “Barack the Magic Negro,” a piece about African-American Sen. Barack Obama’s popularity with many white voters. While Obama's campaign has dismissed the parody as dumb and not something "anyone takes this too seriously,” some Limbaugh critics are attempting to do just that.

“We take these things seriously because there’s a consistent pattern of them making their way into the mainstream media and then the mainstream consciousness,” said Karl Frisch, a spokesman for Media Matters, as told to the Chicago Tribune. “It’s important to shoot these things down.”

The parody, which began in March, is receiving more attention now primarily because of the recent Imus case as well as increased threats with racial overtones being received by Obama. Such threats have prompted a special security detail to be assigned to him on the campaign trail.

The parody seems to poke less fun at Obama than it does Rev. Al Sharpton. The comedian singing the parody imitates Sharpton, bemoaning Obama’s popularity with whites who will, the lyrics predict, “vote for him and not for me ‘cause he’s not from da hood.”

As difficult as it is to do, an objective view might find that the parody is neither funny nor racist. It seems to be insensitive (perhaps ignorant and certainly offensive to some people) in its attempt to draw attention to presumed differences between the two men (Sharpton and Obama). Obama's campaign calls it right: it is not to be taken seriously.

In fact, taking the parody seriously, as Media Matters attempts to do, seems to risk more tension than the parody might generate on its own. It also seems to add more weight to a revived "PC" argument that censorship works. It does not.

No, I've never been a fan of name calling (especially along racial, religious, and economic lines), but I am a fan of the First Amendment. As such, I am predisposed to look at such issues differently.

Although name calling and unwarranted labeling causes an emotional reaction in all of us, I also think it makes more sense to let such rants stand because the words say a lot more about the name caller than the person or people being called a name. And if we overreact to other people's mistakes, it might say even more about us.

Case in point: I like Limbaugh all right, but perhaps he lost a little credibility airing this parody for so long. I used to like Media Matters somewhat, but it is becoming more and more difficult to like them when they pay a disproportionate amount of attention to what "people they like" say vs. what "people they don't like" say. It's silly at best and hypocritical at worst.

More importantly, we best serve ourselves by not giving in to our own fears by overreacting to people who call us names or poke fun at our faith, heritage, values, politics, professions, or even the color of our skin. Anytime you experience anger over what someone says, it might be worth considering where that anger comes from. Are we afraid they might be right or that other people might think they are right? Hopefully not; but often, sadly so.

I'm not saying we should ignore name calling or hate speech, but rather suggesting that there are ways to address ignorance without labeling it as racist (unless it is on its face). That might be more effective than censorship.

You know, at the end of the day, I'll probably disagree with Obama on politics, but today I agree with his dismissal of the parody. It was smart on his part. As for his heritage, it's as irrelevant to me as President Kennedy being Catholic or President Bush being from Texas. Try as some might to prove otherwise, labels and other nonsense sidebars really don't mean that much.


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