Bimbo Banter


BIMBO Nominees for April 2012


  • Bimbo
  • April 1, 2012
  • by Spaeth Communications

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This month we have BIMBOs from Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), an elected state representative in India, and Denise Richards. The Full BIMBO includes a Philadelphia teacher who blogged about a student (a big no no). And anyone who wonders whether or not words can have a real business impact needs to look at the beef companies producing “lean, finely textured ground beef,” and Governor Romney’s chief communication advisor. Goldman Sachs serves as a reminder to HR and Legal about the importance of having effective, two-way internal communication. Rush Limbaugh regrets choosing certain words and Sen. Santorum doesn’t, but should. An Istanbul ad agency says the wrong thing and jewelry retailer Claire’s does a bad job with an apology, while Nike does much better.  

THE WINNING BIMBO

“I don’t think it’s appropriate that members of my conference be referred to as bozos,” said Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) (Debate over the transportation funding bill degenerated into partisan name calling. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) charged that Republicans were circus clowns who couldn’t get their own five-year bill through the House. A 90 day extension received bi-partisan ridicule since construction projects typically last months or years. Rep. Mica shouldn’t have taken the bait. Anytime a speaker repeats and denies a negative, it crowds out the positive quote.)

Washington Post, “House votes to extend transportation funding after rancorous debate,” Mar. 29, 2012

THE RUNNERS-UP

“I’ve never been a hooker,” insisted Denise Richards. (Ms. Richards apparently insisted so aggressively that the entertainment magazines speculated that she was trying to grab headlines. This is another classic case of how repeating an accusation gives a story legs. No pun intended.)

San Francisco Chronicle, “Denise Richards: “I’ve never been a hooker,” March 8, 2012

“Anyone I killed got what they deserved, but it’s not like I have killed a busload of people,” said Mukhtar Ansari, a representative in a state legislature in Uttar Pradesh, India, where he was elected despite being in prison since 2005. (A frightening story about the high percentage of elected officials charged with serious crimes like rape and kidnapping. There really isn’t a “what he should have said” recommendation in this case. The defense Bar would tell him not to convict himself.)

Bloomberg Businessweek, “India’s Killer Politicians,” March 18, 2012

 “This was not our program per se,” said President Obama at an event in response to a question regarding the solar energy start-up Solyndra. (Commentators pointed out that the President was wrong, the loan that backed Solyndra was not from the Bush era Energy Department loan guarantee program but from a special section of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the stimulus, and that he also specifically referenced it in May, 2010, saying “through the Recovery act, this company received a loan to expand its operations. This new factory is the result of those loans.” Note that the quote became the headline.)

ABC News, “Obama on Solyndra: ‘This Was Not Our Program Per Se,’” March 22, 2012

THE POWER OF WORDS

“Pink slime.” Officially called “lean, finely textured beef,” a former USDA microbiologist, Gerald Zirnstein, lobbied his bosses not to allow the beef industry to approve the product. His superiors didn’t listen to him, and he criticized their decision in a “private” email to colleagues, describing it as “pink slime.” The nomenclature gave opponents the opportunity to launch what became, with the help of social media, a national tsunami of articles, resulting in several grocery chains announcing they would no longer carry the product, the USDA backtracking from calling it “safe,” and numerous school districts announcing they were also going to discontinue purchasing it. (The problem? Iowa Governor Terry Branstad pointed out that more than a million additional cattle would have to be slaughtered to replace the meat taken off the market; factories quickly closed and jobs disappeared. Beef Products Inc., in Lubbock, Texas, shuttered three of its four plants. The lesson from this is that the industry woefully failed to anticipate the risk and develop an effective strategy. Zirnstein had his linguistic magic moment back in 2002, and by 2011, even The New York Times had mentioned the phrase in a lengthy story on food safety. We could have predicted that the term was fatally dangerous. Additionally, most news stories described the product as “scraps remaining after cattle are butchered into cuts such as steaks and roasts” – that’s okay – treated with “ammonium hydroxide” to kill bacteria. Actually, it’s treated with “gas” but the word “ammonium hydroxide” conjured up images of plunging beef into vats of Clorox. The industry had at least a year, and probably much longer, to tackle the potential threat outright.)

The Wall Street Journal, “‘Pink Slime’ Defenders Line Up,” March 29, 2012

Eric Fehrnstrom, Mitt Romney’s communication advisor and senior strategist, was asked if the lengthy and bitter primary would make the general election more difficult. Mr. Fehrnstrom replied, “Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch a Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.” The problem? Mr. Fehrnstrom seemed to be implying that Romney could erase all his previous positions – a charge which has dogged him through the primaries. Within hours, the other candidates were armed with the childhood toy, gleefully using it as a prop. (This incident is a good example of the power of visual images and props. Props, anything a speaker picks up, focuses the audience’s attention on what the speaker is saying at that exact moment, serving as a memory driver for a key point. While this is a good teaching example, Gov. Romney didn’t need the chop to his campaign’s knees.)

The New York Times, “For Romney’s Trusted Advisor, ‘Etch a Sketch’ Comment is a Rare Misstep,” March 21, 2012

Greg Smith, a director for Goldman Sachs, resigned after 12 years via a public letter in The New York Times titled, “Why I am Leaving Goldman Sachs.” Smith’s letter charged that that the firm put its own financial interests ahead of clients and regularly mocked them, calling Goldman a “toxic and destructive” place. (Goldman issued a bland statement in response, predictably saying “We disagree with the views expressed, which we don’t think reflect the way we run our business. In our view, we will only be successful if our clients are successful. This fundamental truth lies at the heart of how we conduct ourselves.” The lesson for Goldman and other companies is to have a robust internal communication system to channel dissatisfaction, complaints or charges. Particularly for a financial services firm, in the wake of Enron, the financial meltdown and the general anger directed at Wall Street firms. If Smith actually heard colleagues disparaging clients, allegedly calling them “muppets,” he should have had an internal channel where he felt he could have shared the information and been heard.)

The New York Times, “Why I am Leaving Goldman Sachs,” March 14, 2012

Slate, “Goldman Sachs Shares tumble After Blistering Op-Ed,” March 15, 2012

“Slut” and “prostitute” were the words Rush Limbaugh used to criticize Georgetown University law student, Sandra Fluke. Fluke testified at an unofficial meeting of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee that she spends $3,000 per year on birth control and that she thought the Catholic University should pay for it. Limbaugh retracted the words and apologized profusely, an apology accepted by neither Ms. Fluke nor the activists who seized the opportunity to try to launch a boycott of Limbaugh. (Limbaugh gave the opposition the chance to characterize the debate about sex and contraception instead of freedom of religion. We thought the apology was thoughtful and appropriate. It also appeared as if she was groomed and positioned by political activists on the Left. Conservatives pointed out all the similarly hateful and sexually-oriented words that Left leaning reporters and others had used to describe women like Michelle Malkin, Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin in the recent past.)

Politico, “Student: Limbaugh out of bounds,” March 1, 2012

WRONG THING TO SAY

“It’s bulls—,” said Presidential candidate Rick Santorum to a New York Times reporter who asked him to elaborate on his charge that Governor Romney would be the “worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama.” (Santorum clearly put the “worst” comment in the context of Romney’s Massachusetts health care legislation, but the Times reporter was not out-of-bounds with the probing question. That’s what reporters do, at least with Presidential campaigns. By including the profanity, Santorum assured attention, but got more than he probably wanted. The ensuing debate wasn’t about health care but about the use of a swear word in a Presidential campaign. Our view is that there is no place for such language, and it’s not “blue collar” and “rough and tumble” as some Santorum supporters claimed. It’s just rude.)

The Wall Street Journal, “Santorum: Romney is ‘Worst’ Choice to Face Obama,” March 25, 2012

“I thought they would cut me off, but since they didn’t. I thought, maybe it was OK because I’m not working. It’s hard. I am struggling. I feel that it’s okay because I mean, I have no income and I have bills to pay. I have two houses,” explained Amanda Clayton about why she continued to receive public assistance and food stamps after winning $1 million in a Michigan lottery. (Michigan Department of Human Services announced that she would no longer receive benefits. We think it was the “I have two houses” line that sealed her fate.)

Fox News, “Michigan woman who won $1M lottery but kept using food stamps loses benefits,” March 8, 2012

“The Jewish community seemed more upset than they were supposed to be,” said Beril Mardin, the account director at an Istanbul ad agency that came up with the idea to have Hitler be the spokesman for a men’s shampoo. (The uproar caused the ad to be pulled, but the agency continued to say the wrong thing, adding that it was “surprising that people in Turkey and around the world mistook this commercial.” No, it was not surprising. The ad showed Hitler with a dubbed voice saying that men should not use women’s shampoo if they do not wear women’s clothes. Wow! Is there someone left on earth who doesn’t get that Hitler will upset people? Everyone makes mistakes and the agency should have genuinely apologized.)

BBC News, “Turkey Hitler shampoo advert withdrawn,” March 27, 2012

THE MIC IS ALWAYS ON

“This is my last election…After my election I will have more flexibility,” President Obama said to Russian President (at least for now) Dmitry Medvedev at a global security summit in South Korea. He asked for some “space” before returning to discussions about the European missile defense shield. (Whoops. PR 101:  the microphone is always on.)

Huffington Post, “Nuclear Summit: Barack Obama Tells Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev More Flexibility After Election,” March 26, 2012

APOLOGIES: GOOD AND BAD

Tatty Devine, a small UK jewelry company noticed that retailer Claire’s was selling jewelry identical to theirs. Tatty posted photos of its jewelry next to pictures of Claire’s. People immediately commented and tweeted. Claire’s took two days to respond to the charges and then posted a bland statement on its Facebook page: “Claire’s Stores, Inc., is a responsible company that employs designers, product developers and buyers, and works with many suppliers to provide innovative collections that bring customers all the latest fashion trends. As such, we take any allegations of wrong doing seriously. We are looking into the matters raised.” (A number of commentators pointed out that in today’s world, two days is an eternity and that Claire’s deleted critical comments from its Facebook page and didn’t involve its own social media staff.)

PRDaily, “Claire’s botches social media response to plagiarism charges,” Feb. 28, 2012

Nike released a new version of its SB Dunk Low sneakers on St. Patrick’s Day and dubbed the shoe “Black and Tan,” a reference to the popular Irish pub drink that combines dark beer and lighter lager. Alas, someone didn’t do their research to discover that “Black and Tan” was the name of British military who were supposed to have attacked and killed Irish citizens in the first decades of the 20th century. Nike apologized immediately. (Nike had a slight stumble. Their statement claimed the sneakers had been “unofficially named” Black and Tan even though a picture of a pint glass appears on the shoe.  The lesson? When you mess up, apologize immediately, and sincerely.)

Slate, “Nike says It’s Sorry for ‘Black and Tan’ Naming Gaffe,” March 14, 2012


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