July was another target rich month. We have BIMBOs from RIM’s Thorstein Heins, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, economist Francesco Daveri, lawyer Rusty Hardin, and a Barclays executive. Several “Wrong Thing to Say” examples from Governors Christie and LePage, a friend of Katie Holmes, a “Brony,” a company that sends around its own list of “mistakes,” and Joe Paterno’s family. There is, of course, a Twitter issue, rulings from the National Labor Relations Board and a very funny riff on lazy media language from LA-based Gavin DeBecker.
THE WINNING BIMBO
“This company is not ignoring the world out there, nor is it in a death spiral,” said RIM CEO Thorsten Heins. (He also said, “The way I would describe it: we’re in the middle of a transition,” but the “death spiral” phrase could not be ignored. This is a classic BIMBO because it appears to be true. As Blackberry enthusiasts, we’re gravely worried that RIM has no idea what it’s doing. Note that the “death spiral” comment migrated to the headline, and it appeared in numerous headlines.)
The Guardian, “RIM chief denies Blackberry maker is in a ‘death spiral,’” July 3, 2012
“I’m not worried about them,” said Oracle CEO Larry Ellison about Workday, a company founded by Dave Duffield, former CEO of PeopleSoft (which was acquired by Oracle in a hostile takeover), and Aneel Bhusri. (Workday sells easy-to-use software that companies use to keep track of their employees and finances. In the same story, Duffield alleges, “We don’t think about Larry or have any animosity.” That’s hard to believe, given the exceptionally bitter and public war waged by Oracle. Finally, he should be worried. Workday has an impressive list of customers, and the complaints are legendary about the racket that Oracle and SAP run, requiring multi-year commitments and confusing users with their complexity.)
Bloomberg Businessweek, “The Two Horsemen of the Enterprise Apocalypse,” June 14, 2012
“This is not a football scandal and should not be treated as one,” wrote Penn State Football coach Joe Paterno in a letter written before he died that was recently made public by his family. (See the Paterno family statement on the release of the report by former FBI director Louis Freeh. We are impressed by his family’s loyalty and the statement featured in the Full BIMBO, but we respectfully disagree. It is a football scandal because the source of the problem was a football program that ran the University. One of the biggest components of the scandal is that the leaders of the football program lived in a bubble and would do anything to protect the football program.)
Associated Press, “Sandusky matter ‘not a football scandal,’” Paterno wrote before he died,” July 2, 2012
“I am not worried for the time being,” said Francesco Daveri, an economist at the University of Parma about Italy’s financial situation, when asked about whether the economy could collapse. (“For the time being?” It sounds like he’s worried. We think he should have said, “I’m watching the situation carefully. I’ll share my analysis with you when and if it changes.”)
Bloomberg Businessweek, “Global Economics,” June 18, 2012
“Roger is not naïve,” said famed lawyer Rusty Hardin commenting on legend Roger Clemens’ jury trial that ended with the jury finding him not guilty of lying to Congress about drug use. (What Mr. Hardin meant was that the pitcher went into the battle against the government fully aware that the scandal would be forever attached to his name. Notice that the word, “naïve,” makes the headline.)
Associated Press, “Lawyer: Clemens ‘not naïve’ over reaction,” July 6, 2012
“We’re clean, but we’re dirty-clean rather than clean-clean,” said a Barclays executive about the Libor scandal. (Gretchen Mortgenson, the columnist who quoted the executive, had it right when she added “talk about defining deviancy down,” a reference to the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s quote about lowering the bar for what is unacceptable. The implication is that they gamed the system and twisted the rules, but not as much as everyone else. However, there’s no way to say that without confirming they actually cheated.)
The New York Times, “The British, at Least, are Getting Tough,” July 8, 2012
WRONG THING TO SAY
“Are you stupid? On topic! On topic! Next question,” screamed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at a reporter during a news conference in a drought-stricken county. The question was on his plans for the next legislative session. Upon leaving he also said, “I’m sorry for the idiot over there.” (We love Gov. Christie, but could someone pass along a few pieces of advice? First, he should have announced that he would only take questions on the drought, but he should also know that reporters can ask anything they want. That’s what reporters do. Second, he can have his cake and eat it, too. All he had to do was smile and jokingly say, “on topic, on topic,” and everyone would have laughed with him. By lobbing the “idiot” quote at the reporter, Christie embarrassed the reporter. Finally, the quotes crowded out what he wanted key audiences to hear. Never compete with yourself. And of course, “stupid” and “idiot” are bad words.)
The New York Times, “As the Sun Bears Down, Christie Growls,” July 3, 2012
“We the people have been told there is no choice. You must buy health insurance or pay the new Gestapo – the IRS,” said Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R). (This comment generated lots of predictable and probably hypocritical reaction. The next day, the Governor clarified his comments saying, “Clearly what has happened is that the use of the word Gestapo has clouded my message. We no longer are a free people. With every step that Obamacare moves forward, our individual freedoms are being stripped away by the Federal government. This should anger all Americans.” This was an excellent quote, but it didn’t get half the attention of the “Gestapo” quote, which made it into the headline. In the past year, LePage has told the NAACP to “kiss my butt,” called protestors “idiots,” and suggested he would tell President Obama to “go to hell.” We would give him the same advice we gave his colleague, Gov. Christie. Don’t compete with yourself and don’t use bad words, they will always crowd out your message.)
The Raw Story, “Maine gov. on ‘Gestapo’ Obamacare: ‘Be goddam mad at the federal government,’” July 10, 2012
“I thought about what people would say, ‘It’s creepy. It’s weird,’” said Dale Fjordbotten, a male admirer of the TV show (also known as “Bronies”), “My Little Pony.” (“BronyCon Summer 2012,” drew a crowd of 4,000 men, women, boys and girls, who wore costumes like shiny body suits with blue wings and a blue tail. “I discovered that there’s nothing to be ashamed of being a Brony,” added 19-year-old James Penna. What’s next? “The Men of Little Women?”)
Associated Press, “Guys who like My Little Pony gather for ‘BronyCon,’” July 1, 2012
A speakers’ bureau sent around a list of six bad habits for their clients to consider. Supposedly tongue-in-cheek, we presume this bid for attention got it – we’ll let you decide whether it’s good or bad.
1. “Our track record is WEAK. We’ve only been in business TWENTY FIVE years.
2. We selfishly try to be ALL things to ALL people. Please forgive our customer-centeredness.
3. We have gotten into the nasty habit of UNDER PROMISING and OVER DELIVERING. The motto remains: any speaker, any event, healthcare or not.
4. We have pulled some SNEAKY surprises on planners such as making their jobs SEAMLESS and STRESS FREE. Don’t believe it? May as well try us.
5. We’ve been accused of operating a monopoly due in part to the HUNDREDS of satisfied clients we have garnered.
6. Our ‘family of four’ staff is lazy. Only about 375 EVENTS PER YEAR. Do the math! We guess it would be more if only you would call us!”
A Katie Holmes insider said Holmes “felt like she was in Rosemary’s baby” in her marriage to Tom Cruise. (This is a “Wrong Thing to Say” because she needs to maintain a relationship with her daughter’s father for the future. Again, note the quote made it into the headline.)
US Weekly, “Katie Holmes ‘felt like she was in Rosemary’s Baby’ with Tom Cruise marriage,” July 2, 2012
As an example of how a word can anchor a message, see the dispute between the American Hospital Association and the Leapfrog Group’s Hospital Safety Score, which applies a 26-point measure to hospitals to determine the likelihood they will cause harm. Leapfrog, a non-profit group launched by employers to improve hospital care, ranked 2,651 hospitals this year, but only 1,000 participated in the organization’s voluntary reporting. Leapfrog participants get 100 points toward a high letter grade, but non-participating organizations only get 15 points. AHA CEO Rich Umbdenstock sent a letter to Leah Binder, Leapfrog president, explaining that the group’s measures are unreliable and contain significant errors. “We are hearing from enough of our members about significant data issues that we are concerned about the manipulation of data. The key word is “manipulate,” wrote Umbdenstock. Binder wrote back sniping at the AHA and denying any manipulation.
HealthLeaders Media, “AHA: Leapfrog ‘Manipulated” Data related to Safety Score,” June 28, 2012
The Paterno family issued a statement on the recently-released Freeh report. It was about the best that could be mustered under the circumstances. “If Joe Paterno had understood what Sandusky was, a fear of bad publicity would not have factored into his actions,” “It can be argued that Joe Paterno should have gone further. He should have pushed his superiors to see that they were doing their jobs. We accept this criticism.” (Interesting, they refer to him as “Joe Paterno,” rather than “Joe,” nine times.)
Associated Press, “Statement from Paterno Family on Freeh Report,” July 12, 2012
Greek Olympian Voula Papachristou was sent home after a politically incorrect and thoughtless tweet, “With so many Africans in Greece, the West Nile mosquitos will be getting some home food!!!” (The lesson? Think before you Tweet.)
USA Today, “Tweet gets triple jumper bounced from Olympics,” July 26, 2012
The National Labor Relations Board highlighted seven social media cases that should be reviewed by all organizations. The Board said that it is okay for employers to require employees to include a disclaimer noting that the postings are their own opinions not their employers. The Board also said organizations cannot have a policy saying that employees cannot share certain information with coworkers, and restricted an organization’s ability to deem certain posts abusive or inappropriate. (The bottom line: employers need to tread carefully around employees’ rights.)
Dallas Business Journal, “Employment law atwitter,” July 13, 2012
Gavin DeBecker’s “Media Fear Tactics” is a must read. DeBecker dissects sloppy news reporting tactics in a manner that’s both hilarious and serious because he’s right. The riff starts off by noting that the word “possible” – as in “possible links between Saddam Hussein and tooth decay—” is overused and generally means it didn’t happen.
Gavin DeBecker & Associates, “Media Fear Tactics,” July 2012
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