Bimbo Banter


BIMBO Nominees for March 2013


  • Bimbo
  • March 1, 2013
  • by Spaeth Communications

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We have lots of material this month! There are BIMBOs from: New York City Mayor Bloomberg, Texas Gov. Perry, Agrium’s CEO, Rep. Bill Schuster, Complete Genomics CEO, Defense Secretary Panetta and a lawyer speaking on behalf of her client. In the “Wrong Thing to Say” category, the clear winners are former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul, Titan International’s CEO and quarterback Joe Flacco’s father. This month we have two Twitter examples, a bad example from the Onion (which includes a good apology) and an embarrassing, but useful example from a British company that laid off a number of employees, including the young staffer who handled its Twitter account.

THE WINNING BIMBO

Thomas Wenski, archbishop of Miami, insisted the Catholic Church is “not a fossilized relic,” as Pope Benedict ended his papacy and the Cardinals began to prepare for a conclave to choose the next Pope. (This is an example of a missed opportunity. As reporters write hundreds of articles about the historic nature of the Pope’s decision, the secrecy surrounding it and the challenges faced by the church, Archbishop Wenski should have remembered that he would only get one quote. This was the wrong one.)

USA Today, “Pope Benedict leaves amid a holy mess in at the Vatican,” Feb. 26, 2013

THE RUNNERS-UP

“We are not a one-trick pony,” said Emerson Electric CEO David Farr at an analyst meeting. (Farr was angry that some writers opined that the company was successful in China, but not much beyond that. Not content with the “one-trick” pony line, Farr lambasted the analysts with obscenities, adding “If I see that in writing one more g-- d--- time, I’m going to tear them apart.” “We do well in China, g—d---, and I’m not embarrassed by it, but we’re not a g—d--- one-trick pony.” Later, Farr managed a weak apology saying “I apologize for swearing but you guys p--- me off.” By using this language, Farr made his quotes the story rather than illustrating how Emerson has dimension. Note the headline.)

Wall Street Journal, “Emerson CEO Raises Eyebrows By Unleashing His Salty Tongue,” Feb. 18, 2013

“Nobody has bought me,” claimed Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., when reports leaked out that a long-time political contributor was being investigated by the FBI and Health and Human Services for Medicaid fraud. The Senate Ethics Committee was also looking into jaunts he had taken on the contributor’s private plane to the Dominican Republic and the FBI was looking into whether the senator had consorted with underage prostitutes on said trips to the Dominican Republic. Finally, it came to light that Menendez intervened with the State Department on behalf of the donor to try to influence whether the U.S. would donate screening equipment to help stop the flow of drugs out of the Dominican Republic.  (The whole thing smells, but our focus is only the communication examples. After Sen. Menendez’s classic BIMBO, former Sen. Robert Torricelli added one of his own, noting that Menendez has survived other controversies and that there is “a fairly forgiving political environment in New Jersey.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., contributed, “I have confidence he did nothing wrong,” adding “that’s what the investigations are all about.” If only we could feel confident the various agencies carrying out the investigations will follow through. Menendez is the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, making his attempt to influence the State Department even more problematic.)

New York Times, “Menendez Backed Donor on Port Security Plan,” Feb. 10, 2013

“We’re not banning everything,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a caller on his radio show who complained that the city was “on a track to ban everything.” (This is an example of how we pick up words. The caller used the phrase “banning everything,” and the mayor repeated it back as a denial – and then put it on steroids, saying “You can still buy cigarettes, we haven’t banned that!” This is also as an example of how deadlines are a thing of the past. After the original story posted, a reader pointed out that a few years ago, when it was noted that it is illegal to ride Segways on New York City streets and sidewalk, the Mayor said, “I think we banned them. We ban everything.” Note that the denial became the headline.)

Politiker, “Mayor Bloomberg: ‘We’re Not Banning Everything,’” Feb. 15, 2013   

“This isn’t about bashing California,” said Texas Gov. Rick Perry about making multiple trips to California to invite businesses to relocate to Texas. (Texas made a small ad buy in California and, on announcing it, charged that California was “Looking at Texas’ backside.” Gov. Jerry Brown shot back that the ads were not enough to be a “burp” but were close to a “fart.” This produced another example of picking up words. A reporter asked Gov. Perry about whether Texas was “poaching jobs,” and Perry replied, “Gov. Brown might call it poaching, I just call it giving people an option of where they can locate their business and keep more of their money.” Note that “poaching” makes it into the headline.)

Dallas Morning News, “Perry: Texas not ‘poaching’ Calif. Jobs, just being competitive,” Feb. 13, 2013  

“We’re not broken,” was the headline about a Canadian company going public with a debate with an American institutional investor that wants it to divest some of its operations. (The company, Agrium, is trying to fend off Jana Partners LLC. The quote appears in the headline but not in the actual text of the edited Q&A.)

Wall Street Journal, “Agrium Declares, ‘We’re Not Broken,’” Jan. 28, 2013

“I do not think the president is a liar,” said Rep. Bill Shuster, R-PA. In the State of the Union, President Obama claimed that CEOs would create jobs in the U.S. if the country would invest in high speed rail. In a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Rep. Shuster questioned whether CEOs were really influenced by high speed rails. Unfortunately, he used a highly charged word saying “I think he’s lying about CEOs…Tell me what CEO said that.” (President Obama was making a broad, perhaps overly broad, pitch about upgrading technology. However, charging the President’s remarks were a lie rather than something like a “gross overstatement” caused the focus to be on the word rather than the real issue.)

Roll Call, “Shuster Apologies for Remarks on Obama Speech,” Feb. 13, 2013

“There’s no risk to U.S. national security raised by Complete Genomics merging with BGI,” said Complete’s CEO Cliff Reid. (Complete Genomics is a U.S.-based company which makes the most accurate gene-sequencing machine. The company is trying to sell itself to China’s BGI. San Diego-based Illumina is trying to stop BGI and claims that BGI’s bid threatens national security. Whatever the merit of that argument, this is an example of how Mr. Reid blew his opportunity to have a positive quote rather than a negative denial. He should have said, “We take national security seriously, but we think being part of BGI would help the global effort to advance health care by using our leading innovative techniques.”)

Bloomberg Business Week, “The Big Fight over Tiny Gene Sequences,” Jan. 6, 2013

“This is not 911,” said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta defending the lack of assistance provided to the Libyan consulate under attack last fall in a coordinated effort by terrorists. (Panetta’s comments are true but beside the point. Enough has trickled out so that even a reader of public information has plenty of questions about the government’s behavior.  Notice the denial made the headline.)

CNN, “Panetta on U.S. response to Benghazi attack: ‘This is not 911,’” Feb. 3, 2013

“This has escalated into a racist issue and I want to be clear that he is not a racist,” said Marcia Shein, the attorney for a man accused of using a racial slur and slapping a crying toddler on an airplane. (The man was fired by his employer, AGC Aerospace & Defense. Whatever the facts, the man’s attorney missed the opportunity to say something positive about her client. This also illustrates the very difficult issue of how to rebut charges, particularly sensational ones. She should have said, “While charges of racial insensitivity have been raised, my client wants to assure the public that he believes everyone should be treated as an individual.” If the charges are true, he should apologize and ask for forgiveness. The lawyer obliquely said her client was “dealing with issues.”)

CNN, “Man accused of slapping crying boy on Delta flight is out of job,” Feb. 19, 2013

WRONG THING TO SAY

“Live by the sword, die by the sword,” tweeted Congressman and former-presidential candidate Ron Paul after hearing about the death of former Navy Seal sniper Chris Kyle who was mentoring a troubled serviceman with a friend at a gun range. (Dr. Paul also said, “Treating PTSD at a firing range doesn’t make sense,” which actually makes sense to us but was overshadowed by the sensational language. Dr. Paul clarified what he meant in a later tweet, but the damage was done. Note the language became the headline.)

Washington Post, “Ron Paul on sniper Chris Kyle: Live by the sword, die by the sword,” Feb. 5, 2013

“How stupid do you think we think we are?” wrote Titan International CEO Maurice Tyler in a letter to French Industry Arnaud Montebourg. (Titan tried to buy a tire factory that Goodyear was closing in France but the union refused to make any concessions to work longer hours past France’s famously short work week. The French Minister made overtures to Titan prompting the understandable but inflammatory response. We are sympathetic to Mr. Tyler. However, giving into irritation only made the comment the focus of the story rather than the cost of intransigence of the unions. Notice that the comment made the headline.)

Wall Street Journal, “U.S. CEO to France: ‘How Stupid Do You Think We Are?’” Feb. 20, 2013

“Joe is dull, as dull as he is portrayed in the media, he’s that dull. He is dull,” said – of all people— Joe Flacco’s dad, Steve, in an interview just before the Super Bowl. (Thanks, Dad. What could he be thinking?)

New York Times, “Flacco Keeps His Profile Low, Save for One Day,” Jan. 17, 2013

TWITTER 

“Crude and offensive” was how the Onion later described its tweet about young actress Quvenzhane Wallis during the Academy Awards. (The Onion published what seemed like a heartfelt apology, ending with “Miss Wallis, you are young and talented and deserve better. All of us at the Onion are deeply sorry.” The apology was signed by Steve Hannah, the CEO. The original tweet was so bad the Journal wouldn’t repeat it.)

Wall Street Journal, “The Onion Apologizes to Quvenzhane Wallis for Oscar Tweet,” Feb. 25, 2013

If your company is in trouble and has to downsize quickly and drastically, what should you not do? The headline in the Forbes article says it all. It only took 20 minutes for Poppy Rose, who was in charge of the Twitter account at HMV, a British entertainment firm, to tweet what was happening. Making the company’s embarrassment worse, Poppy voluntarily relinquished the corporate account and continued tweeting on her own, but had to rebut corporate claims that she had “hijacked” the account. She explained that she was the company’s Twitter person. Then, she had to advise HMV on how to change the settings on its own account and revoke her access, advice she gave – where else?—on Twitter.)

Forbes, “Don’t Fire an Employee and Leave them in Charge of the Corporate Twitter Account,” Feb. 1, 2013


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