Bimbo Banter


BIMBO Nominees for May 2010


  • Bimbo
  • May 1, 2010
  • by Spaeth Communications

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This is unprecedented—all of this month’s BIMBO winners are from Goldman Sachs. If you click to the Full BIMBO, you’ll find a chilling “threat” from the Muslim group that intimidated Comedy Central, and BIMBOs traded between California’s Attorney General and a university president. You will also find BIMBOs from the tawdry “model” who helped Sandra Bullock’s husband cheat on her, as well as the jerk’s lawyer. See comments from the First Lady of France, former President Clinton, the Cleveland Indians General Manager and tweets from Jim Carrey. “Bad” words get the UK prime minister, the U.S. house majority leader, and one of the Oklahoma Tea Party leaders in trouble. We have WRONG THINGS TO SAY from Erykah Badu and former Gov. Eliot Spitzer who decided to be just a little too honest. There are two examples of the wrong ways to handle things this month and an example proving that everybody has a camera phone. You’ll find our comments on two interesting studies and a good HR example. And the grand finale— the decade’s worst PowerPoint slide.

THE WINNING BIMBOS, WHICH ARE ALL FROM GOLDMAN SACHS

“We didn’t have a massive short against the housing market and we certainly did not bet against our clients,” said Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs CEO. (Note that this denial made it into boxed quotes and lots of headlines. We repeat, don’t deny negatives because it triples their quotability.)

The Wall Street Journal,“Senate Readies Goldman Assault,” April 27, 2010

“I’m (sic) managed to sell a few abacus bonds to widows and orphans that I ran into at the airport, apparently these Belgians adore synthetic abs cdo2,” wrote trader Fabrice Tourre in an e-mail. (While this was probably a joke, it’s amazing that anyone could have such a tin ear in this day and age. More damaging, the implicit message is that Goldman traders knew they were selling worthless investments to people not sophisticated or demanding enough to ask the right questions.)

The Wall Street Journal, “Investigators Interview Tourre,” April 26, 2010

“I think that’s very unfortunate to have on e-mail," said Chief Financial Officer, David Viniar when asked about the use of profanities in e-mails by Goldman personnel to describe the quality of some deals they were happily selling to investors, namely that they were junk or crappy or s--tty. (News reports noted laughter in the Congressional hearing room after he made this comment. Again, this was probably meant as a joke, but he showed tone deafness and a lack of understanding at how an off-the-cuff comment would be repeated. It also reveals an arrogant “we’re just sorry we were caught” mentality.)

The Daily Finance, "Goldman Shares Tumble as Image Takes Another Hit,” April, 30 2010

“Long, thoughtful pauses followed by rambling non-responsive answers,”was the strategy on how to handle questions from members of Congress recommended by K. Lee Blalack II, Goldman’s lawyer. (This interview is a must read for the eye brow raising candor of how to wiggle and dance and avoid questions. While we agree with Mr. Blalack that congressional hearings are not fact-finding missions and should be approached to maintain a company’s reputation, we prefer a strategy that prepares our clients to look for ways to contribute truthful comments and to focus on the audience.)

The American Lawyer, The Blog of Legal Times, “Goldman’s Lawyer’s General Advice: Devour Senators’ Time,” April 26, 2010

If anyone wondered whether “communication” really contributes to a company’s bottom line, this headline says it all: “Goldman’s Market Value Plunges 21 billion,” and the lead is, “How much trouble is Goldman Sachs really in? One answer: about $21 billion worth.”  (And a hefty contributor to that “trouble” is the word “fraud,” as in “SEC fraud investigation,” and all the words – and the behavior they depict – as noted above.)

The New York Times, “Goldman’s Market Value Plunges 21 billion,” May 1, 2010

And those are just a few of the bimbos, wrong things to say and non responses from Goldman Sachs. At one point, Sen. Collins, R-ME, asked four witnesses a yes/no question about whether they felt it was their duty to act in the best interest of their clients. Three of the four ducked and refused to answer. Almost all of them used impenetrable corporate speak. For example, senators asked repeatedly if the investments were set up to fail, and Blankfein replied that the deal the SEC is investigating, which tanked, was a success because it provided investors with a “risk that people wanted to have, and in a market that’s not a failure.”  Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont) commented, “It’s like we’re speaking a different language here.” 

The New York Times, “In Washington, Battles in Two Rings,” April 28, 2010

THE RUNNERS-UP

“A prediction not a threat,” was how the group, Revolution Muslim depicted its threat – that the creators of the South Park cartoon show would “Probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show. This is not a threat but warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.” Mr. Van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker, was killed for a film that discussed the abuse of Muslim women in some societies. (This is a disappointing story. The creators of South Park’s 200th episode sought to bring back all the characters, and the script had them agonizing how to depict Mohammad given that his image is holy to Muslims. Comedy Central caved in to the terrorists and altered the show. It’s disgraceful that Comedy Central let itself be intimidated. Free speech is a cornerstone of freedom and the American “experiment” as a nation. Where are the non-extremist Muslim groups condemning this capitulation?)

The New York Times, “’South Park episode Altered After Muslim Group’s Warning,” April 23, 2010

The Associated Press,“’South Park producers say network cut fear speech,” April 22, 2010

USA Today, “We’re still afraid of a cartoon?” April 29, 2010

“This is not about Sarah Palin,”said California Attorney General Edmund Brown, about accusations that a state university violated public records laws when they refused to share the financial details of a speaking invitation to former Alaskan governor and vice president candidate Sarah Palin. In an exchange of BIMBOs, the university president, Hamid Shirvani, shot back, “We have absolutely never, nobody has been asked to shred any document regarding Gov. Palin. The smoking gun is not really a smoking gun.”  He added that the challenges were an attempt to silence the colorful speaker, “It has nothing to do with how much money we’re paying Gov. Palin.” (On both sides, of course it has everything to do with Sarah Palin being who she is, and the university president, by repeating the charges, doth – in the bard’s words ‘protest too much.’)

ABC News, “California to Investigate Sarah Palin Speaking Contract,” April 14, 2010

“I’m not a homewrecker, I don’t believe I destroyed their marriage,”said self- described “tattoo model” Michelle McGee about her yearlong affair with Jesse James, Sandra Bullock’s husband. (If ever anyone deserved the BIMBO title, it’s this person, who was paid $30,000 for blabbing. She says she’s sorry and “wants to apologize”but “would do it again.” Besides being tawdry and evil, she doesn’t grasp the concept of apology and amending one’s conduct.)

US Weekly, “Michelle McGee: I didn’t destroy Sandra Bullock’s Marriage,” April 16, 2010

Joe Yanny, attorney for Bullock’s estranged husband, Jesse James, says his client is “not a neo-Nazi” despite the fact that there were photos circulated of James wearing a Nazi hat and raising his arm in a salute. (Since Congress is off on a tear passing legislation to regulate behavior, can they outlaw stupidity?)

CNN, “Lawyer: Jesse James is no neo-Nazi,” April 2, 2010

“For me and my husband, these rumors are insignificant. There is no plot. There is no vengeance,” said French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy about rumors of affairs. (Besides the BIMBO denials, this is interesting because the rumors have circulated for months. French media largely ignored them but the UK press published them, which provided an opportunity for the French media to quote their brethren across the channel. This shows that nothing’s local.)

MCNBC, French first lady dismisses infidelity rumors,” April 7, 2010

“They’re not gangsters,” said former President Bill Clinton in response to Congresswoman Michelle Bachman’s charge that Congressional Democrats were a "gangster government.” President Clinton seemed to imply that people who criticized the government were like Timothy McVeigh and might turn to violence. Later, Clinton said he was not trying to stifle debate,“I’m not interested in gagging anybody.”(This is a good example of how we pick up and repeat words. Congresswoman Bachman hurled the word “gangster”and President Clinton picked it up. He injected “McVeigh and his conspirators” which got repeated, so he backed away hastily, but with another denial.)

CNN, "Clinton warns against violent anti-government attitude,” April 16, 2010

“It’s no time to mourn,” said Cleveland Indians general manager Mark Shapiro about their record low attendance. (This is an instructive example of how not to use media attention. Shapiro gets a lot of quotes, but he misses an opportunity by saying that low attendance is a “reflection of the challenge economically in our city” and noting that their stadium is 17 years old. These may all be true, but he should be saying how they celebrate their fans, how they are determined to win going forward, and how they are committed to being the heart and spirit of Cleveland.)

USA Today, “Demand tumbles for ‘90s, stalwarts,” April 16, 2010

“This is no breakdown,” said comedian and actor Jim Carrey via Twitter. (Besides being a classic BIMBO, this is an example of how Twitter can cause trouble. Carrey tweeted that “Tiger Woods owes nothing 2 anyone but himself,” and claimed that “No wife is blind enough to miss that much infidelity. Elin had 2 b a willing participant 4 whatever reason.” Predictably, outrage ensued. Carrey tried to say “I want 2 make clear that I do not condone infidelity,” a claim which rang somewhat hollow as he dumped Jenny McCarthy. He at least kept his sense of humor, saying he only wished “everyone love” and was going to "re-enter the Twitter stream and see if there is anyone left to offend.”

People.com, “Jim Carrey Sends Mixed Message on his State of Mind,” April 14, 2010

BAD WORDS – CAUSING AS MUCH TROUBLE AS USUAL

The word “bigoted” got UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown into trouble. He was approached by an elderly widow complaining about immigration issues, and he climbed into his limo, still wearing a microphone which clearly broadcasted his comment, “Should never have put me with that woman-- whose idea was that? She was just a sort of bigoted woman.”(Oops. The mike is always on. “Bigot” is a bad word, and she has a right to be upset with immigration policy in the UK, just as Americans are here in the United States. Also note that bigot made it into the headline.)

Fox News,“Brown calls pensioner ‘bigoted’ in campaign gaffe,” April 5, 2010

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) accused Republicans who opposed the 2,500 page health care reform bill as being “un-American.”  A predictable storm of public protest ensued. Hoyer recovered quickly and apologized. (In this case, our sympathies are with the Speaker. Attendees at a rally for Rep. Michelle Bachmann called Democrats “a lying, thieving bunch of commies.”Not helpful to the discussion either. And once more, the word makes the headline, too.)

AOL News, “Top Democrat Regrets Slamming Critics as Un-American,” April 22, 2010

“Militia” made headlines when the Oklahoma Tea Party leaders said they wanted to create a volunteer ‘militia’ to defend their state sovereignty. Press reports noted that “the unit would not resemble militia groups that have been raided for allegedly plotting attacks on law enforcement.” (“Militia” is a word with a lot of history in this country. Probably not the best kind of publicity, and if you have to ask if you’re like the folks who plot attacks, you’re probably talking about the wrong topic. The leader commented, “It’s not a far right crazy plan or anything.” Oh yes it is. It is time to learn some basic communication lessons, and to understand that you only get a few chances to send your message. This is the wrong one.)

The Associated Press, “Tea Party asks Oklahoma Legislature for support in forming militia,” April 13, 2010

An example why words matter comes from Tricia Zichello, the benefits manager of K. Hovnanian, the home builder. The company switched to consumer-driven health plans, and realized that words like “high deductible” were scary and off-putting in communicating with employees. Phrases like you “are required to complete a risk assessment” in order to qualify for company money for your Health Resource Account were rewritten as “You have the opportunity to earn free money from the company.” She noted that 66 percent of their associates chose a consumer-driven health plan in the first year and 76 percent in the second year.

Workforce Management Magazine, “Choose Your Words,” March 2010

THE WRONG THING TO SAY

“I tied it in a way that compared assassination to the character assassination one would go through after showing his or herself completely,”singer Erykah Badu about her latest music video. In the video, Badu strips naked at the JFK memorial and falls to the ground as if she got shot where President Kennedy was assassinated. Young children and other tourists were visiting at the time. Badu says she “tried to telepathically communicate my good intent to them.”  (Despite the total lack of taste, class, talent and good grammar, isn’t there a law against public indecency? What was just as bad as her actions was the amount of media coverage she received. To compare Kennedy’s assassination to criticism over shedding one’s clothes is scandalous. “Telepathically” communicate? What planet is she on?)

Dallas Morning News,“Badu chooses JFK site to bare body, soul,” March 30, 2010

“My fear is that the whole island will become so overpopulated that it will tip over and capsize,”said Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson in response to an armed services proposal to move more troops to Guam. After the video clip from C-Span played over and over to widespread ridicule, the Congressman issued a statement saying he had been using “subtle humor” and was making a “metaphorical reference.” (Apparently it was so subtle that it was lost on everyone including the speaker.  And that’s a real stretch as a metaphor. Webster’s defines a metaphor as “a figure of speech with an implied comparison.”  We normally don’t think of islands as ships that tip over.)

The New York Times, “A Confederacy of Dunces,” April 8, 2010

“You can view it as pure selfishness and hedonism,” said former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer about starting an online column, writing for national publications and generally getting as much attention as he can. (I guess you could say this is total honesty…)

The New York Times, “Spitzer’s Long Road to Redemption,” April 8, 2010

WRONG WAY TO HANDLE IT

Nestle found itself the target of an online video by Greenpeace charging them with deforestation of palm oil areas and with the death of orangutans. Nestle made YouTube take down the video, claiming copyright violations. This only caused it to spread worldwide, jumping to channels like Twitter, Facebook and Reddit. (Nestle should have known that its actions would only increase attention to the video. In addition, Nestle responded with text statements. This is a teaching example of how a company needs to respond in the channels chosen by the audience. Nestle needed to use advocacy video – not PR stuff – and they needed to get their own executives out to talk to the media and citizens groups.)

Mongabay.com, “Video: Nestle’s attempt to censor Greenpeace palm oil ad backfires,” March 19, 2010

The Massey Energy Company, owner of the Upper Big Branch Mine, site of the worst mining accident in 40 years, and its combative CEO, missed every opportunity to express sympathy and grief for their missing, and then deceased employees. In a statement the company wrote,“MSHA (Mine Safety and Health Administration) testimony paints Massey as a renegade operator seeking only to evade the inspectors,”  which may be true but only repeats the regulator’s charges, adding the agency was characterizing them as a “catch me if you can” company. (What can be learned from this incident about communication? First, safety as an operational priority needs to have a robust communication strategy so people take it seriously. Second, if your employees think you don’t care about them, they won’t stick up for the company. Next, combativeness comes across as defensive and guilty. Fourth, you can’t compete with video and testimony with written statements – especially ones like these! This company needed a communication audit in the worst way and it needed an honest assessment of their CEO’s communication deficit and the risk to the company.)

MSNBC, "Drilling delay slows mine rescue effort,” April 6, 2010

The Wall Street Journal, “Deadly Mine Owner Duels with Regulators,” April 28, 2010

EVERYBODY HAS A CAMERA PHONE

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was at a bar having a few drinks with a friend. A young man recognized him and taped the comments, releasing them to the press that played them gleefully. See Fox sportswriter Jason Whitlock’s column calling to task the media for airing the material. “Jerry Jones did not do or say one thing wrong, not one” he wrote. (And we agree. We’re moving to an environment where it’s okay to trap anyone. This is not a recipe for happiness or a civil society. Sorry Jerry. You’re owed an apology. And you did the right thing by brushing off their bad behavior.)

Fox Sports, “Why guys like Jones can’t be human,” April 15, 2010

INTERESTING STUDY

A Leadership IQ study finds that 60 percent of employees surveyed say they have too little interaction with their bosses, up from 53 percent in May 2008. While we’re all stressed by the recession, this is the time to increase, not decrease, communication.

HR News, “Recession Stifling Managers’ Communication?” April 2010

An article in a Wharton School publication finds that “face to face contact, even for a superficial minute or two can have substantial impact on the motivation and productivity of works. It may sound touchy-feely but it’s been documented in research papers, and it may enhance employee engagement for positions that have historically had high turnover and low morale.” (Common sense, but nice to have it validated by a top business school.)

HR Executive, “The Art of Motivation” April 2010

STORYTELLING

The power of storytelling is illustrated this month by actor Dennis Quaid’s decision to start telling the story of what happen to his newborn twins when they were twice given a dosage of adult strength blood thinner. Quaid has stepped forward to encourage hospitals to develop different protocols to recognize and address medical errors, and he wrote an article for the Journal of Patient Safety titled “Story Power: The Secret Weapon.” (This is an excellent example for those of us who believe that stories make facts and statistics come alive.)

USA Today, “Dennis Quaid takes aim at health care mistakes,” April 13, 2010

THE FUNNIEST POWERPOINT SLIDE EVER

This is an example of how PowerPoint, the ubiquitous visual tool, has become a monster. The article is a must read about how PowerPoint hinders rather than helps communication. Our own “PowerPoint Pointers” is a good place to start. The slide is emblematic of a bigger problem, and generated media in the UK.)

New York Times, “We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint,” April 27, 2010

Mail Foreign Service, “’When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war:’ US generals given baffling PowerPoint presentation to try to explain Afghanistan mess,” April 28, 2010


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