Bimbo Banter


BIMBO Nominees for October 2010


  • Bimbo
  • October 1, 2010
  • by Spaeth Communications

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We have lots of good material this month. We have BIMBOs from BP claims czar, Colin Powell, Starbucks, a wedding facility attorney, a Chinese official and USA Today. Examples of the power of negative words come from Delaware Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell, the Irish Prime Minister, Vegas hotel employees and European reporters. Nominees for the “Wrong Thing to Say” category come from Prince Charles, a spokesperson for Hugo Chávez, one of Germany’s central bank board members, Ted Kennedy’s biographer, Drake University and Boy Scouts of America. We also have an example of a prediction from a government agency and two Twitter lessons. Learn why statistics may not mean what you think and get a laugh out of a good line from Ohio University’s football coach. We are also impressed with Shaquille O’Neal’s Ph.D. dissertation. (Note we’re becoming more international!)

THE WINNING BIMBO

“I am not a piece of meat,” said Lady Gaga after appearing at the MTV Video Music Awards in a dress made of meat. (PETA predictably went nuts. Gaga’s explanation was incomprehensible, something about protesting the exclusion of gays from the military and standing up for our rights or “soon we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our bones.”  Hard to believe someone as talented as Lady Gaga could be as inarticulate. Click here for the picture.)

Time.com, “PETA’s Verdict on Lady Gaga’s Meat Dress: Not Well Done,” Sept. 14, 2010

THE RUNNERS-UP

“Chris is not anyone’s pet,” said the spokesman for Delaware Senate Democratic candidate, Chris Coons, after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, “He’s my pet.” (The Coons people did the best they could, joking that only Coons’ wife got to call him “pet.”)

Washington Examiner, “Coons spokesman: ‘Chris is not anyone’s pet,’” Sept. 16, 2010

“I am not a liar,” said BP oil spill claims czar Ken Feinberg in response to complaints that claims are not being processed and paid within 48 hours as he promised. (This is an instructive example. Feinberg is apparently doing yeoman service and never should have made the promise or prediction of processing and paying claims in such a short time period. Again, note that the denial/BIMBO made it into the headline.)

Florida Capital News, “Claims chief: ‘I am not a liar,’” Sept. 17, 2010

“I don’t hire illegal immigrants,” said Colin Powell, clarifying a statement he made on Meet the Press.  The general appeared to be defending illegal immigrants when he said they are “doing the things we need done in this country,” and they were “all over my house.” (The lesson here is to remember language is powerful and the comments, particularly of famous people, will be amplified. General Powell should have been more careful.)

Meet the Press, “Powell clarifies: ‘I don’t hire illegal immigrants,’” Sept. 19, 2010

 “We are not being sneaky,” said Starbucks spokesperson Deb Trevino after blogs questioned why the company would design new drive-through signs featuring only its two largest and most expensive sizes. The spokesperson explained they were trying to simplify the signs. (She actually had a good explanation, noting other items that were eliminated, but the classic “BIMBO” became the dominant quote. Given the context and quotes from the blogs, we’re fairly sure she responded to the question, “Are you being sneaky?” Remember – no bad words and never repeat and deny a negative!)

USAToday, “Drive-through menu changes causes stir for Starbucks,” Sept. 13, 2010

“They are not thieves,” said attorney Kevin Wiley Jr., about his clients, the owners of the Arts District Banquet Facility, who declared bankruptcy, leaving a number of couples without a wedding venue and without a refund of the money they paid for it. (Calling all lawyers; if you’re going to speak for your client, you need to improve your communication skills especially your ability to deal with the media.  Wiley did say his clients are “good people” but he missed the chance to align with their marketing messages, even if they were now bankrupt, with something like, “They treasured the chance to help couples start their marriage in a beautiful place.” They may be bankrupt today, but there’s always tomorrow.)

The Dallas Morning News, “Dallas wedding venue’s closing leaves couples in the lurch,” Aug. 31, 2010

“I don’t believe China acted like a bully,” said Tong Zeng, chairman of the China Federation for Defending the Diaoyu Islands, about an incident where Japan took custody of a  Chinese fishing vessel captain that rammed a Japanese coast guard boat. The Chinese reacted with threats, imprisoning Japanese citizens in China and organizing allegedly spontaneous street protests against Japan. (As expert observers noted, China’s reaction was meant to send a message to the world, and especially its Asian neighbors that China expected to get its way and would not work out disputes diplomatically. The ‘tea leaves’ for the future are clear for anyone who wants to read them.)

USAToday, “China’s aggressive posture stuns Japan,” Sept. 28, 2010

“Under no circumstance will there be any compromise whatsoever in our editorial integrity,” said USA Today spokesman Ed Cassidy about a decision to trim about nine percent of their workforce. What raised eyebrows was the announcement that the executive editor for content would work closely with Rudd Davis, founder of the sports website BNQT.com and they would “work with the news side on creating content geared toward meeting advertisers’ needs.” (We’re great admirers of USAToday, and this is another sign of the times: fewer reporters and blurring lines between editorial and paid sections, including advertising. Consider it an opportunity and a stimulus to focus on new channels of communication and – as we’re always urging – employee engagement. Employees are an organization’s best communication network.)

The Wall Street Journal, “Gannett Revamps USAToday for Web, Pares Work Force,” Aug. 28, 2010

POWER OF WORDS

The word “witch” got a lot of play in September. Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell turned up in a 1999 spot on Bill Maher laughingly admitting she had experimented with “witchcraft” in high school. The spot played over and over again, with President Clinton calling her “the witchcraft lady” and Karl Rove criticizing her viability.  O’Donnell, backed by the Tea Party movement, tried to laugh off the word, saying, “How many of you didn’t hang out with questionable folks in high school? There’s been no witchcraft since. If there was, Karl Rove would be a supporter now.” (Besides reminding us that everything on video now lives forever, O’Donnell did a decent job of brushing off the controversy. Illustrating the need to use multiple channels, she repeated the line on Twitter.)

WhoRunsGov.com, “O’Donnell says if she were a witch, she’d turn Rove into a ‘Newt’” Sept. 20, 2010

“Drunk” and “hung over” were allegations made against Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen after giving a radio interview and sounding a bit the worse for wear after an evening at the annual Fianna Fáil gathering. (An illustration of how hard it is to rebut allegations, all the prime minister could muster was that he had “hoarseness in my throat.” Note that the bad words made it into the headline.)

MSNBC.com, “Irish Premier denies being drunk, hung over on air,” Sept. 14, 2010

“Death Ray” is what the hotel staff at the new (and expensive) Vdara Hotel and Spa in Las Vegas has named the glass skyscraper. The sun reflects and magnifies the sun’s rays onto an area of the pool and makes it hot enough to melt plastic cups or burn hair.  (Besides the obvious architectural problems, having the staff tell guests that there was a hotel “death ray” was guaranteed to make the wrong kind of news.)

Las Vegas Review-Journal, “‘Death Ray’ at Vegas Hotel pool heats up guests,” Sept. 28, 2010

Headlines read, “No U.S. Dimension” on news stories about terrorist plots uncovered in Europe. (It’s an illustrative story because despite the other, sensational components, like targeting the Eiffel Tower, the headline was that the U.S. was not included in the plotters’ plans.)

MSNBC.com, “‘No U.S. dimension’ to Europe Terror Plot,” Sept. 29, 2010

ERROR IN JUDGMENT

“First things first: We made a mistake in printing Friday’s sex position of the week, and I, the editorial board, and The Exponent are extremely sorry,” wrote Zoe Hayes, editor-in-chief of Purdue’s student paper. The Purdue student newspaper called it a “learning opportunity.” (No, we’re not going to share what the “position of the week” actually was. We’re just going to ask “What were they thinking?” What they really learned was how to “fess up” quickly when you mess up and get it behind you.)

The Purdue Exponent, “Editor-in-chief issues apology for graphic,” Sept. 20, 2010

THE WRONG THING TO SAY

“I have eavesdropped on what visitors have said,” confirmed England’s heir to the throne, Prince Charles, admitting that he listened in on what visitors were saying when they visited his palatial estate. (The prince also felt compelled to share with the BBC that he “Happily talks to plants and trees and listens to them,” and that he was aware that people call him slightly unhinged, “potty this, potty that, loony this, loony that.” This is an overabundance of candor.)

ABC News, “Prince Charles Eavesdrops on Tourists, Speaks to Plants,” Sept. 10, 2010

“Our revolution is peaceful, but it’s also armed,” said Freddy Bernal, a senior aide to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, discouraging those opposing the president from voting in September’s election. (Despite the thuggish behavior, the opposition gained seats. We should be grateful to Mr. Bernal for his honesty.)

The Wall Street Journal, “Venezuelans Cast Parliamentary Votes,” Sept. 27, 2010

“All Jews share a particular gene,” said a board member of Germany’s central bank, adding, that “makes them different from other people.” When he was criticized for his comments, he added, “I am not a racist.”  (Illustrating the tendencies to say the wrong thing and repeat the negative occurs in every country and in every language.)

The New York Times, “Comments by German on Minorities are Criticized,” Aug. 30, 2010

“[She] wasn’t Ted’s kind of babe. She was a long way from being a bimbo,” wrote Sen. Edward Kennedy’s biographer, Burton Hersh, about Mary Jo Kopechne, who died in an internationally controversial car accident in 1969. He was trying to   extinguish rumors that Kennedy was having an affair or purposely left Mary Jo to die in the back of the car that ran off a bridge.(While Hersh makes a persuasive case, we’re not sure he really did the late Senator any favors; he confirms Kennedy had multiple affairs and drank heavily, calling them “supportive activities.”)

U.S. News & World Report, “Rewriting History on Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick Accident,” Aug. 30, 2010

Drake University’s new marketing campaign tried to grab high schoolers’ attention by using a “D+.” While creative, the inescapable association with failing grades created a negative backlash. (This was an interesting example because the criticism was fanned by blogs and alumni complaining along social networks.)

The Associated Press, “Edgy marketing gets failing grade, say some alumni,” Sept. 19, 2010

The “perversion files,” is what the Boy Scouts of America call the secret files that contain decades of information on scoutmasters and staff accused of pedophilia, rape, child pornography, public lewdness and other sex related crimes. (This is a tough topic. Even critics of the Boy Scouts say the organization does “fine work,” but the existence of the files is an incredible attention magnet. Here’s the rub: once they decided to compile the files, they were stuck with them. While it’s admittedly complicated, our recommendation is to stick to the principle that the Boy Scouts are committed to training young men and need to protect them. The scouts also need to generate as many positive stories and images as possible to compete with this powerful negative topic.)

The Dallas Morning News, “Boy Scouts shield abuser files used to vet volunteers: the Boy Scouts of America call them the ‘perversion files,’” Sept. 12, 2010

PREDICTIONS

The BP Gulf oil spill is “likely to reach Florida’s Atlantic coast within weeks. It can then move north as far as about Cape Hatteras, N.C. with the Gulf Stream,” said the National Center for Atmospheric Research on June 2. Is this a prediction? The public thought so, but since it didn’t happen, NCAR backpedaled, saying, “We never claimed to be making a forecast.”  (Oh, but they did. Plus, they added statistics, saying that there was a “61 to 80 percent chance” that there would be oil on East Coast beaches, making the prediction even more specific.)

USAToday, “Why didn’t BP oil hit East Coast?” Sept. 29, 2010

TWITTER  

Now we have to contend with spam Twitter, so discovered David Kopel. Someone sent out a Tweet claiming that Kopel had called rapper Jay-Z “the most over-rated hip- hop artist,” when he actually had done no such thing. His response? “Until I saw the aforesaid Tweet, I never had an opinion on Jay-Z,” but the controversy caused him to get the artist’s latest album. His review? “I don’t particularly like hip-hop, but even I could tell Jay-Z is pretty talented.” (The lesson here? Add Twitter spam to your crisis and customer service scenario planning. What would you do if…? Don’t wait until you have to deal with a real situation.)

Davekopel.org, “I did NOT disrespect Jay-Z,” Sept. 18, 2010

Paris Hilton, caught with cocaine in her handbag, claimed it was someone else’s Chanel bag and she didn’t know the drugs were in it. Now, a Twitpic has surfaced of an identical bag Hilton bought. Oops!

E! Online, “Paris’ not-my-bag claim undone by her Twitpic?” Sept. 2, 2010

STRUCTURE

“The key to success at the C level is to provide the headline and call to action. If they want details, they will let you know. If you barrage them with details, they will never have time to focus on the strategic,” writes travel consulting expert, Andrew Menkes. (This is excellent advice with a compelling example of how inundating executives with statistics is causing them to ignore their internal travel consultants. “There are a number of industry metrics that we seem to think are important, and I can assure you that they are of no value to a CEO of CFO.” A worthwhile case study.)

Business Travel News, “How to be prepared to communicate about travel in the executive suite- Or on the Elevator,” Sept. 6, 2010

GOOD LINE

When the mascot for Ohio University attacked Ohio State’s mascot, the Ohio University coach punished his mascot and had the best line, “Obviously, we need to tackle the guy with the ball, not the mascot.”

The Post, “Rufus mascot incites brawl,” Sept. 20, 2010

HUMOR

Shaquille O’Neal may be a sensation on the basketball court but he’s out to prove he’s not limited to brawn. He’s working on a Ph.D. with his dissertation on the subject of “How Leaders Utilize Humor or Aggression in Leadership Styles.”  (We are so excited! Our seminar, “Humor as a Leadership Tool,” covers how to use humor to set up a speech, diffuse a difficult situation, convey you’re accessible, choreograph a presentation, create corporate culture, and in situations where competence is expected, but not enough.)

The New York Times, “Hoop Dreams,” Aug. 11, 2010


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