Bimbo Banter


BIMBO Nominees for October 2011


  • Bimbo
  • October 1, 2011
  • by Spaeth Communications

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We’re doing something different this month; after our “Winning BIMBO,” we have two good examples! Yes, President Obama is on the BIMBO list again, but you’ll have to click through to the full BIMBO to see why. There, you’ll also find Tareq Salahi, Lindsay Lohan’s younger sister’s publicist and Google’s chairman. In the “Wrong Thing to Say” category we have former Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz, J.C. Penney, a former staff member for Texas Gov. Perry, former UBS CEO Oswald Gruebel, soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Netflix. “Line of the Month” is about S&P’s rating issues. Mayor Bloomberg provides a good example of self-deprecating humor (which is a great leadership tool), and we think we must be the only ones who are not interested to learn that a government study revealed the Justice Department spent $16 on muffins (a piece).

THE WINNING BIMBO

“We’re no longer dropping like a rock,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman (D-FL) about the nation’s economy. (Given that unemployment is stuck at nine percent and is much higher among minorities, and growth is at or below one percent, perhaps she means we are only dropping like a pebble?)

CNS News, “Debbie Wasserman Schultz: ‘We’re No Longer Dropping Like a Rock,’” Sept. 26, 2011

GOOD EXAMPLES

“These guys were actually paying me a tribute. It was a bit of fun, and I think it’s great they regarded me as their favourite Wallaby. I don’t have an issue with it at all. I was glad to be in a photo with them. So I don’t know why anyone’s getting worked up,” said Australian rugby player Radike Samo. (Thank you, Radike! You are exactly right. The controversy was caused by a contest sponsored by Quantas, an Australian airline, that was offering tickets to two fans who showed the best support for the Australian team. The winners dressed up like their favorite player, Samo, wearing wild afro wigs, painting their skin black and wearing green and gold uniforms. They looked very much like the actual player who posed with them for photos. When a firestorm arose on Twitter from people claiming they were offended, presumably because of the painted black skin, Qantas apologized and removed the picture. Samo, however, got it exactly right. He shed some much needed perspective on the issue.)

Daily Mail, “Qantas forced to issue apology after ‘blackface’ stunt on Twitter is branded ‘appalling’ racism,” Aug. 30, 2011

How often does a member of Congress call himself “chicken s--t?” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) used the term to describe himself after he changed his vote from “yes” to support the House Republican sponsored legislation to fund disaster relief and keep the government open to “no.”  He changed his vote after noticing other conservatives had already voted “no” and that there were sufficient votes to cause the bill to fail. (And kudos to Mrs. Rohrabacher who told her husband to fess up and explain why. Could this possibly be ushering in a new era of expletive-laced honesty on Capitol Hill?)

The Hill, “Rohrabacher’s mea culpa for changing Wednesday vote: ‘I’m chicken s--t.’”  Sept. 23, 20111

THE BIMBO RUNNERS-UP

“It’s not a publicity stunt…I didn’t know Michaele had a double life,” said Tareq Salahi, who in 2009 crashed the White House state dinner with his then-wife Michaele Salahi. This comment comes after being recently dumped by Michaele for a guitarist. (This was painfully predictable. We sort of feel sorry for Tareq, who added, “Our family and our home is destroyed…Just because she wanted more money, more fame…she’s acting like a 16 year old.”  Well, at least he’s right about that. Shall we make a prediction? We give the Micheale-guitarist pairing 12 months. Notice the BIMBO made it into the headline.)

USA Today, “Tareq Salahi: ‘This is not a publicity stunt,’” Sept 23. 2011

“This is not class warfare,” said President Obama during his remarks promoting his jobs bill. (We want to point out that we have an equal number of Republican or conservative BIMBOs in this month’s issue, and the President did say it. And, as a small business, we’re appalled by the phony “millionaires and billionaires” line. Warren Buffett is free to label all his income as ordinary income rather than capital gains and pay taxes accordingly. We can assure you that no small company is going to hire an employee costing approximately $40,000 a year for a one-time $4,000 tax credit. Doesn’t Harvard teach Economics 101?)

WhiteHouse.gov, “Remarks by the President on Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction,” Sept. 19, 2011

“Aliana has never had any type of plastic surgery in her life,” said Steve Honig, publicist for Lindsay Lohan’s younger sister, Aliana, after pictures surfaced showing significant changes in her facial features, particularly her nose. (Their story is that Aliana is just “growing into her face.” We didn’t know you could do that. We thought you outgrew your baby fat, if you’re lucky, and grew into your legs and feet.)

CNN, “Age, not a knife, changed Ali Lohan’s face, her publicist says,” Sept. 23, 2011

Google “does nothing to block access to any of the competitors and other sources of information in Web searches,” said the company’s Chairman Eric Schmidt before a Senate antitrust hearing in Washington. (Perhaps it’s the verb we should examine? What about “impede,” “twist” or “re-route?”)

USA Today, “Google defends business practices before Senate,” Sept. 22, 2011

WRONG THING TO SAY

This must be the month for public swear words. Carol Bartz, the recently fired Yahoo CEO, told Fortune she had been “f---ed over,” and called the Yahoo board members “doofuses.” (Bartz also fired off an email to Yahoo’s 14,000 employees telling them she had been fired over a telephone call. We later learned that company Chairman Roy Bostock was trying to catch up with her in person, but was delayed by bad weather. Still, it’s a pretty shoddy thing to do. Bartz used the “f” word again with a reporter who mentioned her age, 63. She said she told Bostock, “I thought you were classier,” but she didn’t set a good example. Insulting board members in the press may feel good in the short term, but it doesn’t accomplish anything. In the email to employees, she should have omitted the fact that she had been fired over the phone, and instead told employees how much she appreciated their efforts. Our view is that swear words are never appropriate. It’s cheap and sets a bad example. It’s also worth noting that her words may have cost her $10 million due to a non-disparagement clause in her contract.  Notice the curse word made it into the Fortune headline. Of course it did. How often do you get to put a swear word into a headline?)

Fortune, “Carol Bartz exclusive: ‘Yahoo ‘f----ed me over,’” Sept. 8, 2011   

Allheadlinenews.com, “Bartz’s words on firing may have cost her $10 million,” Sept. 9, 2011

“I’m too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me,” read a t-shirt for sale at J.C. Penney that was marketed toward girls ages seven to nine. (Predictably, this raised a big stink and J.C. Penney pulled the shirt. What’s interesting about this example is that there must have been scores, if not hundreds, of J.C. Penney employees or vendors who could have told the company, “This is a bad idea that’s going to generate bad publicity and you’re going to have to kill the product.” Can someone please ask J.C. Penny employees: “if you see a product like this, are you empowered to tell someone?” Second, the protests spread via Twitter, and one person started a petition on the website, Change.org. All this happened in about 48 hours. Are your employees empowered to be internal lookouts? Are you prepared to handle the speed of today’s online communication?)

Los Angeles Times, “J.C. Penney pulls ‘I’m to pretty to do homework’ T-shirt for girls,” Sept. 1, 2011

“I was just joking. I was just saying I was not going to be intimidated,” said Jay Kimbrough, former staffer for Texas Gov. Rick Perry and now former chancellor of A&M University after being escorted out by security forces for pulling out a pocket knife. (This example also belongs in the “terminal stupidity” category. Mike McKinney, a former A&M chancellor and self-described friend of Kimbrough’s confirmed that he frequently flashed weapons. “‘You’d better be careful where you do that.’ And I said that more than a few times.” This is another case where we have nothing to recommend except sewing classes, to sew his pockets closed and his lips shut.)

Texas Tribune, “Will Perry’s Troubleshooter’s Troubles Cut Deep?” Sept. 22, 2011

When someone says they don’t plan to resign, you can bet they’re about to resign. On Sept. 9, UBS CEO Oswald Gruebel said he would not resign after the bank reported a $2 billion loss from unauthorized trading. He declined responsibility saying, “If someone acts with criminal intent, you can’t do anything. That will always exist in our job. If you ask me whether I feel guilty, then I say no.” On Sept. 24, Gruebel resigned. Chairman Kaspar Villiger wrote in a statement that “Oswald Gruebel feels that it is his duty to assume responsibility for the recent unauthorized trading incident.” (This reiterates that it’s not the crisis that gets you, it’s how you handle it. In the beginning, Gruebel should have accepted responsibility for heading the system that allowed the trades to happen and should have articulated a commitment to a solution. He certainly should not have shrugged off “criminal intent” as something that “will always exist.” It’s true, but it’s the wrong thing to say. Remember, the goal is always to have 100 percent compliance, safety, etc. You know you may never reach the goal, but it’s important to articulate it and to get a little closer each year.)

Bloomberg, “UBS Chief Gruebel dismisses Calls to Resign After Trading Loss,” Sept. 18, 2011

Bloomberg, “Gruebel Resigns from UBS After $2.3 Billion Trading Loss,” Sept. 24, 2011

“I’m good-looking, rich and a great footballer. They’re jealous of me,” said Real Madrid soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, explaining why he was jeered by his home crowd. (Ouch. Ronaldo didn’t get the memo about humility and being self-effacing. Cristiano, they may be jeering because you’re a self-centered egotist. Criticizing the ump as “an embarrassment” probably won’t win you any friends either. There’s sort of a codebook for athletes who want to stay in fans’ good graces. You say, “I don’t know. I want to perform well for the fans and I feel very blessed to have been given these opportunities.”  Then you add, “I disagree with Referee Moen. I’ll just keep trying to win football games and excite the fans.” Write that down. People don’t like people who boast. It catches up with you sooner or later.)

CNN, “Ronaldo: Fans boo me because ‘I’m good looking, rich and great,’” Sept. 15, 2011

THE POWER OF A BAD WORD

“Arsenic” was what Dr. Mehmet Oz said was in apple juice on a recent episode of “The Dr. Oz Show,” setting off national panic among mothers and a debate among health experts. (This example illustrates the power of a “bad word” as well as the confusion statistics can cause when not put into context. The word “arsenic” terrified mothers. Dr. Oz justified his “research” by saying the samples he tested contained more than 10 parts per billion, the level allowed in drinking water. The FDA, which does not regulate arsenic in juice – says it’s about 23 PPB – and a number of health experts slammed the doctor. Others joined the debate, saying apple juice was high in sugar and calories. The Environmental Working Group, ever quick to spot a chance for troublemaking, promoted their “Dirty Dozen” list. As a parent of three children who were devoted to juice boxes, the decision should be left up to the parents. Dr. Oz is obviously plugging for ratings rather than good health and wise parenting practices. Let’s dub Dr. Oz “toxic.” Note the word “arsenic” shows up in all the headlines.)

Dr. Oz, Sept. 13, 2011

Huffington Post, “Arsenic in Juice: How Concerned Should Parents Be?” Sep. 23, 2011

CORPORATE COMMUNICATION

Netflix generated a good deal of customer outrage when it raised monthly subscription prices from $10 to $16 and separated the familiar red envelope DVD rental business from the video streaming component. This forced customers wishing to take advantage of both to use two websites, to have two order forms, two credit card charges, two logins and two queues. There were thousands of complaints and a million subscribers cancelled memberships. Netflix stuck by its price hike and openly admitted that subscriber loss was factored into their financial forecasts. Or, as one commentator put it: “24 million customers paying $16 is better than 25 million at $10.” Other commentators noted that Netflix was trying to avoid Blockbuster’s mistakes and embrace the technology of the future, but most were baffled by how the once-beloved company handled the communication. (What should they have done? Let’s start with their initial explanation: “We have realized that there is still a very large, continuing demand for DVDs both from our existing members as well as nonmembers. Given the long life we think DVDs by mail will have, treating DVDs as a $2 add on to our unlimited streaming plan neither makes great financial sense nor satisfies people who just want DVDs.” They’re not exactly a poster child for using clear English. Why does this require dividing the services in two? The strategic thinking apparently is that the streaming portion is the growth opportunity, so that separating it from DVD rentals allows the company to market and fund the two services separately and yes, perhaps sell one off. CEO Reed Hastings sort of got to that explanation in his follow-up letter that contained a semi-apology. What’s missing from the original and follow-up communications is the recognition of the above complaints, namely, that people wanting to access both have two websites, two credit card charges, etc. What could he have added? “As we strive to bring you more selection in both DVDs and streaming video, some of you may be inconvenienced by having to log on to two websites and have two credit card charges. We wish there was a perfect intermediate stage, but we can only promise to keep seeking a greater and greater range of movies. Please accept our apologies. We’re determined to survive and prosper precisely so in the years to come, you have lots of choices.”)

The New York Times’ Pogue’s Posts, “Parsing Netflix ‘Apology,’” Sept. 22, 2011

LINE OF THE MONTH

“These are errors that could cause airplanes to crash if this was aerospace engineering,” said Sylvain Raynes, a consultant and former analyst at Moody’s, criticizing Standard & Poor’s admissions that it had made mistakes in understanding and rating financial products called “structured finance,” causing some of the high-risk bonds to be rated AAA or higher than the U.S. government. (The controversy over the methods used by the rating agencies began when highly rated securitized debt based on subprime mortgages became worthless. S&P did not inspire confidence this month when it admitted it was trying to reconcile “potentially conflicting methods” of calculations.  Plus, in this context, the word “mistakes” is a very bad word. We’re not sure about what S&P should be saying, but we are sure about what they should be doing – hiring the best and brightest to review and overhaul its rating system and hiring better and brighter communicators who can both internally advise management, explain the system and inspire confidence to external audiences.)

Bloomberg, “Subprime Mortgage Bonds Get AAA Rating S&P Denied to U.S.” Sept. 1, 2011

GOOD EXAMPLE: SELF-DEPRECATING HUMOR 

“ElBloombito” is a Twitter account that pokes fun at New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Spanish-speaking abilities. When asked about it during a Hurricane Irene press conference, instead of blowing up, the mayor responded – in Spanish – and explained, “I’m 69 years old, and it’s difficult to learn a new language.” (Way to go, Mr. Mayor! Self-deprecating humor is a must for leadership. Plus, answering in Spanish and working to learn a new language makes you a great role model.)

Huffington Post, “Mayor Bloomberg Reacts to ‘ElBloombito’ Twitter Account,” Aug. 30, 2011

STATISTICS

The latest study showing how the government wastes money was recently published. The inspector general of the Department of Justice released a finding that the DOJ spent $16 per muffin and over $8 per cup of coffee at conferences. (Pardon us, but this is just a cheap shot and a distraction. This is clearly a case of playing with numbers. If government really wanted to tackle to the issue of waste in federal spending, they’d elevate Mike George to Cabinet Czar. George, the pioneer of the business-improvement process known as Lean Six Sigma, sold his company to Accenture in 2007.  George has helped the Army and Navy, after helping an impressive list of America’s leading private sector companies, understand and embrace real waste reduction. Most people are amazed to learn there are already over 5,000 completed Lean Six Sigma projects in the Department of Defense, and that the minimum cost savings is around 25 percent. Extrapolated across the government, as George wants to do, the numbers get very big, very fast. In fact, the”Super Committee” on the Hill should be looking at George’s recommendations as a first step to balancing the budget. Read more about it at StrongAmericaNow.org, and for full disclosure yes, they are a client.)

The Washington Post, “A $16 muffin? Justice Dept. audit finds ‘wasteful’ and extravagant spending,” Sept. 20, 2011

 

  

   
 


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