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Bimbo Nominees for April 2014
Read the latest gaffes in communication.
THE WINNING BIMBO
“The Chinese People’s Liberation Army are not Boy Scouts with spears,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang defending China’s military build-up. (China obviously doesn’t know much about the Boy Scouts. Spears? He continued that, as a Boy Scout grows “his former dress and shoes will not fit.” Perhaps a translation error? Note the BIMBO made it into the headline.)
“President Putin will recognize that none of what we’re saying is meant as a threat, it’s not meant in a personal way,” said Secretary of State John Kerry. (What can he possibly mean? Of course it was a threat and of course Putin took it personally, just as he did when the citizens around Kiev rebelled against their thug president. Kerry continued, “We’re not trying to make this a battle between East and West. We don’t want to return to the Cold War.” More BIMBO comments came from President Obama who repeated, “This is not another cold war we’re entering.” The president insisted that Russia would not be allowed to “run roughshod” over its neighbors. The problem is that this is another famous “red line” which our allies wonder about. Again, note that the “threat” and “cold war” comments made it into the headlines.
“I’m not saying vomit’s going to change the world,” said Lady Gaga at a speech during South by Southwest about her “artpop” performance with a “British vomit-artist that vomits up colored milk.”(This is real. The performer actually appeared on stage with someone who vomited on her and claimed it was art. Verging on the incomprehensible, she compared herself to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Andy Warhol. This is the famous question – what is art and who decides? Our view: it may be a performance, but it’s certainly not art. And note the comment made it into the headline.)
“I don't have a racist bone in my body,” said Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., about an allegation made by Congressional Black Caucus leader Barbara Lee. (Ryan referred to an “inner city culture” of entitlement that leads to poverty. Lee declared he was referring to African Americans and was racist. Ryan had a private conversation with Lee and explained to Bill O’Reilly that they were friends. Really? Friends call each other racist? This is more about the willingness – of both the left and right – to try to demonize their opponents. Ryan needs to watch every word he says, but he also needs to figure out who his real friends are.)
“Cadiz is a regulated, audited, publicly traded company and there is information that unequivocally demonstrates that Cadiz is not a Ponzi scheme,” wrote Cadiz Vice President Courtney Degener. (The classic BIMBO comment came from a debate about whether the California company that proposes to pump water from an aquifer for “conservation,” is truly working to solve California’s drought problem. The former mayor of Huntington Beach, Calif., told Businessweek that she thought Cadiz was a “Ponzi scheme” and Businessweek called Cadiz who fell into the trap of repeating the negative word. Learn from it.)
“PRBA has not been informed by any federal or international transportation agency about any investigation of lithium batteries onboard the missing aircraft,” said the Rechargeable Battery Association following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370. (The association’s statement continued, “A rush to judgment before any facts are presented that explain the disappearance of flight 370 is both irresponsible and unwarranted.” We feel for the RBA and they do make a good case in their boilerplate paragraph which states, “We deliver a safe, efficient and essential power source for portable electronic equipment.” Still, the statement reinforced speculation that lithium batteries caused some sort of catastrophic incident that destroyed the plane.)
“Are we trying to turn back the clock and get everyone off the Internet?” was the question posed in a statement distributed by Consumers for Paper Options, a group sponsored by the envelope and paper companies trying to get the government to back off its plans to send out notices electronically. (The government is years, if not decades, behind the private sector, which has switched from paper to electronic distribution. The government has finally seen the light only to have the special interest groups lobby – successfully, we point out – to protect their rear ends.)
“I am not attacking Hillary Clinton,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., discussing a potential presidential run. (It certainly looks like an “attack” to us. He had nothing nice to say about the former senator and secretary of state who also managed to make news on her own by comparing Russian President Putin’s actions in Ukraine to Hitler’s. We’re actually with Mrs. Clinton. She’s correct that Putin’s language about “protecting Russian speakers” is just what Hitler was saying in the ‘30s when he talked about protecting “German minorities” in European countries, but the furor over her remark illustrates the risk of using Hitler’s name in any way. Note, she didn’t actually say the quote in the headline verbatim. The headline writer condensed her thoughts to create the quote.)
“We’re not sociopaths,” said data whiz and writer Nate Silver in a long article about launching his own site FiveThirtyEight, now owned and operated by ESPN. (This is an interesting profile because it shows that you can get into trouble in what should have been a thoughtful and positive interview.)
“I’m not gonna be your sexy girl,” said Full House star Candace Cameron-Bure about appearing on "Dancing With The Stars," explaining she won’t be wearing the traditional sequined, sexy costumes. (Cameron is one of the rare, self-professed Christians in Hollywood, and it will be interesting to see if she can cover up.)
“We were bossy little girls,” said Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Anna Maria Chavez while launching their “ban bossy” initiative. (While we agree with Sandberg and Chavez that girls who are assertive are more likely to be termed “bossy” we doubt that a “ban bossy”effort is going to change people’s perception of the word.)
The feud between PIMCO CEO Bill Gross and former co-CEO Mohamed El-Erian that became public in the Wall Street Journal and Reuters got stranger this month. The Journal described Gross as an “arrogant control freak” to which Gross took exception. He called Reuters and charged that El-Erian wrote the Journal article. When the Reuters’ writer thought that was unlikely, Gross responded by saying, “Great, he’s got you, too, wrapped around his charming right finger.” Gross addedthat he knew El-Erian talked to the Journal because Gross had “monitored” El-Erian’s phone calls. Reuters printed a story about the call. PIMCO denied Gross said any of what Reuters quoted. Reuters issued a statement that read, “We stand by the fairness and accuracy of our story.” Business Insider reported on the well-documented squabble noting that it sounded as if Gross was “so undisciplined and emotional as to border on unhinged.”(If you’re a CEO, this is what you pay your top communication person for – to stand between you and your desire to tear a reporter from limb to limb. “STEP AWAY FROM THE PHONE and let us handle it.”)
Kelly Blazek, 2013 IABC Communicator of the Year, manages the Cleveland-based 7,300-subscriber JobBank newsletter. Several people wrote to her on LinkedIn, looking for help finding a job only to receive snarky, insulting replies, which were then posted for all to see. Her apologies seem as if she’s sorrier she got caught than about her behavior, including: “Hundreds of people contact me every month looking for help, and as the bottom fell out of the job market, their outreach and requests demanded more of my time.”
Patrick Snay was the headmaster at the highly-regarded Gulliver Prep School in Miami. When the school didn’t renew his contract, he sued, charging age discrimination. They settled for $80,000 and a confidentiality clause. His daughter couldn’t resist bragging about it on her Facebook page, which included lots of friends from, where else but the Gulliver School. Her post, “Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.” Gulliver took Snay back to court and had the $80,000 judgment vacated. (Moral of the story? How many times do we have to say it? There are no private conversations.)
A Minnesota state Republican legislator tweeted, “Let’s be honest, 70% of teams in NBA could fold tomorrow + nobody would notice a difference w/possible exception of increase of streetcrime,” and generated a predictable outrage. (Unlike the Ryan comment, this was over-the-edge and the state representative should have known better.)
“I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever,” tweeted @ColbertReport. The tweet immediately raised the ire of Asians and was deleted, and the show issued a second tweet, “For the record @ColbertReport is not controlled by Stephen Colbert or his show. He is @StephenAtHome Sorry for the confusion.” However, not before it sparked the hashtag #CancelColbert. To make things even more complicated, it turns out that Colbert actually was the author of those words. He was satirizing the Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder who recently said he would keep the Redskins name but would try to do more to improve the condition of Native Americans. Salon.com defended Colbert, noting that his purpose was noble (to them anyway), but it’s an example of how distilling a quote can create a 180-degree different meaning.
Malaysia Airlines took heat for sending a text message to the families who had loved ones on Flight 370 letting them know that they were declaring the plane lost with no survivors. Given the instant nature of communication, the minute they started to call families, the word would be out and the criticism would be that they didn’t inform people in a timely fashion. On reviewing the text, we’re OK with the language. The problem is the bungling of the investigation destroyed trust between the families and the airline. This caused the automatic reaction that the text notification was wrong.
And another new media channel has evolved with GoPro, the clip on camera loved by extreme sports enthusiasts. GoPro has become a media aggregator and distributor. The business model is genius. People supply material to GoPro for free and the company edits and distributes it. Check out the Businessweek article with the subhead, “I am an important link in the global supply chain, DUDE!” for a great explanation. Savvy companies and enterprises should think about how to partner with GoPro to engage key audiences.