Bimbo Banter


BIMBO Nominees for April 2018


  • Bimbo
  • April 3, 2018
  • by Spaeth Communications

Bimbo blog image a

This month there are more good and bad examples in all sorts of categories – misuse of statistics, employees as ambassadors and more! 

THE WINNING BIMBO

“The special counsel is not an unguided missile,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein fending off demands to fire Robert Mueller. (As is usually the case, the rest of Rosenstein’s comments were excellent: “I believe much of the criticism will fall by the wayside… I’m very confident that when the history of this era is written, it will reflect that the department was operated with integrity.” A plea for help from all of our friends in the legal profession and from former DOJ staff: please tell the Deputy Attorney General he needs our assistance. Finally, note that the quote made the headline – and the front page.)

USA Today, “Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general, says Robert Mueller is 'not an unguided missile,'” March 12, 2018

THE RUNNERS-UP

“I did not knowingly mislead or lie to investigators,” protested former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe in a lengthy opinion in The Washington Post after he was fired. (As a former special assistant to FBI Director William Webster, it grieves me to see the bureau politicized. McCabe’s cri de cœur is worth reading as an example of much too much protesting. Unbelievably, he quibbled that some of his answers “were not fully accurate” and that he may have been “confused and distracted.” FBI senior officials are supposed to have more self-control than that. He should have stuck to reciting his loyalty to the bureau, cited his work on earlier investigations and allowed time for the investigation to take its course.)

The Washington Post, “Andrew McCabe: Not in my worst nightmares did I dream my FBI career would end this way,” March 23, 2018

“There’s nothing nefarious about the Chamber talking to a company,” insisted Austin City Council member Jimmy Flannigan defending the city’s decision to outsource recruiting discussions with Amazon regarding the company’s second headquarters. He added, “There’s no lacking transparency with the Chamber having a conversation with Amazon.” (Flannigan was trying to fend off criticism, but he should have taken a cue from his colleague, Ann Kitchen who explained, “There’s a role for the Chamber to play. Part of what they do is help the city in the role of economic development.” Our bet is that Flannigan was either asked if the Chamber’s role was “nefarious,” or he had the all-too-common tendency to start talking and keep talking.)

Austin-American Statesman, “Council member: City, chamber mishandling Amazon pursuit,” March 1, 2018

THE POWER OF BAD WORDS

“We have witnessed abuse, harassment, troll armies, manipulation through bots and human-coordination, misinformation campaigns, and increasingly divisive echo chambers,” wrote Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey in response to criticism. (Ouch! While it’s great that he realizes the need to be proactive, the slew of bad words crowd out what he should have been talking about: solutions, determination and commitment. He also added, “…we’ve been accused of apathy, censorship, political bias…” However, he concluded with, “This is not who we are, or who we ever want to be,” which should have been his message.)

The Wall Street Journal, “Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Gives Blunt Assessment of the Company’s Failures,” March 1, 2018

WRONG THING TO SAY

United Airlines sent out a company-wide memo announcing its decision to replace quarterly employee bonuses linked to performance-related metrics, like on-time operations, with a raffle that would have much fewer winners. United announced this by calling it an “exciting” new rewards program. Predictably, the memo generated a storm of criticism and protest. After widespread disapproval for the program was expressed (United’s internal communication forum, Flying Together, received over 2,100 comments related to the rewards program announcement), United decided it was “rethinking the lottery program” three days after releasing the initial announcement. (This was a totally predictable path. Our question is: where were the communication people and were they empowered to advise President Scott Kirby? Kirby told employees that he believed the program "will build excitement and a sense of accomplishment with more bang for the buck.” He had to know this was ridiculous.)

The New York Times, “United Airlines Pauses Lottery for Bonuses After Employees Rebel Online,” March 5, 2018

Former Sen. Rick Santorum swallowed his entire foot when he criticized young people in the March for Our Lives rally by saying they should take “CPR classes” instead of “looking to someone else to solve their problem.” Then, he compounded his egregious comment by claiming it was a joke, and that he misspoke when he talked about CPR. (Predictably, this ignited a storm of protest. Santorum should have immediately apologized and said that he spoke without thinking.)

CNN, “Santorum: Instead of calling for gun laws, kids should take CPR classes,” March 26, 2018

Similarly, NRATV host Colion Noir actually baited the Parkland student survivors saying: “No one would know your names” if the shooting hadn’t taken place. (Noir also picked an unnecessary fight. He praised the Sheriff’s Deputy who stepped in at a school in Southern Maryland and prevented a disgruntled ex-boyfriend from shooting additional people after he fired at his former girlfriend. That’s fine, but he diluted the message about how law enforcement can play a proper role.)

The Washington Post, “NRA host taunts Parkland teens: ‘No one would know your names’ if classmates were still alive,” March 24, 2018

What is it with radio and TV hosts? Tongues unleashed? Radio host Cody McClure decided to attack 98-year-old Sister Jean, the unofficial mascot and official chaplain for the Loyola-Chicago basketball team. In an interview with Chicago Tribune columnist David Haugh, McClure said he was just joking and affirmed, “I'm not some kind of monster… So I'd be glad to issue an apology to Sister Jean and to anyone who felt that my joke was intended to be anti-Catholic or anti-elderly. It wasn't.” (Really? A snarky joke about a 98-year-old nun?)

MSN, “Radio host calls profane tweet about Sister Jean 'a joke,'” March 20, 2018

“I don’t think it is the worst hotel in the world, but that is because the world is very big,” said the president of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, about The Grand Hotel in Pristina, the country’s capital. (Talk about damning with faint praise…and the comment became the international headline. This is too bad because even The New York Times reporter who traveled to write about the enormous, 500-room relic from communism had a few good things to say.)

The New York Times, “Not the Worst Hotel in the World, Perhaps, but ‘the World Is Very Big,’” March 1, 2018

Having worked hard to restore Uber’s reputation as a responsible company, new-CEO Dara Khosrowshahi let forth a Trump-like tweet criticizing an MIT study about Uber driver compensation. He ridiculed them in a tweet saying, “MIT = Mathematically Incompetent Theories.” (As so frequently happens, the negative comment crowded out his real point that the data underlying the study’s conclusion was deeply flawed, which the reporter actually explored.)

Inc., “With a Single, Insulting Tweet, Uber’s CEO Just Destroyed Months of Hard Work,” March 5, 2018

BODY LANGUAGE IS A LANGUAGE

A reporter covering the scripted celebration of China’s political structure including the abolition of term limits for President Xi Jinping, watched in disbelief as a colleague rambled while asking an embarrassingly obsequious question. She finally rolled her eyes and was caught on tape. She became international news, despite the efforts of government censors to delete all the comments. Who says body language isn’t a language of its own? 

The New York Times, “A Reporter Rolled Her Eyes, and China’s Internet Broke,” March 13, 2018

The definitive answer to “does body language matter?” (and bad words) comes in the sentencing decision for former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli who “smirked through his trial, taunted prosecutors as ‘the junior varsity,’ called the case a ‘witch hunt’ and was suspended by Twitter after he threatened to have sex with a female journalist who covered him.” The judge said his behavior didn’t influence her decision, but she also said that his conduct made her doubt the sincerity of his remorse. Oops. His own lawyer commented that his behavior “probably added several years to his sentence.” The article is well worth reading and sharing with your own legal department. 

The New York Times, “Shkreli vs. Holmes: 2 Frauds, 2 Divergent Outcomes. Were They Fair?,” March 22, 2018

ADVANCED PRESENTATION SKILLS ELEMENTS

Now-former Trump adviser Gary Cohn illustrated one of our cherished advanced skills: audience interaction through participation. However, he unwittingly illustrated the importance of doing it strategically. He asked a group of CEOs to raise their hands if they intended to increase investment after the administration’s tax reform. Alas, few did, which created news and undercut the administration’s claim about the impact of reform. (What can be learned from this? First, as we’ve always taught, interaction is a great tool to drive memory and highlight a specific point out from the overall presentation – which it did here. But, as lawyers advise, don’t ask questions when you don’t know the answer. Or, as performers would add, make sure you’re prepared with a reaction for whatever the response is. Even if Cohn had anticipated the weak response from sampling what business publications were reporting, he could have followed it up with, “Who thinks the historic tax reform package will help the economy?” That would have received a large supportive response, after which he could have cracked, “Well, I guess we don’t have to ask the president to take back tax reform.”)

The Wall Street Journal, “Don’t Blink or You’ll Miss the Trade War,” March 9, 2018

We always tell our clients to take the time to setup their presentations in a way that both illustrates their message and grabs the audience’s attention. Patrick Byrne, the founder of Overstock.com, sure took this to heart at his speech to the North American Bitcoin Conference. Wearing a red “Make Bitcoin Great Again” hat and a T-shirt that said “Dirty Hippie,” he started by saying that the way to kill Wall Street – presumably hostile to Bitcoin – was to drag it behind a barn and kill it. The screen behind him showed an animated cartoon bull disappearing behind a barn and an explosion of blood. (We’re not endorsing animated disembowelment, but we would like to point out that it got people’s attention – including the media’s – and became the lead in news reports.)

Bloomberg Businessweek, “Overstock.com’s CEO Thinks Crypto Can Replace Wall Street,” March 7, 2018

STATISTICS

Best example ever of how statistics in the media get mangled: international headlines screamed that United Nations aid workers providing humanitarian assistance in countries like Haiti had raped 60,000 people. The New York Times reporter Amanda Taub decided – amazingly – to check it out. Turns out, it’s a “made-up number.” The entire investigative article is worth reading. In brief, the expert took a report finding 311 victims of sexual exploitation by United Nations’ peacekeeping forces in 2016. He decided that sexual abuse on the civilian side of the organization was probably worse and therefore estimated the number at 600. Then, he decided 600 probably represented only 10 percent of actual assaults, so he assumed 6,000 victims was the annual number, which finally he multiplied by ten to arrive at an estimate for the decade: 60,000. Taub commented on the damage made-up statistics cause and she quoted an expert who said this tactic “discredits the very brave women and children who struggle to come forward.”

The New York Times, “Lies, Damned Lies, and One Very Misleading Statistic,” Feb. 28, 2018

DID YOU REALLY HEAR THAT?

Excellent example of how someone can actually hear something that wasn’t said. At the New York Open, player Donald Young accused opponent Ryan Harrison of using a racial slur. The only problem? A third person, one of the ball boys, was standing right there when the two players screamed at each other and testified that Harrison never said it. Is this possible? Yes. When I was in in the White House, we did the first briefing ever for editors of women’s magazines. I was terrified that my first briefer, the director of policy, was going to start by saying that the president didn’t support the Equal Rights Amendment, the top priority for that group of writers. After the event, I criticized the speaker for starting with the Equal Rights Amendment. He looked at me puzzled and said, “I never mentioned it.” I checked with attendees, watched the video tape, and he was right. He hadn’t mentioned it. I was positive I had heard it, but it was in my head. This is a cautionary tale to be careful that we don’t set up and then fulfill our expectations, particularly the dark ones.

The New York Times, “A Flash of Anger, a Charge of Racism and a Witness Who Says It Didn’t Happen,” Feb. 16, 2018

PASS THIS ON

Check out this write-up about an employer’s ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) committee’s decision to deny an in-house lawyer her accommodation request after she experienced three miscarriages and needed to work from home during a fourth, high-risk pregnancy. We’ll let you read the specific facts in the newsletter. The relevant point for us is the lawyer’s concluding comment, “Think Twice About Trying A Case Against Such A Sympathetic Plaintiff.”

FisherBroyles, “How Not to Handle an ADA Accommodation Request,” March 15, 2018

You know that your employees are your best ambassadors, but a number of companies are just discovering this and only recently have they started encouraging their employees to get out and talk about their company and product. An example includes Bacardi, which makes rum and owns other brands like Grey Goose vodka, Dewar’s Scotch and Bombay Sapphire gin. Check out this write-up and share it with your own C-suite and HR folks. Kudos to Bacardi’s global communications officer, K.C. Kavanagh, who clearly is a real leader in his company.

The New York Times, “Have a Drink on Us. And Tell Your Friends.,” March 4, 2018

WORDS MATTER

A writer for a magazine featuring news about diabetes (who herself has diabetes) began by writing, “I’m a person first,… not a diabetic.” She noted that a study published in the May 2017 issue of Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice found that words can help people do a better job caring for themselves. She then came up with seven key words and phrases that people should “skip” as well as seven corresponding “simple swaps.” For example, instead of saying “compliance or adherence,” say “engagement.” Instead of saying “suffering from diabetes,” describe the person as “living with diabetes.” We’re always delighted when people realize that words matter, and the writer emphasizes, “Empowering, strengths-based language... can have a positive impact on the way people with diabetes manage their disease on a daily basis.” Yes!

Diabetes Forecast, “Retire Negative Language Associated With Diabetes,” March 2018

A reminder to take a quick look before hitting send on an email would have spared the State Bar of Utah from attaching a picture of a topless woman to its notice advertising for its annual spring convention. Because people don't read, we would suggest adding a video message from the president of the bar association instead. Let this also be a reminder that dumb errors are common and it is therefore necessary to have a crisis communication plan in place!

Fortune, “Utah Accidentally Sends Picture of Topless Woman to Every Lawyer in the State,” March 6, 2018

 

The BIMBO Memo is a reminder not to repeat and deny a negative word because of how the listener hears words. When you repeat and deny a negative word, the listener is likely to overlook the denial and hear the opposite of what the speaker is trying to say. It’s named for the young woman who was caught with a high profile, but alas married man. She held a press conference and announced, “I am not a BIMBO,” thus causing everyone to think she was.



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