Bimbo Banter


BIMBO Nominees for April 2021


  • Bimbo
  • March 31, 2021
  • by Spaeth Communications

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This month’s winning BIMBO comment was a close race between the British royal family and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but the royals won. Among others, you’ll read additional BIMBO comments from White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, Rep. Ted Lieu and a representative from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Also included are examples of the Wrong Thing to Say from filmmaker Michael Moore and the head of CNN’s parent company. Cinnamon Toast Crunch showed us the pitfalls of social media, and you’ll want to watch a fantastic TikTok explaining mRNA vaccines.

THE WINNING BIMBO

“We’re very much not a racist family,” said Prince William as his wife, Kate, walked by his side during a visit to a school in London. (William’s comment was made in response to questions shouted at him by reporters regarding Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s explosive tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey. The aftermath of the interview provided other communication-blunder gems. The British media, also criticized by Prince Harry and Meghan, fought back saying, “The U.K. media is not bigoted,” and accused the couple of an unfounded attack on the profession. While an undeniable PR coup, we question whether the couple really did themselves any favors. While wearing a $4,700 Armani dress, Meghan characterized to Oprah her mere 20 months as a royal as “almost un-survivable.” What if she had said, “I wish I could have changed people’s minds”? From many reports, she received a warm welcome from most in the UK.)

Associated Press, “Prince William defends UK monarchy against racism accusation,” March 11, 2021

THE RUNNERS-UP

“I never touched anyone inappropriately,” claimed New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in response to accusations of sexual harassment made against him by a growing number of women. He urged listeners to, “wait for the facts before you form an opinion.” Cuomo later added, “It’s very simple. I never harassed anyone. I never abused anyone. I never assaulted anyone, and I never would, right?” He then made the classic mistake of trying to explain: “Is it possible that I have taken a picture with a person who after the fact says they were uncomfortable with the pose in the picture? Yes, and that’s what you’re hearing about.” He also deployed the tactic of attacking the credibility of his accusers: But I can tell you as a former attorney general who has gone through this situation many times, there are often many motivations for making an allegation.” (This controversy, of course, unfolded alongside the revelation that his administration delayed releasing accurate data of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes. We’re not sure that either of these crises could be cured by communication. As Steven Covey, Sr. said, “You can’t talk yourself out of a problem that you behaved your way into.” The cure for this was less self-glorification during the COVID-19 crisis and the commitment to Judge William Webster’s admonition that I have quoted many times: to make sure that, as a leader, you hear things people think you don’t want to hear or that they don’t want you to hear. Cuomo emphasized, “I’m not going to resign.”Is anyone betting?)

BBC News, “Andrew Cuomo: 'I never touched anyone inappropriately,'” March 3, 2021

“Not a crisis,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki about the not-a-crisis on the southern border. (The debate about how to handle the influx of undocumented immigrants at the border was aggravated by the Biden Administration’s garbled messaging. For example, Ambassador Roberta Jacobson, National Security Council Coordinator for the U.S. Southern Border, speaking in Spanish, accidentally said the border was “not closed,” which she later corrected. This scenario demonstrates that personal empathy can have dramatic, unintended consequences in broad public policy.)

The Washington Times, “Team Biden is adamant: Crush of kids at the border is 'not a crisis,'” March 22, 2021

“I am not a virus,” said Rep. Ted Lieu, D-California, objecting to the use of phrases to describe the coronavirus like “Wuhan virus” and “China virus.” (Lieu claimed these phrases are harming Americans of Asian descent. This example proves what we always preach: words matter. Rather than repeating and denying a negative word, Lieu should have seized the opportunity to emphasize the pride he takes in his identity and to educate fellow citizens that Asia actually includes 48 countries with very different languages, cultures, foods and identities.)

The New York Times, “Asian-American Lawmakers Call Out Racist Language: ‘I Am Not a Virus,’” March 18, 2021

Lecia Brooks of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) insisted that the organization “is not anti-Christian at all” while testifying at the House Armed Services Committee hearing on “Extremism in the Armed Forces.” (Brooks did some verbal gymnastics explaining why the SPLC had a number of groups on its alleged “hate” list, including the American College of Pediatricians.)

PJ Media, “SPLC Chief of Staff: 'The Southern Poverty Law Center Is Not Anti-Christian at All,'” March 24, 2021

“Am I really an a**hole?” wrote former New York Times reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr. in a long blog on Medium explaining how and why he was fired from The New York Times. (This was one of the saddest stories we’ve read this year. It is a must read as an example of how the woke cancel culture can take down exceptional talents. We’ll let McNeil’s story speak for itself. For those of us counseling our clients or principals, it’s a cautionary tale about why unfettered conversation can be dangerous and why it’s important to have the Spaeth birdie sitting on your shoulder asking, “What will your audience remember and pass on?”)

Medium, “NYTimes Peru N-Word, Part One: Introduction,” March 1, 2021

“We’re not saying we’re going to stagnate your career intentionally,” said Christina Luconi, chief people officer at Rapid7, a cybersecurity firm based in Boston. (Luconi’s quote was featured in an article about companies getting employees back to the office and what happens to those who don’t want to return to work full time in-office. This is an example of a clear message made clearer when she continued, “But if you’re the odd person out when everybody else is back together, that may be challenging for you.” What she should have said is: “We think there are trade-offs in the choices people make, and we want top-notch people and many, if not most, of our professionals see the benefit of being able to interact in person together.”)

The New York Times, “Return-to-Office Plans Are Set in Motion, but Virus Uncertainty Remains,” March 3, 2021

“He’s not some monster. He wasn’t a predator,” claimed the friends and family of a man accused of drugging and raping a 24-year-old woman later found dead in a Miami Beach hotel room. (We feel for the family in these situations. They should have said, “This isn’t the boy/man we know.” Note that the “monster” phrase made the headline.)

New York Post, “Spring breaker accused of raping woman who later died isn’t ‘some monster,’ family says,” March 24, 2021

“We are making NO efforts to hide any information,” said Jane Crawford, a Universal Health Services (UHS) spokeswoman, in a major expose article about how hospitals are circumventing laws requiring them to disclose pricing. (UHS was by no means the only organization outed and criticized in the article, but it did have the worst quote as well as illustrated the PITFALLS OF CAPITALIZING words in a written response to a reporter. Crawford should have said, “We are continually updating and upgrading our communication with patients and key members of our UHS family. It’s true that prices can be challenging to decipher, and that’s why we have a dedicated staff available to review options or bills and answer questions.”)

The Wall Street Journal, “Hospitals Hide Pricing Data From Search Results,” March 22, 2021

WRONG THING TO SAY

Documentary filmmaker and activist Michael Moore said the Republican Party is “trying to kill as many Americans as possible,” attacking Republicans’ positions on lockdowns and government-run health insurance. (Now, that’s a great way to build bipartisanship! Someone should tell Moore that there’s a significant consensus of opinion that lockdowns have huge economic, social and personal costs and that, while the UK and Canadian systems may have admirers, just as many other people say, “No thank you.”)

LifeZette, “Michael Moore Claims Republicans Are ‘Trying To Kill As Many Americans As Possible,’” March 19, 2021

“It turns out the pandemic is a pretty big part of the news cycle and that’s not going away any time soon...It turns out it’s really good for ratings,” said Jason Kilar, CEO of WarnerMedia, parent company of news networks including CNN. (This is an interesting example. Kilar made the comment during his keynote speech at a virtual tech conference as part of much broader remarks. The comment was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. Kilar really needs an editor of his own, as he also described WarnerMedia’s launch of new, leaner and cheaper streaming platforms saying, “It turns out, most people on this planet are not wealthy.” After being called out for both comments, Kilar apologized, tweeting, “I wish I could go back and be more thoughtful about my communication.” There are an awful lot of people today who could express the same wish, and now, they have a major media executive who they can quote. His wish was granted. Will we allow others to receive the same treatment?)

Mediaite, “CEO of WarnerMedia, Parent Company of CNN, Apologizes After Saying Pandemic is ‘Really Good For Ratings,’” March 4, 2021

BAD EXAMPLES

One of the most frequent criticisms of members of the media is their unwillingness to correct themselves when they’re wrong or, if they do, for burying the correction. Here’s a prominent example. Remember the controversy over Former President Donald Trump calling the Georgia elections investigator and telling her to “find the fraud” and that she would be a “national hero” if she did? Well, there was an audio recording of that call, and it was just released. It turns out that Trump never said those things. They were made up. The Washington Post silently added to the top of its report a correction. What should the media do with corrections that are not run-of-the-mill misspellings? We think such corrections should be featured as prominently as the original stories.

The First, “BOMBSHELL: Wash. Post releases MASSIVE correction on Trump election story,” March 11, 2021

Cinnamon Toast Crunch became part of a viral Twitter thread after podcaster Jensen Karp, who is married to “Boy Meets World” actress Danielle Fishel, tweeted a photo of what he alleged were shrimp tails in his box of cereal. The Twitter war that ensued is worth reviewing as an example of several lessons. First, well-meaning communication can go wrong. Cinnamon Toast Crunch responded initially by offering to send a replacement box of cereal via a corporate-sounding tweet: “We’re sorry to see what you found! We would like to report this to our quality team and replace the box. Can you please send us a DM to collect more details? Thanks!” They should have replied with something like: “Wow! Our scientists tell us that it’s brown sugar conglomerating, but the picture does look weird. We’ll check it out ASAP and get back to you.” They should also have sent someone with a case of replacements and to immediately impound the bag in question. Second, it’s important to note how Twitter invited amplification of the incident. Karp further investigated his bag of cereal and tweeted out more pictures with captions evaluating his questionable findings:  squares containing “black marks” and “dyed red” and a “weird little string” that he suggested might be dental floss. Finally, this is an example where a competitive narrative about quality and safety should have already been in place. This is a good teaching example for anyone who wants to run an internal exercise in “How would we handle something like this?” and a reminder that communication via social media needs to be personal and authentic—not corporate speak.

Time, “What Do Shrimp, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and ‘Boy Meets World’ Have in Common? One Viral Tweet,”March 24, 2021

Hemal Jhaveri, former USA Today sports media, race and inclusion editor, was recently fired due to a tweet in response to the March 16 mass shooting in Colorado. Jhaveri responded to a tweet by Deadspin Senior Editor Julie DiCaro commenting on a remark made by an Atlanta law enforcement official that alleged the shooter who killed eight people “had a bad day.” In response to DiCaro’s tweet that she’s “tired of people’s lives depending on whether a white man with an AR-15 is having a good day or not,” Jhaveri tweeted, “it’s always an angry white man. always.” Many others also quickly opined or stated that the shooter who left eight people dead was connected with some white supremacist group. When the shooter was revealed to be a Syrian-born Muslim, a number of people, including Vice President Kamala Harris’s niece, scrambled to backtrack, explain or rationalize their hasty statements. Predictably, a number of people on the right criticized Jhaveri for her response given the fact that she was USA Today’s race and inclusion editor. She was fired by USA Today and, after, released a piece for Medium discussing her firing and career. The piece did contain the appropriate response—that the tweet “was a dashed off over-generalization, tweeted after pictures of the shooter being taken into custody surfaced online. It was a careless error of judgement, sent at a heated time, that doesn’t represent my commitment to racial equality. I regret sending it. I apologized and deleted the tweet.” Perfect! We hope Jhaveri will remember the operative paragraph of her Medium piece in her next journalism post.

The Western Journal, “Race and Inclusion Editor Fired After Her Racist Post Backfires in a Big Way, Then She Tries to Blame 'White Supremacy,'” March 28, 2021

GOOD EXAMPLES

You’ve heard the term that someone would “give you the shirt off his back”? Well, Lee Wong, an elected official in West Chester, Ohio did just that during a board meeting. His point was that discrimination against Asian Americans, like him, is worsening. To prove that he was a true patriot, he took off his suit jacket and pulled up his shirt to reveal scars from his time serving in the U.S. Army. This moving moment drew nationwide attention. The problem is, once you’ve stripped off your shirt, what’s next? Because props and visuals are so powerful, we recommend that our clients accompany a verbal description with a picture that he or she can simultaneously hold up (which would qualify as a prop).

The New York Times, “‘Is This Patriot Enough?’: Asian-American Veteran Reveals Scars as He Calls Out Bias,” March 28, 2021

In a TikTok video, actor Vick Krishna explained how the mRNA vaccine works through a short, creative skit. Not only has the video garnered six million views, but also, Krishna demonstrated how something authentic and funny can be genuinely educational and enlist viewers. As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public said, “It’s a great example of amazing science communication.” This TikTok is a must see.

Fast Company, “This viral TikTok perfectly explains how the COVID-19 vaccines work,” March 26, 2021

We’re always looking for cogent advice that readers can use in their own internal education efforts. “The Effective Act of Listening,” by Jennifer Papantonio, is a great read featured on Law.com.

 

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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