Bimbo Banter


BIMBO Nominees for December 2018


  • Bimbo
  • December 1, 2018
  • by Spaeth Communications

Bimbo blog image c

BIMBOs are an international issue and our top three winners this month are all Brits. Joining them are BIMBO nominees ranging from infamous lawyer Michael Avanetti, a Dallas real estate developer, the owner of a small toy store and the chief marketing officer for Condé Nast. Great (bad) examples from the French finance minister, Mark Zuckerberg and Sen. Kamala Harris. Dueling examples of the Wrong Thing To Say from a completely out-of-control Huffington Post columnist and the newly-elected senator from Mississippi. You’ll also find two examples within a new category we’re calling “Sound Bit” and a great communications example courtesy of Toyota.

THE WINNER

“I’m not that stupid,” said Charles, Prince of Wales. (The prince was speaking to BBC about his 70th birthday. During the interview, he explained that he plans to stop speaking out on issues when he becomes king. He may be smart enough to recognize that as king he must play by different rules, but you would have thought he was smart enough to get some media training and rehearse before a major interview. Not surprisingly, the quote made the headline of almost every British paper.)

Irish Examiner, “I’m not that stupid — Prince Charles won’t ‘meddle’ when he is king,” Nov. 8, 2018

THE RUNNERS-UP

“It’s not a farewell tour,” said acting great Sir Ian McKellen about committing to an 80-stop, one-man show across Britain. (McKellen also had a marvelous comment, “It’s more like ‘Oh, hello again!’” that made the headline but predictably the denial “not a farewell tour” was the lead.)

MSN, “Ian McKellen interview: 'This isn't a farewell tour — I'm saying hello again,'” Sept. 11, 2018

“I’m definitely not trying to play to the edge of the rules,” said UK Rugby star and Saracens co-captain Owen Farrell. (The quote was made in reaction to criticism of Farrell’s very aggressive tackle of a South African player, a “now infamous ‘no-arms’ hit” that cost South Africa the match. The quote made headlines in a number of UK papers, varying slightly across publications.)

Mirror, “England v New Zealand: Owen Farrell assures nation he can be relied upon to play hard but fair against All Blacks,” Nov. 10, 2018

“I have never struck a woman, I never will strike a woman,” said adult film actress Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti after being arrested on allegations of domestic violence. (Aggravating the story, Avenatti accused conservative commentator Jacob Wohl of being behind the charges, although the Los Angeles PD said the unidentified victim had “visible injuries.” Avenatti then announced he was “coming for” Wohl. Given Avenatti’s chosen manner of expression, we are at a loss to suggest alternative language.)

NBC, “Stormy Daniels Says She’s Reserving Judgment on Avenatti Arrest,” Nov. 15, 2018

“As I have now had to make clear to multiple news outlets, I do not work while drunk and have never had a hostile workplace environment,” wrote Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Arizona, in December 2017 responding to chatter and charges about both topics. In 2015, a former female aide to the congressman received an almost $50,000 settlement after charging a hostile work environment. The topics roared to life this month when Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke tweeted out an insult calling Rep. Grijalva “a drunkard.” Adam Sarvana, communications director for the House Natural Resources Committee's Democrats, issued a statement that said, “Rep. Grijalva is not drunk at work and does not create a hostile workplace environment.” Since Rep. Grijalva looks like the next chairman of the Committee, we’re puzzled about the wisdom of picking this argument. The headline made the story even stranger.)

E&E News, “Grijalva left bar after Zinke tweet,” Nov. 30, 2018

“I’m not heartbroken,” said  Dallas developer Ruel Hamilton about Amazon’s decision not to choose Dallas as one of the sites for its HQ2. (We’re with Hamilton who made the point that Dallas doesn’t need to give the kind of economic concessions that Crystal City, Virginia did. And the snappy quote became the headline. For more on communication lessons from Amazon’s HQ2 decision, read this blog.)

Dallas Business Journal, “Dallas developer on missing Amazon: ‘I’m not heartbroken,’” Nov. 21, 2018

“This is not bringing back a great toy store,” said Kate Clark, founder and president of Yottoy, a small, specialty toy store that makes “stuffed animals based on classic children’s books like Paddington.” (She was speaking about the decision of the new F.A.O. Schwarz owners to create mini “stores within stores,” or stores located in places like airline terminals. She expressed skepticism about the new business model and said, “It feels like they have created a shell.” This is the wrong tone and message.  As someone in the same industry, she should be delighted that a commercial entity is trying to bring the iconic toy store, at least in name, back into our collective consciousness.)

The New York Times, “The F.A.O. Schwarz Piano Is Back — but With a Different Tune,” Nov. 22, 2018

“…I did not let my opinions interfere with telling the truth,” said Brenda Battel, a reporter for a newspaper in rural Michigan, The Huron Daily Tribune. (Battel left a voice mail message for John James, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate to request an interview to discuss his campaign against Sen. Debbie Stabenow. After delivering her intended message, Battel believed she hung up the phone and then expostulated, “Man, if he beats her…Jesus! F---ing John James. That would suck!” The James campaign voice mail captured it all. Despite her insistence that this was her personal opinion and didn’t have anything to do with her reporting, the paper appropriately fired her. We applaud editor Kate Hessling who explained, “It is imperative that our reporters act professional and neutral when dealing with the public…”)

The Washington Post, “A reporter unwittingly left a voice mail for a GOP candidate. She was fired for what she said.,” Nov. 7, 2018

“Not a racist conspiracy,” was how plaintiffs’ lawyer John Hughes described Harvard’s admissions practices. What else would you call a system designed to sabotage high achieving Asian applicants by assigning them low ratings in categories like friendliness? The real problem is one of dishonest communication. The school wants to be able to balance its incoming class based on a wide variety of elements, but the politically correct language plus a huge burden of regulations and court rulings mean that the university has had to develop a complicated web of hypocrisy.

The New York Times, “The Harvard Trial: A Double-Edged Sword for College Admissions,” Nov. 2, 2018

“This isn’t like another magazine that is not going to make it,” said Pamela Drucker Mann, chief marketing officer for Condé Nast putting on a brave face while commenting on the decision of Glamour magazine to disappear from newsstands and exist only as a digital presence. This classic BIMBO comment serves only to drive home the possibility that the magazine is “not going to make it.”

The New York Times, “Glamour Magazine to Cease Regular Print Publication,” Nov. 20, 2018

POWER OF NEGATIVE WORDS

The word “liar” packs a lot of punch. France’s finance minister accused the British government of lying to the voting public to achieve the “leave” Brexit vote. Speaking to CNBC, Bruno Le Maire argued, “I think many British politicians have been liars and lied to the British people…” The word traveled around Europe and made headlines. In the London Evening Standard, the headline read, “French finance minister says ‘liars’ duped Brits into voting for Brexit” and in the iNews the headline was, “MPs ‘lied’ to public before EU vote, says minister.”

London Evening Standard, “French finance minister says ‘liars’ duped Brits into voting for Brexit,” Nov. 16, 2018

After allegedly using the word “hysteria” to describe the fallout that resulted from the Cambridge Analytica scandal last spring, Facebook’s Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg unintentionally elevated the dialogue. Words like “war” and “hysteria” crept into stories about Facebook’s attempts to battle the bad publicity that resulted from the scandal. CNBC reported that “Zuckerberg thought Sandberg should have more effectively quelled public ‘hysteria.’” The Wall Street Journal wrote, “Mr. Zuckerberg had privately told executives that some of the reaction to the Cambridge Analytica controversy amounted to ‘hysteria.’” One of the lessons of leadership is that your employees will mimic you. They’ll pick up your behaviors and, as illustrated here, they’ll repeat your words. Had Zuckerberg thought more carefully about his word choice, perhaps the narrative would have been reported in a more positive light.

The Wall Street Journal, “With Facebook at ‘War,’ Zuckerberg Adopts More Aggressive Style,” Nov. 19, 2018

“KKK” may be an acronym but it’s definitely a top 10 “bad word.” Sen. Kamala Harris drew criticism when she compared ICE to the KKK during a hearing on Capitol Hill for Ronald Vitiello. Former ICE boss Tom Homan said her comments were “disgusting” and called on Harris to apologize. (Our word choices have meaning and real-world implications. Leaders have a responsibility to choose their words wisely and Sen. Harris should have known better. Regardless of politics, it was an outrageous comparison.)

Liberty Headlines, “Former ICE Head Calls Out Kamala Harris for KKK Comparison,” Nov. 21, 2018

WRONG THING TO SAY

Huffington Post columnist Jessie Daniels decided that “white women have always been ardent proponents of violent white supremacy…” This over-the-top comment was made in response to a series of equally stupid comments made by the newly-elected senator from Mississippi, Cindy Hyde-Smith, who was caught on tape saying that in the event she were invited to a “public hanging” by her supporters, she would be in “the front row.” She also suggested making it “just a little more difficult” for liberals to vote. Then, it took her days to come up with a generally inadequate apology. Not only is this remark tone deaf, but Hyde-Smith proved she’s neither smart enough to know that someone from the opposition is always video or audio taping your comments nor adept enough to get out of a tar pit.

Liberty Headlines, “Unhinged HuffPo Columnists Blames Dem. Losses on Racist White Women,” Nov. 20, 2018

SOUND BIT 

“Sound Bit” is new category that compares an interview, conversation or speech with the “sound bites” that get extracted by reporters. This happened to General Electric’s new CEO, Larry Culp who gave a long, thoughtful interview to CNBC only to have two short soundbites get pulled out and magnified—soundbites indicating the company’s problems with the power division aren’t finished and that the company is going to sell assets. For our take on the interview and lessons for your top executives, read this blog.

Chief marketing officer of L Brands, Ed Razek, and executive vice president of public relations at Victoria’s Secret, Monica Mitroc, gave a long interview to Vogue focusing on the lingerie icon’s December runway show. Throughout the interview, the topics of transgender models, plus-size models and the chain’s image of appealing to male ogling were discussed candidly. CEO of spunky competitor ThirdLove, Heidi Zak passionately objected to the discussion. She “sound bit” a portion of one of Razek’s responses and took out a full-page ad in the national edition of The New York Times to criticize him. It’s worth comparing the two case studies. The lesson? We recommend recording any interview of yourself and getting ahead of the “biters” by tweeting or excerpting your own sound bites. The risk of letting the “biters” characterize your comments is too great. An additional lesson: insult the scrappy competitor at your own risk. By framing the market when he said, “…we’re nobody’s third love,” Razek created attention for Zak, which she gleefully embraced.

Vogue, “‘We’re Nobody’s Third Love, We’re Their First Love’—The Architects of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show Are Still Banking on Bombshells,” Nov. 8, 2018 

EXAMPLES

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, whom we very much admire, has been plugging the importance of corporate culture for decades. His famous 2009 PowerPoint outlines the company’s mission, vision and values but we’re going to be philistines. It’s 125 slides long and we have our doubts that any slide presentation this long can be absorbed. It’s highly aspirational, and their results certainly speak for themselves, but where are the stories that illustrate the behaviors described?

The owner of a Toyota Tundra helped a number of people escape from the fires that swept over Paradise, California. In an Instagram post, he proclaimed his appreciation for the vehicle, which basically melted under him but kept going. Toyota commented on the post and promised the Good Samaritan a new truck.

When we read the headline “The Flu Shot Needs Fewer Stats and More Stories,” we were so excited and couldn’t agree more. Then, we were crushed when the article was chock-a-block full of statistics but no stories. It did reference “dramatic anecdotes” by noting that “stories last season pointed out that flu can cause amputations and sepsis and multi-organ failure,” but those stories were sanitized into summary facts. What’s needed is a message book and public service campaign with real people, real stories and real drama.

Wired, “The Flu Shot Needs Fewer Stats and More Stories,” Nov. 12, 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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