Bimbo Banter


BIMBO Nominees for October 2020


  • Bimbo
  • September 29, 2020
  • by Spaeth Communications

Bimbo blog image a

This month brought BIMBO comments from the International Association of Fire Fighters, a restaurant in China and an adviser supporting J.C. Penney shareholders. You’ll also find examples of the improper use of statistics and examples of the Wrong Thing To Say from a candidate for the Kansas House of Representatives, the former FDA spokeswoman and an astrophysicist. Included is a lesson on responding to questions that ask for a guarantee, promise or prediction and an overview of a modeling trick for employees wearing face masks. 

THE WINNING BIMBO

“This is not a cover-up,” said Police Chief La’Ron Singletary of the City of Rochester regarding the death of Daniel Prude while in police custody. (This is a classic BIMBO comment, and Singletary repeated it for emphasis adding, “Let me be clear when I say that: This is not a cover-up whatsoever.” Prude’s death is now under investigation by the state attorney general’s office. Our only knowledge of the facts is what has been reported in the media. Investigations take a long time, which frustrates the public, and the police department’s statement only served to fuel speculation.)

WHAM, “‘This is not a cover-up’: Mayor, police chief respond to allegations against RPD officers,” Sept. 2, 2020 

THE RUNNERS-UP

“Supporting police is not partisan. It’s American,” said Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action for America, in a written statement referencing billboards displayed in Times Square and other major city centers containing messages in support of the police. (We understand the desire to support law enforcement. Anderson should have stuck with her positively framed message, “It’s American,” without including the “partisan” charge.)

The Daily Signal, “‘No Police, No Peace’ Billboards to Reach 4 Million in New York, Atlanta, Dallas,” Sept. 14, 2020

“It’s not that the E.U. is way behind everybody else, but we have challenges,” said Gerard de Graaf, director for the digital single market for the European Commission. (This was a classic BIMBO comment confirming that the E.U. is indeed “way behind everybody else.” The article in which the comment appeared deserves to be read and circulated, as it examines why and how the E.U. has fallen way behind China and the U.S.)

The New York Times, “Europe Feels Squeeze as Tech Competition Heats Up Between U.S. and China,” Sept. 11, 2020

“We never forced customers to weigh themselves,” said a restaurant defending its decision to put in a scale to weigh customers as part of a campaign to encourage people to avoid ordering too much food. (Anyone wondering what life is like under a communist or top-down, government-decision-maker society should look at the reaction to Xi Jinping’s latest edict. One school said it would prevent students from applying for scholarships if their daily leftovers exceeded a set amount. The campaign is apparently driven by Chinese fears that food supplies may be impacted by “the global geopolitical turmoil, the pandemic and trade tensions with the Trump administration, as well as some of China’s worst floods this year.” One student interviewed said, “I am entitled to order as much food as I want. If I just happen to love wasting food, it’s still my freedom.” Actually, “freedom” is the key concept. Americans have it, and the Chinese don’t. It’s wise to remember that.)

The New York Times, “Xi Declares War on Food Waste, and China Races to Tighten Its Belt,” Aug. 21, 2020

“The IAFF strongly reaffirms that it did not engage in any wrongdoing,” said the International Association of Fire Fighters in a statement that was obviously written by lawyers. Their claim to probity is that pension actuaries and lawyers approved the expenditures of over a million dollars to the union president from his pension while he was still working for and being paid by the union. (Why is it that these allegations of fraud are almost always accompanied by funds being used inappropriately for activities such as “steak dinners” and “bar tabs”? This is another example of the importance of oversight of legal counsel lest they tell you what you want to hear rather than what you need to hear.)

The Wall Street Journal, “U.S. Launches Probe Into Pension Payments to Firefighters Union Leaders,” Sept. 3, 2020

“[J.C. Penney isn’t] hopelessly insolvent,” said William K. Snyder, a financial adviser and partner in turnaround management firm CR3 Partners, in a filing supporting J.C. Penney shareholders. (Snyder didn’t serve his clients well with this quote. To convey that the shareholders possess a worthwhile investment despite the fact that the company filed for bankruptcy, he should have emphasized that the company has a strong foundation. He should have also stuck to his message that J.C. Penney “has the value and resources to reorganize and successfully emerge [from bankruptcy].” It’s no wonder people distrust financial types.) 

The Dallas Morning News, “J.C Penney isn’t ‘hopelessly insolvent,’ adviser says, giving shareholders hope,” Sept. 25, 2020

STATISTICS

“We have handled far greater volumes than we experienced on Monday as demonstrated by our site performance, which is at over 99.9% for the year,” claimed a spokeswoman for Charles Schwab Corp. (The statement was made after traders couldn’t use their brokerage accounts because of a system-wide glitch primarily caused by increased volume as a result of Apple and Tesla stock splits. We believe the company, but that means that the supposedly-tiny 0.01 percent was sufficient to account for disaster. Remember, listeners want to hear 100 percent, and companies usually can’t say that truthfully. Therefore, companies should be aspirational and say, “Our performance goal is 100 percent, and we come very close and apologize to our customers who didn’t experience it.”)

Bloomberg, “Robinhood, Schwab Outages Triggered by Apple, Tesla Splits,” Sept. 4, 2020

In a letter to the New York Times, airline passenger David got on an Allegiant Air flight from Cleveland, Ohio, to Orlando, Florida, and, upon boarding, learned the plane would stop in Flint, Michigan. The airline called it a “split flight,” which occurs when two flights with lots of empty seats are combined into one (in this case, the flight from Cleveland to Orlando was merged with a flight from Flint to Orlando). The New York Times columnist offered explanation and sympathy in response to David’s story and question regarding whether or not he was eligible for a refund, but the learning is that Allegiant Air said that split flights accounted for just “.3 percent” of Allegiant’s flights in August. This was a bad choice of communication. It may be only less than a third of one percent, but it generated a complaint to the New York Times. How much bad publicity is that worth?

The New York Times, “Help! My Very Direct Flight Added a Stop and So Many More Passengers,” Sept. 16, 2020 

WRONG THING TO SAY

“Ask yourself: Do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters?” said Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden speaking out to describe rioting, looting and arson as “lawlessness.” (Biden should have stuck with his positive, follow-up comment that emphasized his desire for a “safe America” instead of introducing negative words and phrases such as “radical socialist.” He said, “I want a safe America, safe from COVID, safe from crime and looting, safe from racially motivated violence, safe from bad cops.”)

NPR, “Joe Biden: ‘Do I Look Like A Radical Socialist With A Soft Spot For Rioters?’” Aug. 31, 2020

“While it is true I was abusive to my ex-girlfriend, I do not agree with the characterization being made about our experience in the hot tub the day after Christmas,” said 19-year-old Aaron Coleman, socialist Democrat candidate for the Kansas House of Representatives. (Any politician’s statement that starts like this has to mean trouble. Coleman, who admitted to using revenge p**n to blackmail one ex-girlfriend and to abusing another, continued, “I did not choke her,” but, “I also don’t think she is intentionally lying.” Coleman pledged to end his campaign when these facts surfaced in August and then changed his mind because he didn’t want the district to fall to the “same corporatist, out-of-touch 7-term incumbent that voters just rejected.” If he felt he had to say these things, he should have said them to a group of supporters in person, not via Twitter. He needs more than counseling, and he needs it for a very long period of time.) 

National File, “Kansas Democrat Candidate Admits He Abused Ex Girlfriend, Maintains ‘I Did Not Choke Her,’” Sept. 7, 2020 

Posting on her personal Facebook page prior to her removal as FDA spokeswoman, Emily Miller committed to “work nonstop to get information on COVID-19 tests, treatments and the vaccine process communicated to people as accurately and quickly as possible,” adding, “I will not lie. I will not do anything that violates my personal ethics and values.” These statements are reminders that personal posts live forever. (US FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn fired her one week after her arrival was announced, after she allegedly created problems among career officials at the agency. We’re not sure what her crime was except that she didn’t have a magic wand to wave over Hahn to discuss the status of certain treatments in a way considered acceptable to the administration.) 

CNN, “FDA spokeswoman Emily Miller removed from position but will stay at agency,” Aug. 28, 2020

“It’s not a smoking gun,” said David Clements, an astrophysicist at the Imperial College of London, about the discovery of a chemical associated with life in the clouds surrounding the planet Venus. Clements added, “It’s not even gunshot residue on the hands of your prime suspect.” (We admit, he got his point across, particularly with one more analogy, “but there is a distinct whiff of cordite in the air which may be suggesting something.” However, we suggest that his comparison language is so vivid that it distracted from the issue of whether there is life near Venus. He should have used his quote to suggest that further exploration is important and timely.)

ABC News, “Astronomers see possible hints of life in Venus’s clouds,” Sept. 14, 2020

“The unfortunate reality is that there is a very limited pool of Black talent to recruit from with this specific experience,” said Wells Fargo CEO Charlie Scharf explaining why so many chief executives at the bank are white men. (He also explained that bank regulators had hemmed in hiring practices with restrictions and requirements, but it didn’t matter. Backlash was swift and brutal. He should have used his quote to say, “We need to significantly expand our recruiting pool, and we’re committed to doing that.” In addition, the company’s government affairs employee should have been quoted explaining the regulatory restrictions. Remember how we’re always saying, “Communication is a strategic business tool”? This is a prime example!)

The Wall Street Journal, “Wells Fargo CEO Apologizes for Comment on Recruiting Black Employees,” Sept. 23, 2020

MORE EXAMPLES

Larry Thompson, the court-appointed monitor working out the plea and penalty for Volkswagen in the emissions cheating scandal, was asked if he could “guarantee” that there were no other scandals hiding. He had a great response. As our readers know, we recommend handling questions that ask for a guarantee, a promise or a prediction with an Acknowledgment PhraseTM like “I hope so,” “I wish I could,” “That’s my priority” or “That’s my plan,” and then repeating the key word but attaching it to words/concepts that a company can truthfully guarantee or promise, producing a response like, “I wish I could, but what I can guarantee is that we’ve conducted a rigorous review of…” The news report said, “Mr. Thompson said he could not guarantee that there would be no other scandals at Volkswagen,” but then added Thompson’s quote, “What I can certify to is that if another problem comes up, it will be handled much differently than the diesel scandal.” We love his use of the word “certify.” Spaeth’s own Emily Turner also suggested the word “verify” as another excellent option. 

The New York Times, “Volkswagen Has Kept Promises to Reform, U.S. Overseer Says,” Sept. 14, 2020 

“Smizing” means smiling with your eyes to help bring expression to one’s face while wearing a mask. (If you think this is common sense, supermodel Tyra Banks—who coined the buzzword—and others are preaching about and teaching to employees of companies how to adopt this modeling trick. (We’ve learned over the years that thinking to yourself “I like you!” or “I want to be here!” triggers a pleasant facial expression, lifting the cheeks—now obscured by a mask—but also lightening the eyes.)

The Wall Street Journal, “How to Smize (Smile With Your Eyes) When You’re Wearing a Mask,” Aug. 26, 2020

File this example or lesson for future reference. When General Motors (GM) CEO Mary Barra was the company’s head of HR, she condensed the ten-page dress code down to two words: “Dress appropriately.” She apparently did this as part of an overall change initiative to make the behemoth company more flexible, less siloed and ultimately more competitive. (In another symbolic but important act, when appointed as product chief, she immediately removed the card-key security doors between her office and the engineering staff. You can bet that word of this spread quickly through GM via the informal networks.)

The Wall Street Journal, “The Incredible Shrinking GM: Mary Barra Bets That Smaller Is Better,” Sept. 18, 2020

 

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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