Bimbo Banter


BIMBO Nominees for September 2023


  • Bimbo
  • September 1, 2023
  • by Spaeth Communications

Bimbo blog image c

What a great month of examples with lessons to learn! BIMBO comments from a Malaysian biologist about a bear and a very intellectual defense from writer Sohrab Ahmari. Wrong (really, wrong) new football slogan from the University of Texas and another weaselly apology example from an ESPN analyst to the Miami Dolphins’ quarterback. Good advice or why to get it from NFL Hall of Famers, and calling all Governor DeSantis advisors, help! Great example of why and how to use a prop to make a point and drive media coverage from Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson. Articles of Interest from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. I’m just back from Comic-Con with a few observations and Rogerebert.com critiqued my panel--and my past!

THE WINNING BIMBO

“There is no poop fairy,” became the slogan for New York City’s campaign to enforce the on-the-books requirement that dog owners pick up after their pets. Councilman Erik Bottcher said the memorable line as the Big Apple embarked (pun intended) on a clean-up campaign. It remains to be seen or smelled if they mean “business” as the law and its $250 fine aren’t new, but the city has written only 18 tickets despite complaints to hotline 311 having risen 17 percent since last year. We are skeptical that the enforcement campaign is going to work. This is the kind of thing that needs citizen peer pressure. I was a resident of NYC when the first regulation was issued about smoking on elevators. The next morning, a man in my building tried to enter smoking a cigarette and I held the door open and informed him of the law. He gave me a dirty look but complied. We are with the aim of the ordinance. There is no poop fairy!

The Atlantic, “What Kind of Villain Doesn’t Clean Up After Their Dog?” July 26, 2023

THE RUNNERS-UP

“We’re not bringing little green men or flying saucers into the hearing,” said Rep. Tim Burchett on what used to be UFOs (unidentified flying objects) renamed UAPs (unidentified anomalous phenomena). All-domain anomaly resolution office, the government office supposedly keeping tabs on sightings reported that 200 of the 366 reported sightings were “unremarkable.” What does that make the other 166? One benefit of the unusual, hours-long hearing was the observation that this was the most remarkable bi-partisan hearing in a long time. Is it sad or funny? That’s the truly remarkable thing.

CNN, “Officials and lawmakers push for more government transparency on UFOs,” July 26, 2023

“The vast majority of them are not blood drinking lunatics,” said S. Miles Lewis (who goes by Smiles), one of the best known and (paradoxically) best respected conspiracy supporters, in a lengthy New York Times article describing how the growth of the internet has caused conspiracy theories to become so farfetched and loud that even long time doubters – “who believe that conspiracism is about thinking critically about the narratives of the powerful” according to the Times – are now doubting their doubts. The article is well worth reading for political and communication consultants. More than a little disturbing but best to meet the enemy head on.  And if the “vast majority” are not “blood drinking lunatics”, how many are left who are?

The New York Times, “Even Conspiracy Theorists Are Alarmed by What They’ve Seen,” Aug. 4, 2023

Not “a human in disguise,” said Dr. Wong Siew Te, a Malaysian wildlife biologist about a picture of Angela, a Malaysian sun bear in a Chinese zoo standing on her hind legs and appearing to notice, even interact with visitors at the edge of her enclosure at the Hangzhou Zoo. The video went viral, generated several memes, but anyone watching zoo shows like “Secrets of the Zoo” has already been introduced to the rare, endangered, smallest of the bear species. One positive result: the zoo has been flooded with visitors to see Angela stand up and wave.

The Daily Mail, “Sun bear at Chinese zoo is NOT a ‘human in disguise’: Expert explains why internet sensation Angela stood up straight in video which sparked bizarre conspiracy theory,” Aug. 3, 2023

“I think my opponents exaggerate the degree to which, you know, ‘He’s had every worldview.’” This is a highly intellectual BIMBO comment from writer/columnist Sohrab Ahmari in Michelle Goldberg’s New York Times write up about the launch of Ahmari’s new book, “Tyranny Inc: How Private Power Crushed American Liberty and What to Do About It,” which Goldberg describes as admirably “leftist.” I hope other, better equipped critics will chime in because from where I sit, Ahmari has now just discovered that concentrations of power tend to want to dominate and perpetuate themselves and the choice today is which is worse – big business more-or-less market capitalism or big government top-down. One would hope Ahmari will eventually come up with a working synthesis that sees the salvation in the American freedom of “big capitalism,” while not ignoring its areas of failure or need for improvement. 

The New York Times, “The Right-Winger Calling for Social Democracy,” Aug. 21, 2023 

WHAT NOT TO SAY

“Embrace the hate.” Oh wow! That’s the slogan Steve Sarkisian, head coach of the University of Texas football team, picked for the upcoming season. Apparently, he meant to deflect the criticism they are getting for leaving the Big XII, but it’s triggered an outpouring of comments linking it to white supremacist rantings. Surely someone pointed this out to the coach? If not, bigger problems underly their communication channels.

Daily Caller, “’White Supremacist Message’: College Football T-Shirt Sparks Outrage Online,” Aug. 27, 2023

“If I’ve offended you Tua, if I’ve hurt you, if I’ve disrespected you...” was how ESPN analyst Ryan Clark tried to apologize to Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Here’s another example of the mistake people make apologizing. The background was that Clark trash talked Tagovailoa about his weight and size saying that it looked like the football player had not been paying attention to the nutritionist and resembled thick dancers at a strip club. Not surprisingly, Tagovailoa took exception, and Clark fell all over himself apologizing – but he made the fatal “if” mistake. When apologizing, don’t hedge with the “if” I’ve offended you. You have offended him! Clark posted the apology on social media. We recommend a personal note, or at least an email and an attempted phone call. 

USA Today, “ESPN’s Ryan Clark apologizes to Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa after ‘bad joke’ stripper comment,” Aug. 24, 2023

EXAMPLES TO LEARN FROM

“Anyone who doesn’t use a speech coach in this situation is an idiot,” said Joe Thomas, former Cleveland Browns offensive tackle about working with Jezra Kaye on his acceptance speech for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Hall started booking coaching for inductees after one speech ran 33 minutes. The inductees are only supposed to have ten minutes for the thanks, inspiring words etc. This is a useful article for all of us who write for C-suite executives and other notables. Kaye has three pieces of advice we endorse: don’t go off script, stories that sound great in a football context may not impress others, and jokes can’t take a long time to set up. We interpret these to mean: rehearsal is key, know your audience, and rehearse some more.

The New York Times, “This Jazz Artists Makes Pro Football Hall of Fame Speeches Sing,” Aug. 3, 2023

Calling Governor DeSantis advisors! A video circulating on TikTok of the governor at a briefing about hurricane Idalia may replace the iconic image of the Exxon chairman during the Valdez spill. It’s that bad. We call this the listening face, and the risk – here illustrated – is that a sour face like this conveys that the person doesn’t want to be there. We hear that one of the governor’s aids frequently advises him to smile. We don’t use the term “smile” because it can be misinterpreted by the facial muscles and produce a grimace. Rather, we advise developing the muscles to create a “lifted face.” Usually, telling yourself, “I want to be here” or “I like you” will produce the desired expression.  When listening to a briefing like this, try thinking “this is very interesting.” The goal isn’t to hold a rigid expression. It’s to use facial expression as a strategic communication tool.

TikTok, Aug. 30, 2023 

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson is trying to convince his City Council members not to increase the budget and raise taxes. He brought a toy ship (scroll down to see the image here) to the meeting to emphasize his point that the city was heading towards the icebergs (of people fleeing the city for lower tax environs). It not only increased his quotes in the news reports, but it also warranted a picture in the print and electronic news. A great example of how a prop catches our attention and drives memory! The lead opinion piece in this week’s Dallas Morning News is about tax debate and the first line is “It took one toy boat and a long memo but Dallas City Hall might finally be having the right budget debate.” This has to be the most visible and effective prop since the General held up the vial of alleged WMD material at the UN.

The Dallas Morning News, “Mayor Johnson supports reducing spending, taxes; ‘turning ship around’” Aug. 24, 2023

ARTICLES OF INTEREST

University of Pennsylvania psychologist Adam Grant argued in “Women’s Weak Language is a Source of Strength” that what he calls “weak language”, starting a point with “I’m not sure but…” or a negotiation with “You probably know that…” and including what we call “hedge words,” like “pretty sure” and “kinda,” which traditionally result in women being thought of as less forceful and decisive are actually beneficial to women and men because they seem less combative. Grant writes that it’s long been proven that when men are forceful, it’s regarded positively where similar behavior in women is regarded negatively. However, we part company when he writes that the solution is for men to be more comfortable with “weak” language. He may be right academically, but we aren’t recommending it to any of our clients at the current time. 

The New York Times, “Women Know Exactly What They’re Doing When They Use ‘Weak Language,’” July 31, 2023

“Don’t be a jerk at work but it doesn’t pay to be too nice either.” Some interesting advice. In this Wall Street Journal piece, a health care consultant advises, “Being nice often makes others feel good without actually moving a project forward or prompting a team member to improve.” A speaking coach warns against using a high pitched, upspeak tone lest you seem weak. Introduce yourself while throwing a ball against a wall and match the ball’s trajectory. We’re not sure about that. No hedged speech – we agree with that, but we have a different definition. Here, the expert advises against saying, “Would you consider allowing me to work remotely on Fridays?” in favor of, “I want to talk to you.” We actually like the first version, and it’s what we call asking a question to obtain assent, that it, this phrasing is likely to get a “yes,” laying the groundwork for a positive response. The last example advises against wide mood swings, being laid back and friendly and turning into a monster yelling when something goes wrong. Do we need experts to tell us that? If so, first pick up Dale Carnegie’s immortal “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” 

The Wall Street Journal, “Don’t Be a Jerk at Work. (But Don’t Be Too Nice, Either.),” July 30, 2023

SHARING

I had the best time at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con as a guest and winner of an Inkpot Award for Excellence in Comic Arts. I was also delighted to get this write-up. 

“One of the best films ever from a teenage girl’s point of view is “The World of Henry Orient,” released in 1964. The co-star of that film, Merrie Spaeth, was interviewed by comics historian Nat Gertler about her remarkable career, including serving in the Reagan White House, writer of horror comics, journalist (her documentary about Liberace is available on YouTube), author, and head of a communications business. She said that her role in the film came about by accident—literally. She tripped over an electrical cord on the floor in her audition, and director George Roy Hill said she was right for the role. She was self-deprecating about her acting career, which continued for several years after the film, but showed the audience why her communications firm is so successful by telling her story with great charm.”

Rogerebert.com, “Comic-Con Without the Stars,” July 24, 2023

 

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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