Tag Archive: Made to Stick


“We don’t have a strategy yet.” – President Barack Obama asked about a potential U.S. response to the radical ISIS of Iraq and Syria

“We are THE low-fare airline.” — Herb Kelleher, co-founder and chairman emeritus of Southwest Airlines

kelleher

We hear the word all the time.

It is as ubiquitous as “sustainable,” “solutions” and “selfies.”

Here comes another common S-word: “strategy.”

What is this creature?

According to the Business Dictionary, strategy is “1.) A method or plan chosen to bring about a desired future, such as achievement of a goal or solution to a problem or …

2.) The art and science of planning and marshaling resources for their most efficient and effective use. The term is derived from the Greek word strategia for generalship or leading an army.”

As the creator of an upper-division university course, Strategic Business/Financial Communications (my M.A. project), sometimes one can still ask if you appreciate the meaning of the word, strategy. We use it all the time, but do we really appreciate its context?

Does Management Know What It Is Doing?

Rank-and-file workers around the world spend portions of their days chatting around the proverbial cooler or more likely firing text messages or emails across cyberspace asking each other whether the boss or bosses really know what she/he/they know what they are doing?

watercooler

The real question is: Do we have a strategy? And if so, what is our strategy?

Think of the interrogative this way: Any organization has only so much money, so much time, so much manpower/womanpower and so much talent and knowhow. These resources are finite. How will they be most effectively utilized?

The decision is just as much what an organization is going to do with its resources, as it is what it will not do with its limited attributes.

“We’re not serving any damn chicken salad”

The New York Times bestseller Made to Stick, co-authored by Chip and Dan Heath, recounts the story of Tracy, the marketing whiz at Southwest Airlines, suggesting to CEO Herb Kelleher that chicken Caesar salad would be popular with the airline’s customers. The idea went absolutely nowhere because it did not coincide with Southwest’s THE low-fare airline strategy.

madetostick

“Core messages help people avoid bad choices by reminding them what is important,” Chip and Dan Heath wrote in Made to Stick. “In Herb Kelleher’s parable, for instance, someone had to choose between chicken salad and no chicken salad – and the message ‘THE low-fare airline’ led her to abandon the chicken salad.”

Think of what Southwest (NYSE: LUV) does:

The airline offers soft drinks, pretzels and peanuts (and adult beverages paid by credit cards).

Southwest flies point-to-point primarily in the continental U.S., eschewing the annoying jammed “spoke” airports (e.g., Denver, Dallas, Chicago, Charlotte, Atlanta) that plague the legacy carriers and their passengers. Southwest only flies Boeing 737-400s.

There are no assigned seats, festival seating for all.

And the flight attendants seem to be having a great time, and really want the passengers to “enjoy” rather than endure their flight.

What does Southwest NOT do:

There is no crummy airline food to purchase.

There are no spoke systems.

Southwest does not purchase multiple models of aircraft from both Boeing and Airbus. There is one model of aircraft to service.

There are no assigned seats, but a devilishly effective way of boarding it’s A,B and C boarding groups. Southwest makes money when its planes are in the air, not on the ground. The strategy is to get satisfied passengers off the plane, quickly loading another happy group of patrons and sending the plane back into the air heading off to the next destination.

As a public relations, marketing, advertising professional, you want to work for an organization that knows what it wants to be when it grows up. When dealing with external (e.g., conventional and social media, industry and financial analysts, governmental regulators, investors, partners, suppliers, distributors general public) and internal stakeholders (e.g., all-important employees), you want to be sure of your “story.”

If your organization knows what it wants to do, and what it does not want to do (and has the discipline to stay within the confines of its resources), your job is just that much easier.

FedEx will get your package to its intended destination positively, absolutely overnight.

Tesla pours millions into R&D and cap-ex for ion batteries for electric cars at acceptable price points with sufficient range.

Salesforce.com is a pioneer in SaaS or software as a service, allowing customers to pick-and-choose, and then plug-and-play business software from the cloud.

Google is the number search engine in the world, and makes the Android operating system for mobile devices.

Amazon is the number one digital retailer on the planet, and makes the Kindle reader.

The examples are too numerous to count, but these are companies know how to answer the question: “How do you make money?” The answer is a clear strategy.

The vast majority of investors will weigh buying shares in these companies because they know these companies raison d’etre. There is no FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) when it comes to Southwest, FedEx, Tesla, Salesforce, Google, Amazon and many others.

obamastrategy

Alas, a few folks in Washington D.C. are not the only ones without a strategy… yet. And every organization without a strategy – what to do and not what to do — has a big league public relations/branding/marketing dilemma.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/08/28/obama-on-increased-action-against-islamic-state-we-dont-have-a-strategy-yet/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herb_Kelleher

http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/strategy.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Made_to_Stick

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/how-does-a-company-make-money-2/

 

 

 

 

Four monosyllabic words.

Ever ask a brilliant person for the time, and he or she essentially tells you how to build a clock?

Is it better to say: “Terminate the illumination” or “Turn out the lights?”

There may be genius or two, who is not so sure.

Guess the Heath Brothers, Chip and Dan, (authors of Made to Stick) were right when they discussed those who can never overcome, “The curse of knowledge.”

We live in a world of 280-character-or-less Tweets and 20-second sound bites, not 400-page dissertations (except for those defending a Ph.D)

Having said that, some are not comfortable with our reduced attention spans caused by an unprecedented and unrelenting global information overload.

Deal with it.

Four monosyllabic words

Evening In America?

In many cases, monosyllabic statements and answers simply don’t cut it.

But there are times, particularly when it comes to persuasive communication, when less is indeed, more.

Actor Kurt Russell reenacted the late Coach Herb Brooks’ February 22, 1980 pre-game pep talk to the U.S. Olympic hockey team in Lake Placid, N.Y. before they played the mighty Soviet Union.

It was the height of the Cold War, the Soviets were running wild in Afghanistan, the U.S. was virtually helpless in its efforts to free 52 diplomats held hostage in Iran, and the country was suffering a “crisis of confidence”… at least according to the leader of the free world.

It was Evening in America.

The country needed a big time lift, and it came from a group of essentially college student-athletes. They were being asked to accomplish the impossible as depicted in the Disney movie, Miracle. 

Every Word Counts

Brooks was not Mr. Personality. He was not Mr. Congeniality. That’s not what the U.S. hockey program wanted or needed.

He was tough. He knew that his team needed to stay with the Soviet ice machine for 60 minutes, something that had not been done in two decades.

He was the coach of his players, but certainly not their friend.

He prepared them for the biggest opportunity of their lives, and then the moment came right before they took the ice against the mighty USSR.

Brooks’ two-minute speech was only 124 words, and every word counted. There is a beauty in their simplicity. They were incredibly effective. I get chills every time I watch the speech. I want to charge onto the ice as well.

Less Is More

As communicators what can we learn from Kurt Russell’s portrayal of Brooks? After all, it is only a film. Shouldn’t we dismiss any serious discussion of this speech because it was reenacted for the purpose of a movie?

We can, but we would miss the point.

If we are preparing a bumper sticker, a billboard, an infographic, an advertisement, a PowerPoint presentation, a speech and even a pep talk, the simpler can be better.

Consider the effectiveness of two monosyllabic words: “One game.”

How about: “Tonight, we are the greatest hockey team in the world?”

The theme undoubtedly is: “This is your time.”

Conversely: “Their time is done.”

And just in case one did not get the point: “It’s over.”

The imperative: “Screw em” is universal in its meaning.

And of course, repetition is the key to learning: “This is your time.”

And finally: “Now go out there and take it!”

The door was probably not big enough for the team to take the ice all at the same time.

An American Hero

For many, and count me in this crowd, Herb Brooks is an American hero.

He was the last man cut from the 1960 Olympic Team that beat the Russians and won the Gold Medal in Squaw Valley, California.

He was severely criticized for his coaching techniques, but stuck to his convictions. The rest is history.

Brooks died way-too-young at 66 years old in a one-car crash in 2003. Thankfully, drugs and/or alcohol were not the culprit. He should have worn his seat belt.

May he rest in peace. Thank you Disney and Kurt Russell for such a fitting tribute.

And for reminding us the most simple communication can at times be the most effective. In our increasingly complex world, we sometimes need to appreciate that less is indeed more. 

“Great moments are born from great opportunity. 

And that’s what you have here tonight, boys. 

That’s what you’ve earned here tonight. 

One game. 

If we played them 10 times, they might win nine. 

But not this game. 

Not tonight. 

Tonight, we skate with them. 

Tonight we stay with them. 

And we shut them down because we can. 

Tonight, we are the greatest hockey team in the world. 

You were born to be hockey players – every one of you, and you were meant to be here tonight. 

This is your time. 

Their time is done. 

It’s over. 

I’m sick and tired of hearing about what a great hockey team the Soviets have. 

Screw ’em. 

This is your time. 

Now go out there and take it!”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwpTj_Z9v-c

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYscemhnf88

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herb_Brooks

http://www.masterschannel.com/this-is-my-story/miracle-coach-brooks-addresses-team-pre-game

http://www.legacy.com/ns/news-story.aspx?t=herb-brooks–miracle-man&id=1253

http://heathbrothers.com/books/made-to-stick/

…if you know what I mean.”

These were the last words of US Secret Service supervisor David Chaney’s career. They were plastered on his Facebook page as the cutline for a photo of him allegedly protecting Alaska Governor Sarah Palin from all enemies foreign and domestic in 2008.

chaneypalin

 

Chaney, 49, is now without a job and his wife and family cannot be thrilled with his behavior or his employment prospects.

So what are the lessons from the U.S. Secret Service scandal that simply will not go away?

One is that engaging in foolish behavior on social media (e.g. swimmer Michael Phelps and his bong pipe) is not just restricted to young Bo-Hoes. The digital-is-eternal mantra applies to all age groups, occupations, economic and education levels and demands that we think before we post. Chaney’s crowing about ogling Palin’s curves and using them as eye candy was included among other posts about his extramarital recreational adventures with scantily clad women attending his high school reunion and belly dancers in Egypt (All published in the New York Post).

If you are asking, “What was he thinking?” Well obviously he wasn’t.

The second lesson is captured in the first two-chapters of the New York Times bestselling book by Chip and Dan Heath, “Made to Stick.” When asking what causes a story, a concept, a tagline to adhere with the public like duct tape, the Heaths responded that an account must be simple and unexpected.

Let’s see: Secret Service guys and Colombian prostitutes? Yes, I can understand this combo without hurting my brain. This tale is quite simple, but it cannot be dismissed as a “boys will be boys” story. What is unexpected about this caper is that it involves the Secret Service with its motto, “Worthy of Trust and Confidence,” the elite protectors of US leaders, even those with ornamental value…such as Palin, campaigning for vice president four years ago.

chaney

Don’t we expect unquestioned integrity from the Secret Service, just as we demand the same from the Navy Seals or the Army’s Delta Force? The whole issue exploded when one agent offered a lady of the evening only $30 for her efforts, when she was expecting $800. Prostitution is legal in Colombia and she immediately complained about non-payment to the gendarmes, which brought investigators to the Hotel Caribe in Cartagena and shortly thereafter the story to computer screens and the remaining newsstands around the world.

Another lesson is this simple and unexpected story has “legs” and we are not talking about Palin’s wheels or those of the sex workers in Colombia. We are talking about embarrassment to the agency and the White House in a political year. We are talking about congressional committees. We are talking about marauding reporters. Simple, unexpected and a growing cast of characters with new news angles virtually every day all lead to a story with legs.

And it continued today as Connecticut Senator Joseph Liebermann summed it up: “The White House advance person knows exactly where the president is going to be at any time. If anybody thinking the worst wanted to attack the president of the United States, one of the ways he might find out the path that he would follow in Cartagena is by compromising White House advance personnel.”

Instead of strictly concentrating on protecting the nation’s chief executive in a historically dangerous country, some of our “wheels up, rings off” heroes were visiting the “Play Room” in Cartagena and bringing their special friends back to their Hotel Caribe rooms. Conceivably the president’s itinerary could have been spread out on hotel tables or even night stands. Think about it: This story could have been worse, much worse.

The advent of social media – blogging, webcasting, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Flickr, Pinterest and many, many more – allows us as communication choreographers to enhance an individual or organizational reputation and brand with unprecedented speed and extent in record time. These same tools can feed the human inclination toward negativity, destroying or severely harming a reputation and/or brand even faster.

Does David Chaney wish that he had never had typed those 12 simple words onto his Facebook page? Think of it, compose 12 words and you are toast.

Does the Secret Service agent with flexible morals wish that he had fully compensated his love rental for the evening instead of insulting her by only offering $30? One would think so.

Has the Secret Service taken a severe hit to its reputation and brand, one that may take literally years, if not decades, to repair? That is clearly the case…if you know what I mean.

http://www.ajc.com/news/nation-world/obama-briefed-as-secret-1423377.html

http://photos.denverpost.com/mediacenter/2012/04/photos-the-image-of-secret-service-agent-david-chaney-and-sarah-palin-is-denver-posts/33845/

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/national/dirty_little_secret_6QBSk49hscdXUEwqchjxJK

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/OTUS/palin-drawn-secret-service-scandal/story?id=16179857

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/post/the-secret-service-had-the-worst-week-in-washington/2012/04/22/gIQAna6qZT_blog.html?wpisrc=nl_politics

%d bloggers like this: