Tag Archive: TED Talk


It’s not whose army wins, it’s also whose story wins. And we have to think more about narratives and whose narrative is going to be the most effective.” – Harvard Kennedy School Political Science Professor Joseph Nye, 2010 TED Talk

The U.S. ranks No. 1 for Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at $18.56 trillion, and holds the top position in The National Brand Index.

When it comes to “hard power,” including its military and its economy, the U.S. has no rivals … at least for the immediate future.

Despite these clear hard-power advantages, the U.S. reportedly spent $670 million for “public diplomacy” in 2014, according to George Washington University professor of political science David Shambaugh.

In contrast, China spends $10 billion annually to project itself as a “soft power.”

China as a soft power? In essence, the answer is affirmative. China recognizes it needs more than the collective power of its 1.37 billion people, its second-ranking $11.39 trillion economy, and its growing military strength. China is trying to promote its distinct culture, its language and market its country as a place to invest and visit.

The aforementioned Professor Nye is widely credited with formulating the notion of “soft power” or projecting what you have in terms of culture, language, business, tourism etc. to those who may want the same.

Some contend as mentioned in the stately The Economist that a totalitarian state (e.g., China) may not effectively exhibit soft power as it may be interpreted as single-party propaganda. And yet China created The Confucius Institute in 2004 to entice the appreciation of its culture, to lure hundreds of thousands to study its difficult language and visit and invest in China.

Is the Politburo in Beijing trying to buy love?

From The Devastation of War, Occupation, Division and the Holocaust

The activities of the Goethe Institut improve Germany’s reputation abroad, enhance the quality of German-language teaching, contribute to the development of the German language, promote German artists worldwide, and attract talented youth and professionals to Germany.” – Tatiana Lanshina, “The Goethe Institute and Soft Power”

Germany experimented twice in “hard power” in the 20th Century … and lost big time, both times.

In 1951, Germany’s public relations (Öffentlichkeitsarbeit) were understandably at an all-time low … most likely the deepest nadir experienced by any country at any time. Interest in German Kultur, Sprache and Land was close to nil.

These facts did not stop Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and the German government from creating the Goethe Institut in 1951. The mission of this 350-Euro non-profit organization, drawing the majority of its funds from the German foreign ministry, was to use the forgiveness of time to eventually and systematically regain interest in Das Land in der Mitte (The country in the middle of Europe).

Fast forward to today, Germany is No. 2 in the National Brand Index trailing only the United States. The country’s transformation from an international pariah to revered is nothing less than a public relations miracle (Öffentlichkeitsarbeitswunder).

The author of Almost DailyBrett has a framed Goethe Institut Zertifikat B1 for German language study in his office at Central Washington University. Is the Goethe Institut solely responsible for Germany’s resurrection? Of course not.

There are many other determinants including the reunification, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Economic Miracle, the Marshall Plan, Made in Germany, four World Cup wins, German business success, Germany’s hegemony in the European Union, the popularity of Angela Merkel and many other factors.

Germany understands more than other nations that hard power is not the answer. China obviously appreciates this fact as well. Ditto France with its Alliance Francaise, Italy with its Societa Dante Alighieri, Great Britain with its British Council, Spain with its Instituto Cervantes and Portugal with its Instituto Camoes.

All of the above brings up the obviously question: Who and what projects “soft power” for the United States? One other question: Are we satisfied with the answers?

Donald Trump, Hollyweird, American Media?

Certainly, the U.S. is nowhere near the lousy image that Germany endured – and still suffers – as a result of the 12 years of Hitler and the Nazis. Nonetheless, the U.S. image at home and abroad is less than ideal regardless of the nation’s military and economic hard-power advantages and the country’s number one ranking in the National Brand Index.

Who sets the tone for the United States of America?

Try traveling abroad and see how many times you are asked about Donald Trump once it becomes known that you reside in the Land of Uncle Sam? Does the intemperate, nocturnal Tweeter-in-Chief send the best of image of the red, white and blue across the fruited plain and across the ponds?

How about Hollyweird and the denizens of the TMZ?

The entertainment industry can’t even deliver the right envelope for its biggest announcement of the year (e.g., Oscar for Best Picture) at its most celebrated venue (e.g., The 2017 Academy Awards). Do we really want to entrust our soft power to this motley crew?

When it comes to our elite media, the American public sold the stock and voted them out of office. According to Gallup, the Woodward & Bernstein media of 1976 enjoyed a 72 percent approval rating. Last year, the same polling firm recorded a 32 percent approval rating for the boys and girls of the Fourth Estate, a 55.5 percent decline in the last 40 years.

If the American public is turned off by our nattering nabobs of negativism, why would those beyond our borders respect their interpretations of American soft power?

Maybe the time has come for a non-profit, soft-power Mark Twain, Will Rogers or some other American literary giant institute to celebrate American culture (e.g., baseball, hot dogs and apple pie), our unique take on the English language, and the USA as a wonderful place for investment and tourism?

Or maybe we can instead just leave the task to Donald Trump, Hollyweird and the failing American elite media?

https://www.economist.com/news/china/21719508-can-money-buy-sort-thing-china-spending-billions-make-world-love-it

http://www.ted.com/talks/joseph_nye_on_global_power_shifts

http://www.demdigest.net/tag/soft-power/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucius_Institute

https://www.goethe.de/en/index.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/02/25/enemy-of-the-american-people/

http://www.gallup.com/poll/195542/americans-trust-mass-media-sinks-new-low.aspx

 

 

We gotta flip the script on what a gangsta is – if you ain’t a gardener, you ain’t gangsta.” – South Central Los Angeles community gardener/TED Talk sensation Ron Finleyfinley

Everyone still talks about Steve Jobs.

And why wouldn’t they? He invented the Apple II, Macintosh PC, first modern laptop, iPod, iPhone, iPad and iCloud before the Grim Reaper came-a-calling way too early. Heck, he was born only 18 days before little ole me, but accomplished oh-so-much more in his lifetime … kind of humbling.

From a communications standpoint, Jobs also pioneered (or was generally given credit for) the speaking style consisting of an iconic black turtleneck, ill-fitting jeans, tennis shoes, a lavaliere microphone, clicker/pointer, absolutely no speaker notes and of course, a professorial PowerPoint presentation.

Advanced Apple class was in session and you were lucky to attend.

Will Jobs go down in history as one of the greatest-ever orators? Probably not.

Were his audiences (e.g., Macworld) almost cult-like in their devotion of everything and anything, Apple? Is Pope Francis, Catholic?

And yet his presentations worked, and they worked big time.jobswithipad

The Steve Jobs-presentation method was a welcome departure from the stale, dry, boring, tried-and-true (usually an) hombre in a Brooks Brothers suit with a white shirt and red tie standing behind a podium and worst of all, reading to an audience. The real question each and every time with this tired approach is whether the listeners stop listening before the speaker stops speaking?

Better take the “under” on that bet.

The author of Almost DailyBrett has little, if no patience with telemarketers calling at precisely the wrong time of the day or night (which would be any time), and most of all reading over the phone with my name inserted into a prescribed point of the marketing pitch. Please, don’t read to me.

Okay reading from a text may be a necessary evil for the State of the Union Address, but keep in mind we are talking about reading from a teleprompter and not gazing down at a text. Think of it this way: Reading from a script is just so 20th Century.

Which brings us to Ron Finley and community gardening or as he so eloquently implores: “Plant some shit.”

Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS)

“If kids grow kale, kids eat kale. It they grow tomatoes, they eat tomatoes.” – Ron Finley February 2013 Long Beach, California TED Talk

Can’t help but show Finley’s 10:45-minute presentation to my public relations and advertising students. Maybe without knowing it, Finley tinkered with venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 rule (e.g., 10 slides, 20 minutes, 30-point font) and made it work for him … and most of all, for his audience. The video of his TED talk went viral with more than 2.35 million page views and counting.

“Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city … plus you get strawberries.”

The PowerPoint slides are not particularly spiffy, but that really doesn’t matter. The photos of smiling kids beside sun flowers and vegetables tell the story. You are not expecting a polished presentation and in many respects Finley’s talk is better because you instinctively know it is genuine and not designed by a skilled Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) firm.

He weaves humor into his story, but also the chilling reality about how “drive-thrus” are responsible for more deaths in South Central Los Angeles than “drive-bys.” Presumably, he appeals to liberals because he talks about how residents came together to plant community gardens. Conceivably, he draws positive attention from conservatives with his entrepreneurial spirit and his defiance of an unthinking, uncaring overbearing regulatory bureaucracy (e.g., The City of Los Angeles), which issues him a citation and threatens him with an arrest warrant, if he does not pull out his city parkway garden.

“Cool. Bring it. Because this time it (the garden) wasn’t coming up.”

Ron Finley, renegade gardener, on stage at TED2013

Ron Finley, renegade gardener, on stage at TED2013

Finley uses the classic marketing approach to address the issue of dearth of healthy nutrition choices, which is so beautiful in its simplicity: Here is the problem (food deserts) and here is a solution (planting vegetables and fruits along unused median strips in South Central).

“The problem is the solution. Food is the problem. Food is a solution.”

Does Ron Finley have glossophobia or the fear of public speaking? Not a chance. He seemed very comfortable speaking to the TED Talk crowd, which rewarded him with a standing ovation.

Wonder if he would have generated the same response, if he tried to read to the audience? That’s the point: The Jobs presentation method, TED Talks and the Ron Finley approach rely on holding a conversation with the audience with the linear PowerPoint slides mainly serving as prompts.

The net result is a presentation that is natural, conversational, genuine and which invites two-way symmetrical communications.

Sounds so 21st Century to Almost DailyBrett.

http://www.ted.com/talks/ron_finley_a_guerilla_gardener_in_south_central_la?language=en

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323699704578326840038605324?mg=id-wsj

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/05/fashion/urban-gardening-an-appleseed-with-attitude.html?_r=0

http://ronfinley.com/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtBpZltfR7o

https://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Steve_Jobs

 

“Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.” – Winston Churchill

It (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speech) called into question the efficacy of any deal the administration might strike with Iran over its nuclear program; it likely renewed momentum for another round of Iranian sanctions on the Hill; it positioned the GOP politically as the party more worried about Israeli security, and, despite the White House’s best efforts, made the president appear petty and churlish.” – James Oliphant, National Journalbibicongress

To Almost DailyBrett, it appears to be a new dawn of pettiness.

What happened to taking the high road?

How about some Churchillian “tact”?

Seems like all the above is in short supply these days.

Drifting Further Apart

Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.” – Clint Eastwood as “Dirty Harry”

Let’s face it: There are 7 billion+ inhabiting our planet and everyone has a derriere and an opinion too.

Some we don’t want to hear; there are just as many that we don’t respect.

In the case of President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, the former made it absolutely clear that he tuned out the speech of the latter. Aren’t the U.S. and Israel strategic, democratic “allies”?

The reason for the presidential tune-out? The former (e.g., executive branch) didn’t invite the latter to speak before a joint session of Congress (e.g., legislative branch). They (e.g., Obama and Netanyahu) also don’t like each other … pass the sand shovels and plastic buckets.

Is the White House’s behavior “petty and churlish?” The answer is “yes” according to one major publication and presumably others think so as well.

There is the far more important global issue of Israel’s survival and whether or not the warm-and-fuzzy Mullahs of Iran gets their hands on nuclear bombs.

There is also the mounting inability-to-converse behavior that is being exhibited as we seemingly grow further apart, even as technology is rapidly improving our ability to instantaneously “communicate.”

“Alone Together”

The Economist in its cover story this week, “Planet of the phones,” reported the 2 billion smart phones in circulation right now will grow to 4 billion in just five years-time. The stately British newspaper also projected that 80 percent of adults will have smart phones by 2020 as Moore’s Law holds sway and the number of apps/features doubles each-and-every 18-24 months.

The computing/communicating power of these hand-held mobile devices is awesome. What is not so fantabulous is how these devices in far too many ways help us in avoiding each other. M.I.T. Professor Sherry Turkle wrote her latest book: “Alone Together, What We Expect From Technology and Less From Each Other.”turkle

Taking a page from Rene Descartes and moving it to the 21st Century, Turkle told a recent TED Talk Conference (Technology, Entertainment and Design) that the new mantra very well could be: “I connect, therefore I am.”

And while we are digitally connected, we can avoid analog interaction (e.g., actual conversation) with others … and best of all, we conquer our fear of being alone. Yes we are in the presence of our fellow humans, but alas they have their faces buried in their smart-phone screen just as we do.

Is the barista taking too long making your grande no-whip mocha?

Do you feel alone?

Do you feel exposed?

Quick: Pull out your smart phone.

Turkle also said the smart-phone obsessed have a solution for being in the same room with those, who they may not want to know. It’s called the Goldilocks Effect for the Alone Together crowd, all present, but at the same time not there: “Not too close. Not too far. Just right.”

Maybe President Obama could have stopped by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress, and brought along his Blackberry? He could have texted, surfed golf course websites for tee times, checked his approval ratings etc. He would have been there, and yet not been there at the same time. Perfect.

From a public relations standpoint, his press secretary could proclaim the president while irked by the proceedings and the message was big enough to be there … even though he was mentally elsewhere.

Aren’t there executives who claim to be listening at board meetings, while they are texting at the same time, the ultimate in multi-tasking? Why can’t the über-chief executive do exactly the same thing?

At least the National Journal would not be accusing him of being petty and churlish.

http://www.nationaljournal.com/white-house/netanyahu-delivers-just-what-obama-feared-20150303

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/congress/obama-aide-calls-netanyahu-visit-destructive-to-relations/2015/02/25/1f1d5b0c-bce6-11e4-9dfb-03366e719af8_story.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/netanyahus-churchillian-warning/2015/03/05/60ae7fd4-c366-11e4-9ec2-b418f57a4a99_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/33365-tact-is-the-ability-to-tell-someone-to-go-to

 

 

 

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