Tag Archive: Wikipedia


There was a decade when giants walked.

These were days when governments and societies for the most part worked. These were days when a wall came down, and the guns went silent. These were the days when 19 million jobs were created, the greatest peacetime employment expansion in American history. These were days when just plain living was a “good thing” as Martha would say.G7worldleaders

Almost DailyBrett will never be accused of being warm and fuzzy, romantic or even nostalgic. There is no desire to turn back the clock, but there is an almost daily longing to go Back to the Future (1985 film) and see what we can learn from the 1980s.

The 1980s began with 52 Americans being held hostage in Iran and ended with the Berlin Wall coming down and the successful culmination of the Cold War.

Some closer to home even dared to utter that it was “Morning in America.” Can you imagine saying that today?

There is no such thing as a perfect society and there never will be, but the 1980s gave us a peek into what we can do, if we can compromise, respect other opinions and work together.

“Bygone Bipartisanship”

“Why won’t our leaders work to accommodate each other, employing civility as they cooperate to accomplish goals in the country’s best interests? What in our national character, in the ways we choose to deal with one another and respect different viewpoints, has changed so much since the days of Reagan and O’Neill? How can we win back the faith that our republic is working?” – Chris Matthews, staffer to former House Speaker Tip O’Neill.reagantip

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews wrote his 2013 best seller, “Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked” about the relationship between a Republican president and a Democratic speaker of the house that were mirror philosophical opposites of each other, but managed to work together to improve America.

Even with Paul Ryan coming aboard as Speaker of the House are we in any way more confident that Congress and the incumbent president can put together enough votes and good will to do anything other than raising the debt limit to $20 trillion?

Going back to the future, to the 1980s, Ronald Reagan was president, Margaret Thatcher was prime minster, Mikhail Gorbachev was general secretary and Helmut Kohl was Kanzler. Would we trade Barack Obama, David Cameron, Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel for their aforementioned predecessors?

Wouldn’t we certainly like to see bare-chested Putin ride his horse into the sunset?

Reading Kohl’s Vom Mauerfall zur Weiderveinigung: Meine Erinnergungen, one is floored by how Kohl drew an inside straight with Gorbachev barely 50 years after Barbarossa commenced and the Panzers roared into Russia.

KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA. USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev and his spouse Raisa and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, right, have a walk prior to their talks at the resort settlement of Arkhyz on July 16,1990. (Photo ITAR-TASS / Yuri Lizunov and Konstantin Tarusov) Êàðà÷àåâî-×åðêåññêàÿ àâòîíîìíàÿ îáëàñòü. 16 èþëÿ 1990 ãîäà â êóðîðòíîì ïîñåëêå Àðõûç ïðîøëè ïåðåãîâîðû ïðåçèäåíòà ÑÑÑÐ Ìèõàèëà Ñåðãååâè÷à Ãîðáà÷åâà ñ ôåäåðàëüíûì êàíöëåðîì ÔÐà Ãåëüìóòîì Êîëåì. Íà ñíèìêå: Ìèõàèë Ãîðáà÷åâ ñ æåíîé Ðàèñîé Ìàêñèìîâíîé è Ãåëüìóò Êîëü (ñïðàâà) âî âðåìÿ ïðîãóëêè ïåðåä íà÷àëîì ïåðåãîâîðîâ. Ôîòî Þðèÿ Ëèçóíîâà è Êîíñòàíòèíà Òàðóñîâà /Ôîòîõðîíèêà ÒÀÑÑ/.

KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA. USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev and his spouse Raisa and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, right, have a walk prior to their talks at the resort settlement of Arkhyz on July 16,1990. (Photo ITAR-TASS / Yuri Lizunov and Konstantin Tarusov)

All Kohl wanted to do was reunify Germany, expel Soviet troops from former East Germany, enroll a united Germany in the NATO alliance, integrate Germany into the European Union and maintain a defense force of 370,000. Surprisingly, Gorbachev said “da” as Germany promised to monetarily assist with Russia’s perestroika or restructuring program.

One of the key ingredients for Kohl to secure what he wanted for Germany and his place in history was being able to provide Gorbachev with talking points he could use back home in the Rodina. Imagine putting yourself into the other leader’s shoes and helping her or him make the politically tough, but correct choice? Alas, Gorbachev paid the ultimate political price for his courage.

Can anyone conceivably imagine Putin signing off on any of the above or compromising on anything? Heck, Putin and Merkel won’t even speak the same language to each other when they meet. Courage seems to be in short supply these days (not suggesting that Merkel is a shrinking violet).

Looking back at the 1980s, Americans were notorious ticket splitters and reflecting the national mood, more times than naught they gladly re-elected incumbents. Almost DailyBrett can’t forget how Republican Governor George Deukmejian was re-elected with the greatest landslide in blue California’s history with a 61-37 percent margin in 1986, and Democratic Senator Alan Cranston won re-election by a 49-47 percent count on the very same day.

21st Century Filter Bubbles

Contrast the mood in the country and political climate in the mid-1980s with the widespread vitriol, anxiety and angst that is prevalent at this mid-point of the second decade of the 21st Century.

Many have asked the question, what happened (e.g., Chris Matthews)? The more important question is to ask: What can we collectively do to bring back the optimism and achievements of the 1980s?

Are we turning back the clock as the pessimistic pundits would say or are we applying the digital wizardry of the 21st Century to recapture the optimism and best hopes of a not-too-distant time?DSC01433

As PR practitioners, reputation managers, students of global society do we dare appreciate the other team’s point of view? Can political animals read both Karl Rove’s Courage and Consequence and David Axelrod’s Believer and learn something from the two architects of the last four winning presidential campaigns?

Or do we selectively search on Google, Yahoo and Bing for news and information that serves to corroborate our own personal confirmation bias? Some even revert to their crayons, coloring books and play dough when some foreign thought is threatening the filter bubble? Vaccines are really bad; it says so right here on Wikipedia.

Even though the 1980s were not perfect, we know they were a better time, a much better time. Sometimes the best strategy is to take one step back before going two steps forward. Sounds like a tactical retreat, a period of reflection and then moving forward with great vigor to New Frontiers. A little compromise may be in order as well.

Do we have the makings of a 1980s plan?

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

http://www.nytimes.com/1989/01/12/news/transcript-of-reagan-s-farewell-address-to-american-people.html?pagewanted=all

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/24/books/review/tip-and-the-gipper-by-chris-matthews.html?_r=0

http://www.tagesspiegel.de/kultur/alt-kanzler-auf-der-frankfurter-buchmesse-kohl-praesentiert-sein-neues-altes-buch-vom-mauerfall-zur-wiedervereinigung/10812422.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Senate_election_in_California,_1986

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/the-latest-ism/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wikipedia defines the term “Ivory Tower” in the following manner:

“The term Ivory Tower originates in the Biblical Song of Solomon (7,4), and was later used as an epithet for Mary. “From the 19th century it has been used to designate a world or atmosphere where intellectuals engage in pursuits that are disconnected from the practical concerns of everyday life. As such, it usually carries pejorative connotations of a willful disconnect from the everyday world; esoteric, over-specialized, or even useless research; and academic elitism, if not outright condescension. In American English usage it is a shorthand for academia or the university, particularly departments of the humanities.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivory_Tower

In short, the term “Ivory Tower” (and by extension those who reside there pontificate and bloviate to the gathering masses below) is not a positive and in fact it can seen as a repudiation and rejection of the academic world.

So what am I getting to, and why should you even care?

The point is that I have left the so-called “real world” for the perceived ivory-tower academic world. As I walk to-and-from University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication classrooms http://jcomm.uoregon.edu/ for lectures and discussions, I have been wondering whether I am also guilty of living in my very own ivory tower.

hoover

How’s that and what the heck is the reverse ivory tower effect?

It is very easy for someone who spent nearly two decades in California’s Silicon Valley to think that all of the earth’s innovation resides between Fremont on the East and Palo Alto to the West (okay a few nearby places as well). Undoubtedly, the greatest concentration of engineering talent (at least in the United States) is concentrated right there. So do they rule the roost when it comes to devising the next killer app and the next destructive technology? If you ask them, they would be more than happy to respond in the affirmative.

Years before that, I worked at another Ivory Tower, this one with a dome on top of it. As laughable as it may seem to some, there are those in Sacramento (yes, the capitol of the biggest state in the union) that seriously believe the sun, moon, stars and asteroids revolve around this town that would have little reason for being other than it is the state capitol. And if you think the folks in Sacramento have an Ivory Tower complex, then let’s not even contemplate Washington, D.C. even though many are wondering out loud whether government is permanently Balkanized and broken.

sacramento

Did I bring my own personal ivory tower by way of Silicon Valley and Sacramento (and other places) to the academic world? Do I think that just based upon my years and years of experience that I can’t learn anything new?

Harry S. Truman said that he distrusted “experts” because if they learned something they wouldn’t be an expert any longer.

One very reassuring event occurred this week in J350 “Principles of Public Relations” (please do not be the next person to ask me if there are really ‘principles’ in ‘public relations’) Professor Kelli Matthews http://www.linkedin.com/in/kellimatthews was teaching almost 100 undergraduates how to write cover letters and resumes, so they could get their careers off the ground. That doesn’t sound like an ivory tower approach to me. In fact, it sounds very practical and incredibly useful in the face of a very bleak employment picture.

Sure beats answering a Silicon Valley engineer’s question about whether the Wall Street Journal would be interested in covering PCI (Peripheral Computer Interconnect) Express. The answer would be “no.”

Pass the ivory tower.

PR = SG&A?

Speaking before a group of Santa Clara University integrated marketing students recently http://www.scu.edu/, I presented them with an overly simplified but relatively accurate representation of a financial statement for a publicly traded company:

  • Total Revenues: $2.0 billion

–      COGS: $1.0 billion

  • Gross Margin: $1.0 billion

–      SG&A: $300 million

–      R&D: $400 million                  

  • Operating Income: $300 million

–      Income Tax: $50 million

  • Net Income: $250 million.

 

After providing them with a few nanoseconds, I asked the undergrads where does public relations or marketing or brand management fall within this financial statement. The unanimous answer following a bout of serious contemplation was SG&A or Selling General and Administrative. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Financial_statement

I then inquired whether they were comfortable with that answer. What is SG&A? The answer is that selling, general and administrative is an “operating expense” on a financial statement. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SG%26A

Do we really want PR, marketing, brand management, crisis communications etc. to be regarded merely as an “operating expense?” And if we interpret PR as an “operating expense” what will be the view of accountants and controllers in a Finance Department that are looking to control spending and improve the bottom line?

Do we really want to risk having your function zeroed out or greatly diminished in the face of mounting financial pressures? What does that mean in terms of job security?

How about a different way of thinking?

Doesn’t public relations contribute to revenues or the top line? Doesn’t brand management help expand gross margin? Doesn’t marketing play a key role in keeping a company in the black, rather than the red?

Before we go further in this discussion, please keep in mind that public relations/marketing/brand management/social media/crisis communications cannot defy gravity. If customers are retrenching in the face of an economic downturn, if inventory is building rather than declining, then an entire company will be impacted and most likely start reporting red bottom-line numbers.

And also be mindful that PR/Marketing/Branding will most likely always be classified by accounting types as SG&A. Nevertheless that doesn’t have to be our mindset. We need to convince internal decision makers that our responsibilities are not a mere operating expense.

Public relations practitioners can and should always demonstrate ROI or Return on Investment. Our jobs as communicators are not just to spread the good word to external audiences (e.g. customers, suppliers, partners, analysts, editors, bloggers…), but to internal audiences as well. And included in this definition of “internal audiences” are company executives, including the CFO and the company’s Finance Department. Think of it this way, these internal audiences make the hiring and firing decisions and more to the point whether we will receive a paycheck or not.

If the company is publicly traded, then it must report to the SEC and the world. Translated, the company must issue quarterly financial results, pre-announce all “material” differences from prior quarterly guidance, issue an annual report, hold a yearly meeting for shareholders, publicize all major M&A activity, and announce all major executive appointments and restructurings. A good public relations department will know how to effectively manage this information to get maximum mileage out of good news and mitigate the impact of bad news.

Aligning a corporate public relations department with the CFO, Investor Relations, Legal and Corporate Development in not only reporting to the SEC and investors, but becoming an integral part of their daily activities, is battle-tested job protection. We want a seat at the table.

What is the impression of existing customers and prospective customers to a company’s image and products? Obviously, the products have to work and the company needs to execute. Assuming that is the case, then how is the company building and enhancing its reputation? That sounds like an activity that is far more than just SG&A. Is marketing and brand management helping to drive revenues, expand gross margin and contribute to the bottom line? Yes indeed.

We need to document (not exhaustively) what we are doing on behalf of our clients. Whether we like it or not, contributing to our monthly reports should be a daily activity. It is far easier to remember what you did on Monday on that very same Monday, than a month later.  I have always been mystified by those who write their monthly reports two weeks into the new month. How can you accurately recount what you did six weeks earlier, 42 days or more ago?

The bottom line for public relations? Remember ROI, the top-line, gross margin, profitability and stay away from the dreaded SG&A mindsets. Besides who needs career-limiting thinking in this economy?

“With iPods and iPads; and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — (laughter) — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.  So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it’s putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy.” – Barack Obama, Hampton University Commencement, May 9, 2010. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-hampton-university-commencement

The good news for the Leader of the Free World is that he has a 12-year-old daughter (Malia) and a nine-year-old daughter (Sasha) to provide in-(White) house tech support when it comes to using iPods, Xboxes and PlayStations.

Senior public relations practitioners may not be so lucky. Which brings up an interesting question, why are so many in our profession so reluctant about and so resistant to social media, including blogging and podcasting? Deep down is there an inner Luddite that makes many of us resistant to technological change? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luddite

The Economist www.economist.com in its latest iteration has a fascinating commentary, “Don’t Shoot the Messenger” that says that distrust of new technology goes back to the days of Socrates (469 BC to 399 BC) and his fear of writing, which would “create forgetfulness in the learner’s souls.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socrates

During my decade working with engineers at LSI Logic www.lsi.com, I asked them one-by-one why they chose to become technologists (as opposed to journalists and PR hacks). The answer usually went back to the family radio or television. Future senior communicators listened to and/or watched these devices. The future geeks in turn took them apart and checked out the vacuum tubes, the dials, the knobs, the wires and then tried to put them back together again…sometimes successful, sometimes not.

Certainly there are communicators who have been quick to embrace social media and digital tools with gusto. They have more than talked-the-talk, they have become evangelists about blogging, podcasting, webcasting, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, Ding, Dang and whatever is next.

And yet there are timid souls in our ranks (you know who you are) that our desperately clinging to and only relying on (gasp) 20th Century approaches to all PR issues. Consider that they…

● Insist on staging pre-briefings followed by actual on-site briefings with the dwindling number of business and trade reporters and editors, despite the downward trajectory of their readership and the ascension of digital media.

● Devote full-time employees to writing abstracts and contributed articles, drafting “white papers” and op-eds for submittal to publications in decline, thus producing a lower ROI with each cycle.

● Sift through the ed-cals or editorial calendars and then try to devise a pitch that somehow, someway comes reasonably close (at least passing the “giggle test”) to the journalist’s topic. In this case, who is setting the agenda: the journalist or the company?

● Write “press releases,” hold “press conferences” and even invite conventional and digital media to surf their “press” page on their websites. Gee, why don’t they exhume Johannes Gutenberg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Gutenberg to make a presentation of his new invention, the printing press, at the next “press” conference?

● Devise a myriad of excuses for not embracing the blogosphere, and not just the self-publishing of conversational marketing pieces that bolster brand and spread the message, but even monitoring what bloggers are actually writing about a given company or its industry.

● Demonstrate a total disinterest in preparing Wikipedia.org copy about their company, association, organization etc., either leaving a blank canvass in its place or allowing others to take a shot at depositioning their employers.

I can fully appreciate that some may take issue with my prose when it comes to exposing the inner Luddite. Having said that, there is one point that can be made with impunity: More and more publicly traded and privately held companies, trade associations, universities and colleges, non-profits and others will sooner or later spend countless hours figuring out how to make money and/or spread their influence via digital tools. They will also be increasingly interested in harnessing these same technologies to build brand and to get out the good news. This will not be the time or the place for Inner Luddites.

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