Archive for July, 2016

Watching the current chaotic and confused political party conventions I found myself recalling how I felt on July 4th.

I had spent the day listening to eloquent speeches, captivating patriotic music, and watching amazing fireworks with great pride. But I could not help but worry about the long-term consequences of our mean-spirited polarized politics and the recent frightening increases in terrorist assaults.

“You have a republic if you can keep it,” said Ben Franklin. So in the midst of celebrating our independence I found myself asking: “What can we do in these volatile times to keep it?”

Somehow I found myself recalling a project I had the pleasure of directing at Texas Christian University called The Commission on the Future of TCU.” We recruited a highly visible volunteer chair along with experienced opinion leaders from all segments of the university and community. These participants served an entire year on 18 different task forces and were asked to help clarify the university’s competitive advantage, articulate an appropriate vision, and make suggestions for what needed to be done to secure a strong future. The result was that 75% of the commission’s suggestions became a reality.

On this day, and again during the recent party conventions, I wondered if this commission concept could be modified to develop a meaningful plan for the future of America?

For example, could a U.S. president form such a nonpartisan commission successfully, or is this a project for a former president, or a respected think tank, or an especially created nonprofit institute?

I pondered how it would work for participants to be asked to clarify America’s competitive advantage, restate its core values, articulate a strong future vision, and make suggestions for how to proceed. Task-forces could be formed around urgent needs such as jobs, defense, political process reform, healthcare, energy, foreign policy, terrorism, and so on.

It seems to me that what America needs now is a basic, non-partisan, straightforward strategic plan. I believe that even if it didn’t work miracles it certainly could educate large numbers of people about the possibilities, and result in a dedicated group of leaders committed to making some really good things happen.



Read Full Post »


Read Full Post »

There is a gathering this week in New York City of the leaders of the education advancement professions. They are the strategic communicators, marketers, alumni relations directors, government affairs professionals, and fundraisers for educational institutions around the world.

They are meeting at a time when dramatic sea changes are coming in their industry, and at a time when volatile events are begging for their institutions to deliver on their potential for community and world problem-solving.

Their institutions are in a state of transition because of government role changes and cutbacks, a digital technology revolution that is changing both how we teach and how we communicate institutions, and the pervasive economic influences of globalization.

Their success is imperative because the world desperately needs their institutions to be in position to improve cross-cultural understanding at a time of widespread conflict, develop talented and global-minded leaders, and make research and consulting experts available to address the world’s most pressing problems.

To ready their institutions for this new day they will need to prepare people internally and externally for this coming change, adapt strategic communication and marketing initiatives to a more global environment, cultivate the help of local and remote alumni and parents, deal with government changes both local and foreign, adapt to changing student migration patterns and faculty career opportunities, and find new sources of financial support while holding on to current ones.

The stakes are high. The world needs these colleges, universities and schools on solid ground now more than ever. And surviving the unique challenges of this transition will require leadership at all levels.

It may be surprising to hear me argue that it’s the advancement professionals who will have the most urgent leadership responsibilities and opportunities of all. This is because the future success of these institutions will be completely dependent on confronting and solving these absolutely essential and complicated communication, marketing and funding challenges.

Read Full Post »

Have you seen and heard CNN’s “Trump Rocks Cleveland” spot? My first reaction was: “Since when did you go beyond handing this candidate free exposure every time he made outlandish remarks to become his pro bono advertising agency?”

Then I saw a spot on a local Dallas news channel with fast-paced dramatically edited coverage of the street cop killings set to dramatic music. This time I thought: “Is this hype necessary right now?”

After analyzing the TV coverage of recent protests, demonstrations, shootings and terrorist attacks, I believe that endless dramatic images of potentially volatile events are likely to reinforce previous biases and positions, and that constant repetition of those images eventually will increase anger which often can lead to violent behavior in a significant number of people. And at minimum, all this is likely to produce greater polarization, wider divisions, and a climate that makes constructive collaboration almost impossible.

Of course, TV news is not the only villain. Many politicians, pundits, protest leaders, and angry citizens are at fault too. But have we not reached the point where we can at least ask that the TV coverage intensity of potentially volatile events be significantly lowered in favor of more basic matter-of-fact reporting?

And is it also not time for national and local media to focus more on reporting about groups with constructive solutions and the community leaders who are proposing them?


Read Full Post »

A professor of mine some years ago argued that the news media set the social agenda and our peers determine our beliefs, reactions and actions. But many in the news media argue to the contrary that society’s leaders determine the agenda and journalists just report the events.

The horrible events resulting in the death of 5 police officers in Dallas this week had cable news pundits talking. Some blamed today’s polarized attack-style debating as keeping the kind of leadership we need from emerging.  If this is the case, who should fix it?

Could it be that the news media themselves reward outrageous attacks with big headlines and continuous coverage and therefore share some blame in accelerating angry responses? And could it also be that any leader trying to be sensible about addressing social issues will not get the coverage he or she needs to be effective?

That said, can Dallas become the lesson that persuades some media organizations to step out and assert that they indeed will put critical issues at the top of their agenda and will reward those with viable solution-based ideas with the coverage they need and deserve?

And furthermore, since our most critical issues are community-based (poverty, policing, homegrown terrorism, public health, etc.) is this not a real opportunity for local news organizations to downplay the sensational stories that have become the focus of too many, and finally become the constructive problem-solving forces their citizens need most?

Read Full Post »

The recent rash of terrorist bombings raises questions once again about the impact of TV when covering violent events.  Certainly 24/7 cable’s non-stop breaking news reporting gives terrorists the terror-producing publicity they seek. But it’s also true that the public needs information about what is going on.

It is a perplexing problem. How much does dramatic TV coverage of terrorist attacks give the public essential information, and how much inspires more terrorism?

For example, does constantly saying “this is the worst mass killing in US history” repeat important information or mostly just enhance the dramatic effect? Or is this the best time to have partisan legislators argue the gun issue on TV?  Or does continuous dramatic repetition of the violence play too much into the hands of the terrorists? Or is labeling every minor update more “breaking news” really helpful?

Since the stakes are so incredibly high is it asking too much for television reporters to tone down the words they choose, use caution in how and where they point their cameras, edit scenes more carefully, and exercise more repetition restraint? I understand this request is asking a lot from a medium that is inherently dramatic. Keeping an audience emotionally connected is good for business. But it’s difficult to ignore the possibility that continuous dramatic coverage of terrorist attacks is a strong factor in producing more terror.

That said, I must also call once again for more media consumer education in public schools, community groups, associations, and in our homes. In this digital TV and social media world news consumers simply must become better editors and critics of what they consume… and they must also come to understand how media revolutions have changed them and their society.


Read Full Post »