Archive for the ‘Integrated Marketing’ Category

How can a new government organize to communicate a new America? Here is a bold way to consider. 

President Eisenhower established the United States Information Agency (USIA) during his administration. For 46 years, the United States had a rock-solid marketing and public relations organization within the government. But it was eventually eliminated as a part of a budget-cutting move.

The USIA was separate from the Department of State and other intelligence-gathering government agencies in order to communicate the “the idea of America” without partisan policy influence. It established libraries containing American books and other literary materials in major cities around the world. It distributed films, sponsored musicians and artists, provided scholars and expert speakers, and set up student exchanges. It also created the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Fee Europe, both of which quickly became the worldwide trusted voice of unbiased news.

After the USIA was eliminated, many of its activities were moved inside the Department of State. But here it was quickly understaffed and underfunded, and the U.S. lost the most effective communication operation this country ever had. Former Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, in his recent book Exercise of Power, complains that the U.S. still fails to invest enough in strategic communication.

So I suggest that the next White House administration build an updated version of the USIA, adding a domestic component to its former international operation… using, of course, the most up-to-date of marketing and communication technology, strategies, and tactics.

A new and expanded USIA would be a really bold way to announce that America is back… developing brand messaging that is energizing and forward looking; working with citizen groups to solve racism and policing problems; dealing with America’s shortcomings credibly and candidly; reporting good and bad news objectively around the world; showing off our talented artists, scholars and experts; and making the case for an exciting new breed of American global leadership.




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Make good trouble” was John Lewis’s simple advice to his followers. In addition to all of his incredible civil rights accomplishments, Lewis was instinctively a natural communicator:

  1. He established national, and eventually international, prominence by coining simpleauthentic, and quotable phrases. 
  2. He constantly interacted personally and through media with his followers… which no doubt caused them to feel they helped shape his story.
  3. Therefore, his followers were always happy to help spread his simple messages. Even in this confusing information-saturated world, word-of-mouth remains the most powerful of all communication tools.
  4. Television news coverage of the violence that was perpetrated on Lewis’s nonviolent marchers insured an emotional impact with a very large audience. But it also insured that this TV footage would also become part of the archive of American history.
  5. Yes, John Lewis would become one of the most effective civil rights advocates the world has ever seen… and he would accomplish it partly because he was also a master communicator.

I spent an entire career communicating institutions, and then teaching and writing about what I learned: The most important lesson about leadership communication was that it must never be about “spinning,” or exaggerated promises. Just as John Lewis did, messaging should always be about finding what is truly authentic about the moment, and then finding the best simple way to express it. 

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As a professor of strategic communication I have written about marketing politics and the communication issues related to effective governance. As an analyst, I have blamed both parties for polarizing and paralyzing congress, and the president for endlessly tweeting with self-serving lies and exaggerations that confuse the world.  

Personally, I have been conservative when it comes to fiscal matters, but find many social programs necessary for a democracy. And I think that regulations that protect the public health are critically important. A leaner more efficient government also makes sense to me, but this must be achieved with great care. Campaigning can be partisan, but governance cannot. It must be more pragmatic.

This administration has taught us that reducing the size of government cannot be abrupt, mindless and partisan. But I have come to believe that government can be leaner and more efficient. Eliminating positions can be done very carefully, as can eliminating programs or departments. Adding and merging programs can be done just as carefully, with every effort made to find important places for current talented and experienced professionals. Only experienced people should be recruited for important cabinet positions, and all of this can happen so everyone can work from the same policy message page. Achieving all this will be the big challenge for a new administration.

In the final analysis, a new America will require a leaner, efficiently restructured administration. It will also require a well-staffed, talented, and totally professional communication support organization. “Marketing A New America” will be the topic of my next post. Stay tuned.


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Fixing our broken nation will require a new president with a much more “democratic” leadership style.

The new president will need to bring back experienced professionals in the state department, the justice department, the FBI, the CIA, and other government departments and institutions, along with a commitment that they are there to bring their best judgement to solving the nation’s problems. International treaties and alliances will also need to be renegotiated with many countries, especially Russia, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and China.

But just as important… the new president will need to establish a very high level and modern strategic communication department in the White House, with all the talent and media tools necessary to bring people together around the founding ideas of this unique nation.

Elements of a Modern Strategic Communication Plan

Understanding the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence is absolutely necessary: For example, these ideas are central:

“…all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness… whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it.”

And these documents also demonstrate the concern the founders had about the danger of foreign influence, and the autocratic control of a king.

The Importance of Identity Messaging

While fixing domestic policy, foreign relationships, and daily operations is critically important, the American public will very quickly need to learn about a well thought out process for developing new national identity language and nationwide participation in real problem-solving.

Participation and Integration

Authenticity and transparency will be essential for lasting credibility. Therefore, effective communication will require the best thinking of extremely well-informed opinion leaders in the White House, government departments, civil-service institutions, cultural and educational institutions, local and global nonprofits, and citizen participation groups in every state. Their involvement, word-of-mouth enthusiasm, and the simultaneous use all media platforms, will generate the daily intensity and visibility necessary to unify and re-energize our beloved American experiment.

Thus, a new participation-oriented president, using today’s media to get the whole nation talking, may be all that’s needed to restore democracy… and also reestablish America’s leadership role in the world.  


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Will colleges and universities come back as completely different institutions? Here is a list of possible changes some administrators are already considering: A freeze on new hires; reduction of benefits; elimination of programs and research projects; voluntary and involuntary salary reductions; merit raise freezes; closure of buildings; modifying fundraising expectations; specific uses of endowment funds; continued use of remote on-line technology for teaching and support staff; easing of admissions requirements; tuition freezes and reductions; mergers with other institutions; partnerships with community colleges; cutting travel for business and conferences; becoming more global through on-line interactions; planning for anticipated reductions in government underwriting, financial aid, and research; holding the entire fall semester on-line; cancelling fall completely and starting up again in 2021.

Can intercollegiate sports as we knew them be brought back? Here are some administrative worries: Filling stadiums when that revenue is required; reevaluating income potential from luxury suites, reserved parking, and premium seating packages; holding on to needed television and radio revenue; dealing with huge head coach and assistant coach salaries; finding alternatives to funding minor sports from major sports revenues; cancelling some sports temporarily, or completely; effectively utilizing first-class stadiums originally built to provide more income options, attract star athletes, and accommodate premium level donors; dealing with lingering COVID-19 fears; handling any continuing NCAA player and coach violations; recovering from a conference decision to cancel the fall season; considering the possibility of increasing public interest in club sports.

Specific vulnerabilities will determine each college’s fate. Some will survive major changes… and others might not.

  • taken from a scan of The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Education, University World News, and thoughts from my 50 year career in higher education.  

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Are Democrats positioned to win the 2020 election? Here is what the party should have done before the primary season ever began:

  1. The national party should have begun with a “nation branding” statement about the founding of America, their vision for how to unite the country, and steps to recapture world leadership.
  2. Basic talking points should have been written early on about why the current president must not be re-elected. These should have been used by every Democrat all season long.
  3. Each candidate’s team should have been asked to shout the party’s branding statement and never-Trump talking points at every event.
  4. Each team’s plan for addressing bread and butter issues would still have been central to the campaign… i.e. healthcare, climate change, middle class wages, education, safety, energy, etc.
  5. Town hall briefings, covered by news media, should have replaced the crowded and too frequent debates.
  6. National debates between front runners could still be staged later in the spring.
  7. And criteria could still be developed to determine exactly what it will take to win, and also get things done.

Without this kind of coordinated planning can Democrats still get their act together? Maybe so. But my analysis suggests that party leadership and democrats everywhere should be worried.      

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Recent debates introduced talented candidates to the American people. But these entertaining TV shows did not determine who is capable of winning a general election. In the end, impractical program proposals are simply not likely to find the needed support.

Also, cries in the House of Representatives to impeach the president will likely lead to very little. The Mueller report, however, yielded enough evidence of corruption and White House misdeeds to be helpful in a general election.

With all this in mind, here is a game-plan for winning:

  1. This general election will require the winning candidate to be realistic about what can actually get done. Eventually, this will mean compressing the best primary election ideas into one compelling, future-shaping theme.
  2. That said, I believe that preparing for this election will first require conducting focus groups in each major market to develop and refine market-specific messaging. Mueller report material can and should be an important part of this message development.
  3. Each of these groups should include grassroots opinion leaders, not just people with fancy titles. And campaign facilitators should listen for new and imaginative phrases to use in ads and materials.
  4. After each session, the best and most experienced campaign thinkers, writers, and graphic artists should gather together to clarify what was said. Graphic artists should be included because how words and images come together can make all the difference. Authentic and imaginative materials in new and traditional media will be needed to win.
  5. Individual focus group results, together with the best primary election ideas, should now make it possible to shape an authentic and winning overall campaign theme.

I believe that an “integrated marketing” approach that includes grassroots participation in message development will be the best way to win the presidency in 2020.

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If you think an autocracy is not right for America, here are some strategies and tactics that could be used when carrying out “congressional oversight:”

  1. The Mueller Report provides enough material to support both a “foreign government collusion” and an “obstruction of justice” investigation. So hold a series of “public reviews” under a simple theme like, “Congressional Oversight Review.”
  2. Make an annotated list of those already indicted and/or headed to prison, those who are still under investigation in the southern district of New York or elsewhere, and those in cabinet positions with ethics violations pending. Tell each of these stories in some detail during the oversight reviews.
  3. Identify the key findings that the Mueller report intended for congressional review. Select committee members and other available witnesses to give reports on each finding during the reviews.
  4. Now design a comprehensive strategic communication plan to roll out review conclusions, a few at a time. Include big ads in key states and other markets, and social media messages strategically targeted to selected voter groups.
  5. During these roll-outs, the presidential candidates must keep their campaigns focused on their programs for improving job and career opportunities, access to quality healthcare, access to quality education, training programs for an automation-changed workforce, etc.
  6. Most importantly, candidates must stress their biggest and best idea for the future… the one that differentiates them from the rest. In this age of imagery, they must also come off personally as the one voters simply admire and trust the most.

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Recent media revolutions gave leaders powerful new media tools. Businesses, social services, NGOs, museums, arts organizations, universities, schools, governments, and causes everywhere, all can now reach their audiences directly and powerfully. But these same revolutions also changed how their audiences receive information, making successful communication even more complicated.

So with chaos and division continuing in American society, I decided it is time to review some of the communication challenges today’s leaders are facing:

  • Communication break down is inevitable. People simply hear what they want.
  • There are new and powerful media tools available, but choosing the best ones for each audience is complicated, and requires constant feedback.
  • At the same time, consumers are learning that many of these tools are proving to be time wasters, potentially isolating, and sometimes even psychologically harmful.
  • So speaking to public groups and appearing on television continues to be important. And each has its own performance requirement.
  • Speaking in public requires projecting vitality. Talking on television requires a more conversational tone. And social media platforms require clear and concise writing.
  • To get through to overloaded audiences, messages must be simple… and examples must be emotionally compelling.
  • And the deluge of messages, news stories, and competitor attacks, tends to give charges of “fake news” an air of credibility.
  • Therefore, issues and crises become difficult to manage. Getting facts out quickly and repeating them often, is a must.
  • A reputation-defining institutional identity must become an often repeated central message.
  • Innovation and bold creative initiatives help achieve visibility.
  • Today’s audiences want their hope restored. Forward-looking ideas and values are essential.
  • Good relationships with key journalists are important, especially when dealing with issues and crises.
  • Managing groups skillfully is necessary to get everyone “on the same page.” Word-of-mouth support still makes all the difference.
  • Partnerships and allies with shared interests are powerful forces for rebuilding credibility.
  • Dealing with internal politics to build team support is mandatory… especially now.

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We live in dangerous times. Just how critical is the U.S. role in maintaining world peace? Is it not likely that another world war will incinerate much of the planet? Is isolationism even an option any more? If the U.S. does not step up and lead the world with unifying ideas, then who will? And will we like the answer?

Here’s the problem. A “me first”stance in any communication creates division. It also creates division in world leadership. And when presidential rhetoric is embarrassingly self-congratulatory, the result can be a permanent barrier to any genuine collaboration. This is simply how communication works.

Allies will react defensively. They will eventually look for and find new collaborators. Lasting leadership requires win-win strategies. Liberty and justice for all are win-win ideas… as are individual freedom, equal opportunity, and world peace. But these are not compatible with ego-driven leadership.

The fact is that both institutions and nations share similar brand identity characteristics. Pride in association is the essential motivator. Win-win initiatives are basic to sustainable success. Unifying brands don’t just fall out of ego-driven heads. To endure, everything must be authentic.

Bottom line: The founding “idea of America” is authentic… and the world needs it now more than ever. But arrogance and isolationism have us neutralized, and any declared win with regard to North Korea will not mean we can sleep better.

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