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Archive for the ‘Planning’ Category

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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There is a role for everyone to play when it comes to handling situations like we have now. 

We have a spreading pandemic, millions out of work. and constitutionally protected protesters in the streets sometimes indistinguishable from looters and criminals. And in the background we also have a military-obsessed president who rejects science, eliminates public safety regulations, needlessly rounds-up immigrants, ignores obvious climate change, and divides the nation with his dictatorial pronouncements.

News media certainly have a role to play in this scenario. But real change will require the leaders of state and local governments, along with the leaders of federal and non-profit institutions, to use every media platform possible to communicate “save our democracy” themes every day. 

When FDR began his regular radio talks the entire country was in disarray. It was in the midst of a depression, political polarization, and disagreements about the danger to the U.S. of Nazi activities in Germany. He dealt with all this simultaneously by first adding infrastructure projects to give people work, and then gradually bringing them together by reinforcing traditional American values.

1. The White House. To deal effectively with today’s complicated issues, this or another president will have to develop truly meaningful action initiatives and communicate empathetic talking themes every day. These themes and actions must also demonstrate an ability to bring people together to collaborate on solutions.

2. The news business. Skillful journalism can and must clarify issues, suggest ideas, and report events. I have been impressed with New York Times opinion reporter Tom Friedman’s suggestion that Joe Biden appoint his cabinet now so that the voting public can see how our most serious issues will be addressed. But journalist Friedman can only suggest ideas, he cannot implement solutions.

2. Corporations and businesses. Recently my thinking has been influenced by Rebecca Henderson’s book, Re-imagining Capitalism. Today could be a real turning point. Businesses should now be able to be profitable while also  creatively advancing the welfare of their employees, supporting criminal justice movements, and promoting the powerful potential of corporate social responsibility.

3. Political parties. With so many issues causing violence and disruptive national divisions, this is a perfect time for the parties to explain the difference between campaigning on ideology and balance-of-power governance.

4. Think tanks. These institutions are home to intellectuals and officials not currently serving in government. They are perfectly positioned to provide the data necessary for smart problem-solving.

5. Local nonprofits.  These organizations have a special opportunity now to initiate creative projects that enable criminal justice collaborations and improvements.

6. International organizations. Incorporating unity-building themes and projects fit the purposes of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s). These include most professional associations, global banks, management consulting firms, and relief organizations.

7. Universities and colleges. Each president or chancellor should already be explaining the institution’s interest in community service, as well as its potential for helping to bring about cross-cultural understanding. Projects related to leadership development, problem-solving research, conflict management, terrorism, healthcare, climate change, energy, regulation, poverty, immigration, and more, all can help both the local community and world problem-solving

In summary, major crisis solutions must begin with an empathetic president and message themes so powerful that other leaders and organizations are motivated to echo them with their words and deeds. 

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A strong democracy requires strong institutions… AND empathetic leadership.

  1. Empathetic leadership only comes from studying those leaders who learned during crises how to describe the truth about what is happening while offering an inspirational vision for a better future when it’s finally resolved.
  2. Strong institutions are the bedrock of any democracy. Some are government institutions… such as the justice department, the CIA, or FBI. These institutions exist to provide essential research and information without political consideration to whoever occupies the White House.
  3. Some institutions exist in society as a whole, such as schools, universities, human services, international nonprofits, arts organizations, and church denominations, and these are also critically important for a functioning democracy.

But the truth of the matter is that the current administration has cut the budgets and staffs of most governmental institutions, as well as their support for those in society that are proud of their political independence. Governments focused mostly on winning elections will likely use social media and conspiracy rumors to distract and confuse, attack those who criticize (including mainstream news), blame others for what goes wrong, and use political extremes to divide people against each other.

What is needed now in America is a leader who will tell the truth about this current pandemic, use examples to show how people come together to find lasting solutions, and articulate an inspirational vision for a future that the entire country can easily rally around. It also seems obvious that any truly empathetic leader would be finding all the resources necessary to meet the needs of everyone on the front lines of healthcare, as well as those who have lost their jobs… or are losing their small businesses.

Only after everyone is led through this crisis with common cause will the economy really come back. And then, finally, it very likely will come back with “warp speed.” 

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Freedom of speech gives us the right to protest and say whatever we are thinking. Many think this also includes the right to ignore current health warnings: I have the right to risk my health and go anywhere I want without a mask.

If risking one’s health threatens the health of others, what happens to the others’ rights? Doesn’t some kind of “hybrid” way forward seem necessary in situations like this? In other words, shouldn’t the idea of the “greater good”  take over? But for this there is an important requirement: A genuine leader who is transparent, empathetic, and trustworthy. Instead, sadly, we have a president thoroughly obsessed with his own re-election.

But, there is also one more big requirement: Our 24/7 digital world created  a permanent state of information-saturated confusion… a truth hiding daily mental fog which causes many people to reject expertise and align with political extremists who promise to take care of everything. And what’s more, we are learning that autocrats thrive in this kind of media-produced fog. It is therefore absolutely necessary that Internet consequences, and not just social media skills, be taught in schools and discussed in community groups all over the world. 

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“Relationship Marketing” might be Biden’s secret sauce…

Relationship Marketing involves building relationships with individuals and groups to establish and sustain visible loyalty. It begins with identifying specific individuals and groups that mean the most to an organization or cause, and then determining the most effective communication platforms and tools to use to acquire their active support.

Super Tuesday turned out to be a good example of Relationship Marketing 101.

This is what happened. Basically, African Americans are an important and growing constituency of the Democratic Party. In the South Carolina primary, Joe Biden’s long career earned him the support of one of the most influential politicians in the state, who also happened to be black. That was enough to start a momentum ball rolling, which quickly attracted the support of several other presidential candidates, key democrats, and traditional party leaders. Watching this kind of dynamic develop amazed all the pundits. But this is how relationship marketing can work. It soon became apparent that Super Tuesday could very well end in a two-candidate run for the White House.

But to keep the momentum ball rolling, the Biden campaign will now need to add the support of other political leaders, small businesses, labor unions, health organizations, civic groups, professional associations, and local civil servants. These groups and leaders also represent most of middle America, which truly is the heart of the Democratic Party. This should also cut into the president’s base, which so far seems to have forgiven his failure to deliver on his quality-of-life promises.

Effectively using these groups and individuals, boldly articulating a future for America, showing heart-felt passion, looking and acting presidential, debating adversaries skillfully, being totally prepared to handle each criticism no matter what, and demonstrating experienced organization and teamwork… all of these these will be absolutely necessary for success in November.

And really, this is not too much to expect of any presidential campaign… is it?

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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 I was their communication consultant I would tell both parties that their extreme polarization is destroying them. And with a president constantly going crazy with hostile pronouncements, the road ahead is loaded with life-threatening hazards!

Let me first deal with the Dem’s. If they significantly turn up the heat on their Mueller investigation, there very likely will be a voter backlash. I would therefore recommend proceeding very carefully. However, simply by using known facts, they can develop effective talking points for their candidates. Details about the president’s character, cruel behavior, questionable foreign business interests, lack of cabinet experts, and many interactions between his campaign and Russian oligarchs, are already well-known. And now more than ever, these candidates must not get bogged down in the Trump swamp. Winning the 2020 election will require a huge preponderance of forward-looking big ideas, specific plans of action, and bold visions for recapturing global leadership.

What about the GOP? Its problem is that in spite of all the Trump turmoil, Republicans still have their heads in the sand. The idea that a few favorable White House policies excuse overlooking the president’s autocratic ambitions and mindless cruelty has run its course. Endless lies, gross exaggerations, admiration of dictators, and cruelty to everyone, eventually wear out in a media-driven, information-saturated, environment. And now, with the president’s most recent anger-provoking pronouncements, the GOP must focus on saving itself. Republicans desperately need an alternative to Trump who is intellectually capable of explaining the true meaning of the “American dream,” and why people all over the world admire it so much.

I am a critic of both parties, and have been for years. But today’s angry attacks, mindless polarization, and daily rants from the White House, have totally upended the founder’s dream of equal opportunity and justice for everyone. Sadly, it’s the people we elected to protect that dream who will be responsible if we lose it.

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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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If you are leading anything today, or aspire to lead something, or just want to be a more informed follower, it’s not very complicated to set up a home study experience… and if you wish, invite a group of fellow travelers to join you. This is not neuroscience!

Looking back over 50 years of seeking to understand, teach, practice, and write about communication, I believe that serious discussions and internet searches of topics similar to those below can yield the necessary knowledge and insights for leading in today’s world. Here’s my list:

  1. Describe why communication always seems to fail… and what (if anything) can be done about it.
  2. Search the internet for insights from communication and media research.
  3. Describe ways media revolutions significantly changed society, individuals, and audiences.
  4. List ways to intelligently consume and use 24/7 journalism.
  5. Identify the many troubling characteristics of the ever-pervasive new media ecosystem.
  6. Describe ways that media have become weapons, and fake news.
  7. List personal benefits and hazards of social media.
  8. Describe best ways to use digital media for direct and interactive communication.
  9. Identify ways to make sure brand identities are authentic and clear.
  10. Describe processes for orchestrating one-voice messaging.
  11. Show how to use small groups for problem-solving.
  12. Identify the essential elements of productive meetings.
  13. List common internal politics issues and ways to address them.
  14. Clarify best methods for resolving conflicts.
  15. Find examples of using soft-power in local and foreign relationship-building.
  16. List the requirements for effective partnerships and allies.
  17. Write rules for constructive speech in a new media world.

It is absolutely essential to have enough informed, talented, articulate, values-driven, and courageous leaders and followers ready, willing, and able to help save the day when it’s needed. With our current media clutter, endless confusion, and total political chaos, that day has come.

Last weekend we may have witnessed the next generation getting ready to take on dramatic change. And these young people are also born searchers and tweeters. So either the weekend was just another mass march, or it was an entire generation suddenly awakening to the real possibility that they can make history. Indeed they can… but only if they really have the will.

In retrospect, I decided to bet on them. How about you?

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