“When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”

~ George Washington Carver

So: You’re wearing a mask and keeping a socially responsible distance. You’re staying safe but taking long daily walks in the nearly empty streets of New York City to keep yourself healthy and sane. You peer into the dark, empty storefronts as you stroll along. You arrive at the place you always found familiar and comforting; it now looks abandoned and forbidding. There is no human to greet you, only a few words on a single page attached to the front door. Almost every door on every street has a similar sign.

As the days of shutdown have dragged on, I’ve become intrigued by these signs, snapping pictures of at least 100 of them. I’ve read the words again and again. They are breathtaking in their sameness, leading me to the question: How much difference can a few words on a simple sign possibly make?

Businesses reopening in the aftermath of the current crisis may soon find out.

Sometimes the message on the door is just one word – “Closed.” Not terribly helpful, is it? That feels more like the end of a relationship than a reassurance that you and your spot will be reunited in the future.

While heavily trafficked commercial chains may have a following who look for convenience alone, a cozy neighborhood haunt cannot exist without building an emotional bond – appreciation, affection, even love – with its customers. When that business closes indefinitely, or its hours are suddenly and severely curtailed, anxious customers need to see words of gratitude, emotion, and empathy: “We thank you.” “We appreciate you.” “We miss you.” “We understand what you are going through because we are going through it, too.”

Empathy should start right there at the front door.

Surprisingly, even in these difficult times, when those words of connectivity matter most, when customers expect to find love letters from deeply grateful owners, they find crisis boilerplate instead, often written in haste, dashed off as a formality and perhaps copied from a neighboring establishment. Even worse, sometimes, the desired words do not appear at all.

That strategically placed sheet of paper – occasionally drafted with the assistance of a lawyer or a communications professional – may be instructive but it’s not terribly personal. Or authentic. Or meaningful.

That kind of corporate jargon often makes me stop reading – I imagine you know the phrases: “our top priority,” “we are closely monitoring,” “we are committed to …”  But owners use them because they know they need to communicate quickly with customers coming to the door, and they want the message to sound official. Professional communicators reading this will understand that the sign on the door is a kind of stand-by statement to let the entire world, including those critical customers, know what is going on in that moment and what they can expect while the crisis – and temporary closure – continues.

As my colleague, Helio Fred Garcia, has written in The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis, an insightful guide to crisis decision-making (even during one not of your own making), critical communications like that sign on the door should embrace five fundamental elements:

  1. ACKNOWLEDGMENT – a statement of awareness that something has happened.
  2. EMPATHY – an expression of empathy or sympathy to those who are hurting or inconvenienced – and in COVID-19 times, everyone is hurting and inconvenienced.
  3. VALUES – a declaration of the business’ values – including how much that business values those customers.
  4. APPROACH – a summary of the actions the business is taking in the wake of the crisis.
  5. COMMITMENT – a statement that sets future expectations, i.e., “We will keep you up-to-date as we hear any important news and will let you know when we can reopen. We will be here for you online even while we are closed.”

[For a quick summary of these elements, see the Leadership Lesson on Standby Statements]

In all fairness, I’m sure these independent owners also mean to communicate how much they love and miss their customers. But their words – crafted out of necessity and in great haste from a template – don’t quite resonate. They don’t quite say: We are closed, but we miss you and are still there for you.

Contrast those signs with recent updates that a certain coffee company has posted on Instagram – the digital front door for many contemporary consumers. Note the likes and comments.

So, for owners of shuttered businesses – small or large, mighty or nimble – here are two important questions you should ask yourself:

1. How can you communicate your message in conversational human language, rather than boilerplate jargon? You’re dealing with ordinary humans. Why not sound like one?

2. How can you include a message of gratitude at the very top of the page? Owners should express their sincere thanks to the customer who has arrived at the door in the first sentence or two. What would happen if the language of the sign started there? Only good things, I promise you.

Here are some signs that hit the mark beautifully. Which ones do you like best?

One last thought: many of the signs that I see on the doors have been left there unchanged for weeks.

Dear shop owners— It’s not too late to change that sign!

Love,

Your Devoted Customer

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Leadership, Communication, and COVID-19

By Helio Fred Garcia

As the COVID-19 Pandemic continues to  grow, Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership has been advising clients and carefully studying communication by leaders across a range of sectors and forms of organization.

We have reviewed thousands of communications by CEOs, university presidents, NGO executive directors and secretaries general, and public officials. And we have identified patterns that help leaders and their organizations make smart choices and avoid inadvertent self-inflicted harm.

Seven Crises in  One

One of the foundational principles of effective crisis management is to name the problem accurately and to understand the true scope and likely risk of the crisis.

I believe that the COVID-19 crisis is actually seven crises in one. Think of these as seven different dimensions of the crisis. There’s a danger that a leader might be so focused on any one of the dimensions that he or she will miss the need to address the others. The seven dimensions of COVID-19 are these:

  1. Public Health Crisis: At its core COVID-19 is a public health crisis. Half a million people worldwide have gotten sick; tens of thousands have died. More will get sick and die before things get better. But  now in the United States the public health crisis includes a healthcare delivery system that is being strained to the breaking point. As hospitals in epicenters begin to fill up, there’s also a shortage of medical equipment and personal protective gear. Health workers are at risk, as are other patients.
  2. Business Crisis: COVID-19 presents a business problem for all forms of organizations. There is a cost impact, for most organizations a negative one. There  is a revenue impact, mostly negative; for some potentially catastrophic. There is disruption of operations. There is an HR impact.
  3. Economic Crisis: At the same time there is a significant economic crisis underway. The risk of falling into a major recession, very low two months ago, now is quite high. The markets have exhibited unprecedented volatility. Economic uncertainty is wearing on people and institutions.
  4. Information Crisis: From the beginning of the pandemic there has been significant incorrect information, incomplete information, and in some cases intentionally misleading information in the information ecosystem. This information crisis leads to significant misunderstanding about who is at risk of contracting the illness, who can transmit it, and what precautions are appropriate.
  5. Competence of Government Crisis: Not just in the U.S., but initially in China, Iran, and other nations the initial responses were bungled and the virus  spread. In the U.S. we have yet to see a whole of government response. Rather, we’ve seen a fragments of government response. Only in the third week of March, and the third month of COVID-19 in the U.S., are there sufficient tests and testing sites. But there is insufficient personal protective equipment for health workers, and a shortage of hand sanitizers, rubber gloves, and masks in retail stores.
  6. Social Crisis: People’s lives have been upended; many people are losing or at risk of losing their jobs. Supermarket shelves are bare. Many companies have ordered employees to work from home; schools are closed or have gone to virtual learning. But there has also been a rise of incivility, insult, and violence against people who have been stigmatized. President Trump’s insistence on calling COVID-19 “China Virus” or “Chinese Virus” has led to a wave of hate crimes against people perceived to be Asian or Asian-American.
  7. Mental Health Crisis: Human beings are social animals, and social distancing is having an effect. Compound this with the fear of the illness, the rising rate of infections and fatalities, and the other dimensions of the crisis, people are fraught. They are fragile. And they need extra care. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has asked for mental health professionals to volunteer to work with people not presently under their care to begin to meet this mental health need. I expect other governors will do the same.

 

Everything is Different

The unprecedented scope of the crisis makes it difficult to predict what will happen next. This crisis is unlike others. Among the differences:

  • This is unlike prior pandemics. This is the first global pandemic in a social media world. Recent pandemics were geographically contained. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome was mostly confined to the Republic of Korea. Ebola was contained in the United States, and our military and public health experts were able to contain it in West Africa. And this is the first truly global pandemic in the lifetimes of most people in leadership positions.
  • This is unlike natural disasters. Most organizations are ready or can adapt to natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods. But those are generally geographically confined and are sudden but short in duration. COVID-19 is widespread and will continue for a very long time.
  • This is not like ordinary corporate crises. Most corporate crises are limited to a particular company, sector, or geography. But this one affects every organization. And unlike most corporate crises, this one has the additional dimensions of public health, economic risk, information challenges, competence of government, and social dislocation.
  • The situation is constantly changing. The scope of contagion, the government and society’s response to it, and our understanding of risk to ourselves are in constant flux. In a matter of days we saw an escalation from no large crowds to no crowds at all to stay-at-home orders to full lock-down orders.
  • This is fundamentally reshaping our understanding of work. As millions of American workers learn how to work from home, and as companies experiment with different modes of delivering products and services, the likelihood of a return to pre-COVID-19 conditions is not clear.

Crisis Response Best Practices

Most ineffective crisis responses begin with leaders asking some version of What should we do? Or What should we say? The challenge with this kind of question is that it focuses on the we – on the entity or leader in crisis. This results in the consideration of options that may make the leader in midst of crisis feel less vulnerable. But it is unlikely to lead to what is necessary to maintain trust, confidence, and support of those people whose trust, confidence, and support are critical to the organization.

What is needed is a different kind of thinking that begins not with the I/me/we/us but rather with the they/them – with the stakeholders who matter to the organization. The leadership discipline of mental readiness – the readiness to shift frames of reference from the first person — I/me/we/us — to the third person — they/them — makes all the difference.

And that’s because of the way trust works.

A common goal for most organizations and leaders in crises is to maintain the trust and confidence of those who matter – shareholders, employees, customers, regulators, residents, citizens, voters, etc. Trust is what makes other elements of competitive advantage possible, from stock price to employee morale and productivity to support of  regulators.

Trust, in turn, is the consequence of three related but slightly different things:

  1. Promises fulfilled. These can be explicit promises, or implicit promises such as in a brand identity. If we are seen to break a promise, trust falls.
  2. Expectations met. These can be expectations we set ourselves, such as by making promises. Or they can be expectations set by law or by government order. Or they can be expectations set by society. If we fail to meet expectations, trust falls.
  3. Values lived.  When those who matter to us experience us as living our stated values, the result is trust. If those who matter to us experience us as not living our stated values, trust falls.

And one of the patterns we notice is that it is much harder to restore trust once it has been lost than to maintain trust before it has been lost.

Asking What should we do? runs the serious risk of failing even to consider stakeholders’ expectations. Worse, it further risks the leader becoming stuck in his or her own perspective, in I/me/we/us. Hence, such crisis whoppers as BP CEO Tony Hayward’s “I’d like my life back,” or even President Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook.”

Most crisis response failures can be traced back to the ultimate decision-makers focusing on their own frame of reference rather than on their stakeholders.

The right question to ask when determining the appropriate course of action in a crisis is not What should we do.

Rather, it is this: What would reasonable people appropriately expect a responsible organization or leader to do when facing this kind of situation?

For any stakeholder group we can answer the question, What would reasonable members of this stakeholder group appropriately expect a responsible organization or leader to do? to a very granular level. To the level of all employees, or only those employees in this one facility, or only those employees who were present when something happened. We can inventory those granular expectations  for each stakeholder group, and we can then work to fulfill those particular expectations.

But regardless the particular expectations of any given stakeholder group, there is a common expectation that applies to all stakeholder groups all the time:  In a crisis, all stakeholders expect a responsible organization or leader to care.  To care that something has happened; to care that people need help; to care that something needs to be done.

What it means to care may be different from crisis to crisis, or from industry to industry. What it means to care in the early phases of the crisis may be different from what it means to care in the later phases of the crisis. But that we need to care doesn’t change.

The single largest predictor that trust will fall is the perception of indifference. And silence, when there is an expectation of caring, is interpreted by stakeholders as indifference. And it gives our adversaries, critics, media and social media, and trolls the ability to define us as uncaring, or incompetent, or as lacking integrity.

Applying Best Practices to COVID-19 Communication

As the Logos Institute team has studied institutional response to COVIID-19, we have derived these  lessons applying the principle of caring to the pandemic.

  1. Begin all communication, whether written or verbal, with a statement of values, or belief, or intent, or motivation. Don’t dive directly into the facts. Audiences are far more likely to read or listen, understand, and remember when the leader creates an emotional connection first, and that begins with the statement of values.
  2. Show you care. Calibrate communication with empathy.
  3. Be direct: No euphemism. Euphemism is confusing to audiences, especially when under stress. If an employee has died because of COVID-19, say so.
  4. Tell the truth: Avoid misleading half-truths. Remember that you’re in this for the long term. And eventually you’ll need employees to continue to want to work for you, and customers to want to do business with you. If you know that layoffs are likely, and you’re asked whether there will be layoffs, it may be tempting to say something literally true — “At this point there is no plan to lay people off.” This may be true, but the question was not about whether there is a plan but rather about whether there would be layoffs. A better response would be “We haven’t made a final decision, and we will do whatever we can to protect employees, but layoffs are a possibility.”
  5. Address all relevant dimensions of the crisis: public health, business crisis, economic crisis, information crisis, competence of government crisis, social crisis, and mental health crisis. It may be tempting to stay in a single frame, say, business crisis. But your stakeholders are experiencing all seven dimensions of the crisis.
  6. Remember that expectations are dynamic. Yesterday’s expectations may not be helpful today. Calibrate against current expectations.
  7. Communicate at multiple levels. Employees and other stakeholders need to hear from more than the CEO. At this point it is better to over-communicate than to under-communicate.
  8. Align on values; allow granular detail appropriate to each level. Whether the CEO or an EVP or VP or department head or project team leader, there should be alignment on the level of values, belief, intent, or motive. But at each level the granularity should be appropriate to the level of the leader doing the communication.
  9. Convey a positive attitude that balances urgency against the provoking of panic. Effective leaders keep the focus on the future even while demonstrating urgency. But emotions themselves are contagious. Leaders need to stop short of provoking panic.
  10. Express emotion, vulnerability, and humility. Arrogance makes empathy impossible, and it is empathy that gets leaders and organizations through a crisis. Leaders are often reluctant to express emotion or vulnerability. But the most effective ones do.
  11. Get good at being on TV. Whether recording a video for public consumption or conducting a meeting via Zoom or Skype  or GoToMeeting, leaders need to get good at communicating through a video camera.
  12. Remember, people are feeling very fragile. People are scared; they’re worried about their jobs and their friends and their families. People’s work lives and personal lives have been upended. And some people are being stigmatized. Now is a time that calls for kindness. Effective leaders care.

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Logos Consulting Group is pleased to announce that the next book by Logos President Helio Fred Garcia is now available for pre-order.

Words on Fire: The Power of Incendiary Language and How to Confront It is about the power of communication to do great harm, and how civic leaders and engaged citizens can hold leaders accountable to prevent such harm. Garcia focuses on the forms of communication that condition an audience to accept, condone, and commit violence against a targeted group, rival, or critic.

 

Sending Up a Flare

In the book’s preface Garcia writes,

“In my teaching and research, I study patterns: patterns that help leaders enhance competitive advantage, build trust and loyalty, and change the world for the better. I study the patterns of audience engagement and audience reaction. I study persuasion and influence, and the power of language to change people, mostly for the better.”

But he also provides a caution:

“I’ve also been acutely aware of the use of communication to hurt, to harm, and to humiliate, and of how dehumanizing and demonizing language can lead some people to commit acts of violence. I typically don’t teach those things in a classroom, but I often send up a flare, warning students, former students, and others of the predictable, if unintended, consequences of speech that, under the right conditions, can influence people to accept, condone and commit violence against members of a group.”

Garcia notes that he found himself sending up many flares in recent years, but that something changed in 2018. In the Fall of that year he posted on social media persistent warnings about stochastic terrorism, the technical term for language that provokes some people to commit violence. He says,

“My concern grew into alarm as the 2018 mid-term elections approached and as President Trump’s language crossed a line. I worried that someone would be killed by Trump followers who embraced his increasingly incendiary rhetoric about immigrants, Mexicans, Muslims, and critics.”

Garcia’s fears were soon realized.

“In a single week, about ten days before the mid-terms, two separate terror attacks took place: one killed eleven people at worship in a synagogue; one failed but had targeted a dozen Trump critics with mail bombs. In both cases the perpetrators justified their actions by quoting Trump language. One of them, the mail bomber, described his conversion from being apolitical to being ‘a soldier in the war between right and left’ that resulted from his several years in Trump’s orbit.”

The following day Garcia posted a blog on Daily Kos describing the relationship between language and violence. That post was republished by CommPro.biz. Words on Fire is the continuation of that original blog post.

In reflecting on the President’s language, Garcia noticed another pattern: the forms of his language were familiar. He realized that the president was using the very same rhetorical techniques that had preceded previous mass murders, including genocides. He worried that, left unchecked, the president would continue, with increasingly dire consequences.

Garcia explored the kinds of language that historically had preceded acts of mass violence. And he studied contemporary sources including the U.S. Holocaust Museum Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide. The center defines “dangerous speech” as:

“speech that increases the risk for violence targeting certain people because of their membership in a group, such as an ethnic, religious, or racial group. It includes both speech that qualifies as incitement and speech that makes incitement possible by conditioning its audience to accept, condone, and commit violence against people who belong to a targeted group.”

One of the key elements of creating such conditions is to dehumanize others. The Center’s handbook Defusing Hate notes that:

 “Dangerous speech often dehumanizes the group it targets (e.g., by calling its members rats, dogs, or lice), accuses the target group of planning to harm the audience, and presents the target group’s existence as a dire threat to the audience.”

Garcia also studied the work of Yale University philosopher Jason Stanley, who says that when leaders persistently dehumanize others they lessen the capacity of citizens to empathize.

The Playbook

Dangerous speech begins with dehumanization but doesn’t end there. Garcia has identified twelve communication techniques that individually and collectively create a social context that conditions an audience to accept, condone, and commit violence against people who belong to a targeted group. Each technique is a bit different from the other, although the individual techniques have elements in common. They serve as a kind of Playbook that malicious leaders have used to divide communities and to accumulate power. The twelve forms are:

  1. Dehumanize: Calling groups of people animals or vermin who are infesting the nation.
  2. Demonize/Delegitimize: Attributing to a group or rival a menacing, evil identity or calling into question the legitimacy or qualification of a group or rival.
  3. Scapegoat: Blaming a group for all or many of the nation’s problems.
  4. Public Health Threat: Claiming that members of a group are carrying or transmitting dangerous diseases.
  5. Safety Threat: Claiming that a group, rival, or critic is a threat to public safety – likely to cause death or injury to the nation or to the dominant group – or is a threat to civic order.
  6. Violent Motive: Claiming that a group has violent or hostile intentions toward a dominant group.
  7. Severely Exaggerating Risk: Labelling a minor issue or routine event a major threat.
  8. Sinister Identities: Attributing vague or sinister identities to a group or its members.
  9. Conspiracy: Saying that something is part of a sinister conspiracy.
  10. Discredit Information: Discrediting the source of objective information or of information critical of the leader.
  11. Conflation: Conflating the leader and the state, so that any criticism of the leader is seen as an attack on the nation.
  12. Menacing Image: Juxtaposing a menacing image (noose, swastika, flaming cross) with a person or person’s image, a location, or a facility associated with the target.

Words on Fire documents these forms of communication, and the consequences of that language, both before Trump and by Trump.

But it does more. It assesses how American political life came to this dangerous and demoralizing place.

And it offers hope, a path forward: a framework, a mindset, and a set of techniques to help civic leaders and informed citizens recognize the patterns of dangerous speech early, intervene early, hold those who use such language accountable for the consequences, and ideally prevent such violence in the first place.

Garcia and a team of researchers spent 14 months working on the book. In addition to studying historic mass killings that followed the persistent use of dangerous speech, Garcia and his researchers watched hundreds of rallies, interviews, and public appearances by Donald Trump as candidate and president, and read thousands of his tweets. Garcia also examined hate crime violence statistics and trends. And he examined national security and law enforcement scholarship on lone wolf violence up to and including lone wolf terrorism. Garcia synthesizes the fruits of this research and describes how lone wolves develop a terrorist mindset and how they are activated to commit violence.

 

From Stochastic Terrorism to Lone-Wolf Whistle Terrorism

Since 9/11 the use of communication in ways that trigger lone wolves to commit acts of violence, up to and including terrorism, has been known as stochastic terrorism. The name comes from a principle in statistics and describes something that may be statistically predictable but not individually predictable.

But Garcia has concluded that the phrase stochastic terrorism is difficult to grasp, and even to say, and tends to limit discussion. He proposes a different way to describe the phenomenon, based on who is motivated to act on the communication – lone wolves – and what triggers them to so act – a kind of dog whistle that he calls a lone-wolf whistle.

He says:

“Acts of violence triggered by such language I call lone-wolf whistle violence. When such language triggers mass violence with a political, ideological, or similar motive I call it lone-wolf whistle terrorism.”

A Call to Action

Words on Fire also profiles leaders who stepped over the line and were called on it. All, in their own ways and in varying time frames, stopped what they were doing. As responsible leaders do.

Garcia also explores humility as an essential leadership attribute that makes empathy possible. It is empathy that allows leaders to see the damage their rhetoric may cause, and humility and empathy that lead them to stop.

The book closes by providing a framework for civic leaders, engaged citizens, journalists, and public officials to recognize when a leader may have crossed the line, and a way to understand the likely consequences of dangerous speech. Garcia takes the Lone-Wolf Whistle Terrorism Playbook and recasts it as a toolkit or checklist in the form of questions to ask that can help determine whether a leader’s rhetoric is likely to inspire lone wolves to take matters into their own hands.

Early Endorsers

Early reaction to Words on Fire by those who have read the manuscript has been quite positive, and the book has several early endorsers.

David Lapan, Colonel, USMC (ret), former Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security spokesman, says:

“Language is power, and powerful. It can uplift, or harm. Helio Fred Garcia is an astute student of language and communication. This book offers historic examples, keen insights and valuable advice on recognizing patterns of language that can harm or lead to violence.”

Evan Wolfson, Founder, Freedom to Marry, says:

“Drawing on history and his deep expertise in communications, Helio Fred Garcia documents how Trump’s barrage of hate, divisiveness, falsehoods, and triggering are even uglier and more dangerous than we thought, right out of the autocrat’s playbook. During the Nixon administration, John Dean blew the whistle on the ‘cancer growing on the presidency.’ Words on Fire provides a clear and alarming CAT-scan of the cancer growing from this presidency, and a highly readable guide to how we can call out and combat Trump’s toxic language and malignant agenda, pushing back against the corrosive forces that enable Trumpism and put our country in such peril.”

James E. Lukaszewski, America’s Crisis Guru®, says:

“Many of us were taught a lie as youngsters that sticks and stones can break our bones, but words will never hurt us. Fred courageously, graphically and powerfully illustrates that it is words on fire that bloodlessly, without scars or visible traces cause deep internal permanent damage while often triggering accompanying physical damage. And that if we remain silent one victim incinerated by words on fire damages the rest of us.”

Lukaszewski adds,

Words On Fire should be mandatory reading and a guide book for every reporter and editor anywhere. Journalists have significant responsibility for spreading the flames of intentionally incendiary, punitive, abusive language. There should be ethical and cultural sanctions for mindlessly but intentionally originating or transmitting dangerous language. Every business school needs to develop courses for managers and leaders in detoxifying and extinguishing fiery, intentionally emotional and harmful language, whatever the source, followed by every religious leader and elected official. Important institutions in our society and culture have the affirmative responsibility to stand up and speak out against the users and use of words on fire.

Public reaction has also been positive. In the week after Words on Fire became available for Amazon pre-order, it became the Amazon #1 New Release in Rhetoric and #2 in New Releases in Public Administration the #3 best seller in Public Administration.

Words on Fire is scheduled for publication in mid-June. It is available for pre-order in both paperback and kindle edition.

Prior Books by Logos President

Words on Fire is Garcia’s fifth book. His first, published in 1998, was the two-volume Crisis Communications, now out of print.

In 2006 Garcia co-authored with his NYU colleague John Doorley Reputation Management: The Key to Successful Public Relations and Corporate Communication. That book’s fourth edition is scheduled for publication in late Spring. Reputation Management has been adopted in undergraduate and graduate public relations and communication programs around the world, and was published in Korean in Seoul in 2016,

In 2012 Garcia published The Power of Communication: Skills to Build Trust, Inspire Loyalty, and Lead Effectively. The Power of Communication has been adopted by dozens of graduate and professional schools, and was named one of eight leadership books on the U.S. Marine Corps Commandant’s Professional Reading List. It was published in Chinese in Beijing in 2014.

In 2017 Garcia published The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis. The Agony of Decision was named one of the best crisis management books of all time (#2 of 51) by BookAuthority, the leading non-fiction review site. It will be published in Chinese in Beijing later this year.

Garcia has been on the New York University faculty since 1988. He is an adjunct professor of management in NYU’s Stern School of Business Executive MBA program, where he teaches crisis management, and where he was named Executive MBA Great Professor. He is an adjunct associate professor of management and communication in NYU’s School of Professional Studies, MS in Public Relations and Corporate Communication program, where he twice received the Dean’s award for teaching excellence, in 1990 and in 2017.  In that program he teaches courses in communication strategy; in communication ethics, law, and regulation; and in crisis communication.

Garcia is an adjunct associate professor of professional development and leadership at Columbia University, where he teaches ethics, crisis, and leadership in the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. Garcia is also a Senior Fellow in the Institute of Corporate Communication at Communication University of China in Beijing.

 

Logos Consulting Group is pleased to announce that for the second consecutive year it will host a two-day immersive Master Class on best practices in Crisis Communication.

The Master Class is sponsored by the Public Relations Society of America and will be held in Seattle, Washington on July 18 and 19 at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center.

The Master Class faculty are:

  • Helio Fred Garcia, president of Logos Consulting Group and executive director of the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership.
  • Adam Tiouririne, senior advisor at Logos Consulting Group and senior fellow of the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership.
  • Holly Helstrom, associate at Logos Consulting Group and a fellow of the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership.

This team taught the inaugural PRSA Master Class in Crisis Communication in June, 2018 in Chicago.

Helio Fred Garcia in the PRSA Master Class in Crisis Communication, June, 2018, in Chicago

Ten days prior to the Master Class more than 45 people are registered to attend. They work in a range of sectors including higher education, consulting, airlines, healthcare, insurance, municipal and state government, civil rights advocacy, law enforcement, emergency response, and public relations firms.

Adam Tiouririne in the PRSA Master Class in Crisis Communication, June, 2018, in Chicago.

The PRSA Crisis Communication Master Class is a professional development offering that is designed as an in-depth, in-person, two-day immersion in advanced best practices in crisis communication. The in-class instruction, role-play and exercises are structured to help participants master crisis communication best practices through real-world work. This combination can help participants both become strong crisis communicators and also advise their clients and bosses during times of crisis.

The overall agenda includes:

  1. Foundational Principles of Crisis Response
  2. Obtaining Forgiveness
  3. Storytelling in a Crisis
  4. Getting Executive Buy-In
  5. Social Media and the Diffusion of Power
  6. Operational Readiness and Planning
  7. Avoiding Crisis Missteps
  8. Course Wrap-Up, A Path Forward, and Next Steps

 

Holly Helstrom in the PRSA Master Class in Crisis Communication, June, 2018, in Chicago.

After concluding the PRSA Crisis Communication Master Class, participants can optionally take an online examination to assess their mastery of content.

Participants who participate in the two-day Master Class and successfully complete the post examination will receive a Certificate of Completion. Participants with the APR credential earn 4.0 APR Maintenance Credits for a two-day course.

Participants also receive a Master Class workbook and a copy of The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis, which was named one of the best crisis management books ever (#2 or 51) by BookAuthority, the world’s leading site for non-fiction recommendations.

Participants will receive a Master Class workbook plus a copy of The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis

The cost of the Master Class is $945, or $845 for PRSA members. As of ten days prior to the session there are still a few seats available. You can register by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This post was originally published in the Daily Kos, a progressive political opinion site.

It was also reprinted under the title “Is Trump Responsible for the Violence?” on the leading corporate communication site CommPro.Biz.

 

by Helio Fred Garcia

The French philosopher and writer Voltaire warned that those who can make us believe absurdities can make us commit atrocities.

We have seen this phenomenon play out in all parts of the world for the nearly 300 years since Voltaire first warned us. And sadly, we see it playing out in the United States now.

I have spent nearly four decades studying leadership, language, power, and the intersection of neuroscience, anthropology, and influence. Most of my work has been in the service of helping good leaders become better leaders. But sometimes my work calls on me to send up a flare; to warn others of what I see happening and about to happen. Events of the last few weeks compel me to send up such a flare.

Genuine leaders understand the consequences of their words and actions and take responsibility when they see that they are having a dangerous impact. Self-absorbed leaders do not.

Stochastic Terrorism

There’s a phenomenon well known to those who study violent extremism and authoritarianism: the use of mass communication to inspire lone wolves to commit acts of violence. About six years ago it got the name Stochastic Terrorism, named for a principle in statistics about seemingly random things still being predictable.

Stochastic terrorism doesn’t make a direct call to violence. Rather, it leads people to take matters into their own hands. So stochastic terrorist violence is statistically predictable, even if it will not predict that a particular individual will commit a particular act against a particular person.

A Clear but Indirect Danger

The First Amendment protects free speech but not calls to violence that create a clear and present danger to people. But stochastic terrorism is insidious because it is a clear but indirect, yet still predictable, danger.

The Stochastic Terrorism Playbook

In the weeks just before the 2018 mid-term elections we saw President Trump use many elements of the stochastic terrorism playbook, that were amplified by conservative media and by Trump supporters who were running for office.

These include:

  • Dehumanizing populations. This includes referring to groups of people as vermin who are infesting the country. And carrying disease – in this case including diseases that have already been eradicated or are very rare, such as smallpox and leprosy. But still scary.
  • Claiming that an entire population is a threat.  From his first day in the race, Trump defined Mexicans as rapists, gang members, and criminals. Candidate Trump also called for the total and complete ban of Muslims entering the country. And on his second day in office he passed an executive order, later overturned by the courts, banning people from seven primarily-Muslim countries. What the singling out of these groups, and others, have in common is that they create an Other — a group to rally against.
  • Labeling an ordinary thing a serious threat. President Trump labeled a rag-tag group of impoverished men, women, and children walking north seeking asylum a Caravan. Note that seeking asylum is legal. And the people were more than a thousand miles away at the time, and on foot. Despite this, he further said that the Caravan is invading the country. Hence the very word Caravan (always capitalized) became itself a menacing word, repeated across all forms of communication — in speeches, in social media, and on television news headlines. He called the Caravan a national emergency. He  also called to mobilize the military to prevent its arrival. And this wasn’t even the first time he had used the Caravan scare. He did it in April as well. That group of migrants fizzled out before most of them reached the border.  Those who arrived sought asylum.  We should have recognized the pattern.
  • Attributing vague menacing identities to that group. For example, the claim that the Caravan has been infiltrated by a number of middle easterners.
  • Saying that something is part of an evil conspiracy. In this case that the Caravan is funded by George Soros, which is white supremacist code for an international Jewish conspiracy. Note that the first bomb received in late October was sent to George Soros. Followed by an attack on a synagogue by a person driven by an urgent need to prevent Jews from bringing in refugees in order to kill Americans.

Within a single week in late October we saw tangible evidence of such rhetoric inspiring violence.

  • A bomber attempted the largest assassination of political leaders in the history of the U.S., sending bombs through the mail to more than a dozen people who had each been the target of President Trump’s vitriol. Thankfully, none of the devices exploded, and all were retrieved. But authorities found the names of nearly 100 Trump critics on the bomber’s target list.
  • A gunman attacked a Pittsburgh synagogue during worship, killing eleven and wounding many more. He posted online about “Jewish infestation.” In the hours before the attack, making reference to a more than century-old refugee resettlement agency, he tweeted, “HIAS likes to bring invaders that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.” During the attack he yelled “All Jews must die!”
  • A gunman tried to penetrate a Louisville black church but found the doors locked, and instead went into a neighboring Kroger’s store and murdered two black customers there.

There are likely to be further such acts.

Birtherism

Former First Lady Michelle Obama this week, in interviews about her forthcoming memoir, described her reaction to Donald Trump’s birther campaign, which put him on the political map for the 2016 presidential campaign. For years before and during his presidential campaign Trump persistently insisted that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, and therefore was not a legitimate president. Trump refused to acknowledge Obama’s Hawaii birth certificate, and frequently made other claims that challenged Obama’s legitimacy as president.

In her book Michelle Obama writes that this campaign was

“deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks. What if someone with an unstable mind loaded a gun and drove to Washington? What if that person went looking for our girls? Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family’s safety at risk. And for this, I’d never forgive him.”

This is a vivid example of stochastic terrorism at work.

Plausible Deniability is an Essential Part of Stochastic Terrorism

The stochastic terrorist uses inflammatory rhetoric in the full expectation that it will trigger someone somewhere to act out in some way. But there is also plausible deniability built in. The stochastic terrorist can deny that he or she had anything to do with the violence that occurs. Indeed, President Trump falls back on this frequently, including in the aftermath of the bombs sent to people he had criticized. The Washington Post reported,

“Trump told reporters later that he did not think he bears blame for the alleged crimes ‘No, not at all,’ Trump said as he left the White House for a political rally in North Carolina. ‘There’s no blame, there’s no anything,’ Trump said.”

But Why Do People Believe Absurdities?

So why do people believe absurdities, which is a precursor to committing atrocities?

The Pittsburgh gunman believed deeply that Jews were importing refugees to kill “our people.”  There was no evidence that Americans were being killed by refugees. But evidence didn’t matter. There was no evidence that the migrants walking north were infected with smallpox and leprosy, claims repeated frequently by conservative media. President Trump even called members of the Caravan “young, strong men” but also said that they were diseased. Why would people believe such easily refutable claims?

To answer that question we need to recognize that the rise of Donald Trump is not a cause but rather a consequence.

It is the predictable result of decades of degradation of political discourse. This degradation was facilitated by a media more interested in grabbing an audience’s attention than in covering issues.  The worst part is that we should have seen it coming.

In fact, we could have seen it coming if we had known what to look for. We should have known.

Even now as the frightening reality is finally being recognized, we seem to be grappling only with the symptom of the problem — what Trump says — without recognizing that there’s a greater challenge that will continue regardless of how we address the immediate problem.

We can solve the Trump problem but still be as vulnerable to another authoritarian figure who energizes the disenfranchised, the angry, and the scared to similar effect.

Orwell Called It

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In 1946 George Orwell published Politics and the English Language. That brief essay served as the nonfiction treatment for what two years later would become Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four

Most educated Americans are familiar with Nineteen Eighty-Four. This popular novel is based in a dystopian future. The nation is in a continuous state of war. The intrusive and authoritarian government keeps people uninformed, and uses political language that is intentionally misleading. So the Ministry of Peace wages war. The Ministry of Truth controls all information, news, propaganda, and art. The Ministry of Plenty rations food. Our term “Orwellian” refers to the use of language to convey the opposite of reality.

1984first

But most educated Americans are not familiar with the essay that served as the novel’s basis. Sadly, Politics and the English Language helps us understand the current state of the American body politic, and it isn’t pretty.

Says Orwell:

“In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.”

“Political language – and with variations this is true of all political parties… –  is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

The problem arises when politicians use language in a disingenuous way, asserting things they don’t necessarily believe and making arguments that may sound compelling but that logically don’t make sense.

“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were instinctively, to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer.”

However damaging individual instances of political language, of insincere speech, or of intentionally misleading statements may be, it’s the effect of these that causes harm.

The central idea in Politics and the English Language is this:

  • Political speech has the effect of reducing citizens’ critical reasoning skills….
  • …This creates a self-perpetuating cycle…
  • …where as people become less discerning they become more susceptible to political speech…
  • …which further diminishes their critical reasoning skills…
  • …and so on…
  • …and so on…
  • …until a fully uninformed public creates conditions for authoritarian government to thrive.

A Cause Can Become an Effect, And So On: It’s The Cycle That Matters

Presentation4The key idea, though, is the relationship between cause and effect.

Orwell notes that an effect can become a cause, and a cause can become an effect. It’s the cycle that matters. In the end the result is a citizenry that remains intentionally ignorant of the issues that matter, unaware of what is happening to them, and easily manipulated by politicians.

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation, even among people who should and do know better.”

“Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.”

The predictable result of this cycle is a citizenry that is easily manipulated. It becomes immune to persuasion by evidence and reasoning. And it doesn’t notice the multiple contradictions all around.

Candidate Donald Trump following the Nevada primary, February 24, 2016


Choosing Ignorance:
Identity-Protective Cognition Thesis

Five years ago Orwell’s argument that political language causes a decline in critical thinking was supported by research by professors at Yale, Cornell, Ohio State, and the University of Oregon.  Their study,  Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government, showed that math problems that seem to be about benign topics are easily solved by people with strongly held political views. But when the same math problems are framed in terms of polarized political issues — in this case, gun rights — both progressive-and-conservative-leaning participants have a very hard time getting the math right.

The authors conclude that

“Subjects [use] their quantitative-reasoning capacity selectively to conform their interpretation of the data to the result most consistent with their political outlooks.”

A 2011 essay in Mother Jones by Chris Mooney on the neuroscience of political reasoning helps us understand why this is so.  The piece begins with seminal research from the early fifties by famous Stanford psychologist Leon Festinger, who concluded:

“A man with conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.”

Mooney explains:

“Since Festinger’s day, an array of new discoveries in psychology and neuroscience has further demonstrated how our preexisting beliefs, far more than any new facts, can skew our thoughts and even color what we consider our most dispassionate and logical conclusions.”

“This tendency toward so-called “motivated reasoning” helps explain why we find groups so polarized over matters where the evidence is so unequivocal: climate change, vaccines, “death panels,” the birthplace and religion of the president, and much else. It would seem that expecting people to be convinced by the facts flies in the face of, you know, the facts.”

Emotion Trumps Logic

Humans are not thinking machines. We are feeling machines, who also think. We don’t think first; we feel first. What we feel determines what thinking will be possible. This is sometimes known as motivated reasoning.

As described by Chris Mooney in Mother Jones:

“The theory of motivated reasoning builds on a key insight of modern neuroscience: Reasoning is actually suffused with emotion (or what researchers often call “affect”). Not only are the two inseparable, but our positive or negative feelings about people, things, and ideas arise much more rapidly than our conscious thoughts, in a matter of milliseconds—fast enough to detect with an EEG device, but long before we’re aware of it.”

“That shouldn’t be surprising: Evolution required us to react very quickly to stimuli in our environment. It’s a “basic human survival skill,” explains political scientist Arthur Lupia of the University of Michigan. We push threatening information away; we pull friendly information close. We apply fight-or-flight reflexes not only to predators, but to data itself.”

“We’re not driven only by emotions, of course—we also reason, deliberate. But reasoning comes later, works slower—and even then, it doesn’t take place in an emotional vacuum. Rather, our quick-fire emotions can set us on a course of thinking that’s highly biased, especially on topics we care a great deal about.”

“We have seen this trend for several decades, where for political expediency citizens have been conditioned to not trust any source of news that includes conclusions contrary to those consistent with a political point of view.”

This is likely to be intensified when the news media is seen to be both purveyors of fake news and enemies of the people, two themes President Trump continuously emphasizes. This results in his followers choosing not to believe anything written in such media.

We Apply Fight-or-Flight Reflexes Not Only to Predators, But to Data Itself

Such citizens, who reflexively flee from the facts, are unlikely to be aware of, or even care about, contradictions. Simultaneously holding two contrary positions, the very definition of absurdity, would ordinarily dismiss someone as not to be taken seriously. But in the political world such contradictions seem not to matter.

In such an environment citizens literally are unable to notice absurdities. But the same part of the brain, the Amygdala, that causes the flight response also causes the fight response.  So any intruder is seen to be worthy of a fight.  And violence tends to ensue.

Within a week of Trump calling for a ban of all Muslims entering the country we saw a rash of attacks on mosques and on people perceived to be Muslim or Arab.  We have seen people removed from his rallies while being taunted by Trump from the podium, calling for his supporters to punch the person being removed in the face. In the aftermath of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in August, 2017, which President Trump refused to condemn, we saw dis-inhibition in the workplace. People who previously would have kept their racist or anti-immigrant or anti-Semitic opinions to themselves felt emboldened to act out, treating colleagues and customers with insult, rudeness, exclusion, and even violence.

The New York Times reported last month,

“The hate in the United States came into full view last year as white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Va., with lines of men carrying torches and chanting, “Jews will not replace us.” Swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti have been cropping up on synagogues and Jewish homes around the country. Jews online are subjected to vicious slurs and threats. Many synagogues and Jewish day schools have been amping up security measures.

The Anti-Defamation League logged a 57 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the United States in 2017, compared to the previous year — including bomb threats, assaults, vandalism, and anti-Semitic posters and literature found on college campuses.

Are the Calls to Violence Intentional or Merely Reckless?

Plausible deniability is built into the dehumanizing of groups, making it difficult to draw a clear line between a particular act of speech and a particular act of violence. Some, including the president’s allies, could conclude that President Trump is not making such statements with the intention of people committing violence. Rather, he’s speaking his mind and cannot be held accountable if some crazy person takes matters into his own hands.

Contrast today with 10 years ago. Late in his 2008 run for president Senator John McCain saw the crowd crying for blood, and was admonished by people he respected about the likely effect of his rhetoric. He took those admonitions seriously, and he dialed it down. As a responsible leader does.

The book Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime, by John Heilmann and Mark Halperin, describes Senator McCain’s moment of awakening. Senator McCain and his running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, had used harsh language to de-legitimize Senator Obama. Governor Palin persistently declared that Obama “palled around with terrorists.”

Game Change reports:

“As the election barreled toward its conclusion, something dark and frightening was unleashed, freed in part by the words of the McCains and Palin. At rallies across the country, there were jagged outbursts of rage and accusations of sedition hurled at Obama. In Pennsylvania and New Mexico, McCain audience members were captured on video and audio calling the Democrat a “terrorist.” In Wisconsin, Obama was reviled as a “hooligan” and a “socialist.

With the brutish dynamic apparently on the verge of hurtling out of control, a chagrined McCain attempted to rein it in. In Minnesota, when a man in the crowd said he would be afraid to raise a child in America if Obama were elected, McCain responded, “He is a decent person and not a person you have to be scared of as president.” A few minutes later, he refuted a woman who called Obama “an Arab.”

 

Senator McCain heard from two of his heroes: civil rights legend Congressman John Lewis, and life-long Republican and former Joint Chiefs Chair and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Game Change reports:

McCain’s efforts to tamp down the furies were valorous, though they did nothing to erase his role in triggering the reaction in the first place. The civil rights hero John Lewis, whom McCain admired enormously, compared the Republican nominee and his running mate to George Wallace and said they were “playing with fire.”

Civil Rights Legend, Representative John Lewis (D-GA)

Another prominent African American was watching with alarm. Colin Powell had been friends with McCain for twenty-five years. The senator had been actively seeking his endorsement (as had Obama) for nearly two years. Powell warned McCain that his greatest reservation was the intolerant tone that seemed to be overtaking the Republican Party. McCain’s selection of Palin bothered Powell because he saw her as polarizing. He was dismayed by Mc-Cain’s deployment of Ayers as an issue, perceived it as pandering to the right.

And then there were the hate-soaked rallies, which he considered anti-American. This isn’t what we’re supposed to be, he thought.

Powell had leaned toward staying neutral, but these outbursts were all too much—and McCain had moved only belatedly to stop them. Obama, by contrast, had displayed terrific judgment during the financial crisis, Powell thought. And his campaign had been run with military precision; the show of overwhelming force struck the general as a political realization of the Powell Doctrine. On October 19, he endorsed Obama on Meet the Press.

Colin Powell endorses Senator Barack Obama on Meet The Press

The general’s repudiation was a stinging blow for McCain. Beyond their longtime friendship, Powell represented the same brand of Republicanism as McCain’s. Tough on defense. Fiscally prudent. Pragmatic and nondoctrinaire. McCain had to wonder what had become of him if his current incarnation was repelling someone like Powell. He was startled by the crazies at his rallies. Who were they? Why were they there? And what did they see in him? In the final two weeks of the race, McCain began to try to salvage something of his reputation.

He put away the harshest of the personal invective against Obama and went back to talking about the economy, rash spending, and Iraq.”

Leaders Choose Responsibility

Senator McCain saw the unintended consequences of his fiery rhetoric and stopped. As a responsible leader does. Leaders choose responsibility, even if there is not a direct line between what they say and the violence or threatened violence that ensues.

There are two possible conclusions about President Trump’s incitement of violence. Either it is intentional or it is reckless. Either he wants the violence, or he doesn’t care about the violence. Neither absolves him of responsibility. Indeed, it may be even more frightening if the violence is not his intention, but that he is indifferent about it.

The poet TS Eliot gave us a way to understand this.

TS Eliot

He said,

“Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm; but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.”

But whether intentional or merely the result of indifference, the victims of violence experience it as real. And an effective leader would stop.

#   #   #

Please note: Helio Fred Garcia is executive director of Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership and is on the adjunct faculties of both New York University and Columbia University where he teaches, among other things, ethics. But the views expressed here are solely his own and not necessarily reflective of any other entity.

 

by Helio Fred Garcia

To my Students: A Fourth of July teachable moment on framing —  starting with why — and career management, on the 240th birthday of the United States of America.

On June 7, 1776, the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, voted to separate from England; our own Brexit.

It passed a resolution put forward by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, declaring, in part: “These colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.”

The Declaration of Independence, by John Turnbull

The Declaration of Independence, by John Turnbull

Who Writes The First Draft?

On June 11 Congress named a committee, known as the Committee of Five,  to write the announcement.  That committee included John Adams of Massachusetts, Ben Franklin of Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Robert Livingston of New York, and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia.

The committee initially asked Adams to write the first draft.  But Adams, 41, considered himself a statesman and thought the work beneath him.  So he suggested that Jefferson, 33 and a rising star, take the first draft.

Writing the Declaration by JLG Ferris

Writing the Declaration by JLG Ferris

According to the biography John Adams: A Life by John Ferling, Jefferson was confused by Adams’ suggestion:

“Jefferson asked, “Why will you not? You ought to do it.”
To which Adams responded, “I will not – reasons enough.”

That didn’t satisfy Jefferson, who insisted,

“What can be your reasons?”
And Adams responded, “Reason first, you are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second, I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third, you can write ten times better than I can.”

Adams may or may not have been sincere.

Jefferson yielded.

“Well,” said Jefferson, “if you are decided, I will do as well as I can.”
Adams concluded, “Very well. When you have drawn it up, we will have a meeting.””

There is no evidence that such a meeting took place. There is evidence that Franklin, then in his 70s, edited Jefferson’s draft carefully.

Start With WHY

So Jefferson took on the task. But instead of simply listing the grievances against the King, Jefferson, who knew a lot about persuasion, decided to start with WHY — First, with a meta-WHY, why a Declaration of Independence, as opposed to simply an account of the vote? And second, the WHY of separation.

First, WHY the Declaration:  Jefferson wrote that in such circumstances,

“a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

A Decent Respect for the Opinions of Mankind

Think about that for a moment: A DECENT RESPECT for the opinions of mankind.  That’s the foundation of public relations — and of all civil government.  This usually-overlooked opening to the Declaration is in many ways as important as what follows.  It creates accountability and sets a standard — what reasonable people would appropriately expect a responsible provisional government to do when it decides to leave.

Second, WHY the separation: First principle: All are equal.  Second principle: Fundamental rights are life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.  Third principle: Government exists to secure these rights.

Move to HOW

And then the HOW: When government fails to do so, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish that government.

Heady stuff.

Of course, it was more aspirational than normative, as Lincoln pointed out 87 years later. We’re still trying to get it right.

Finishing the Draft

Draft of the Declaration, with Franklin's and others' edits

Draft of the Declaration, with Franklin’s and others’ edits

Jefferson’s draft was powerful but wordy.  Franklin edited it; the Committee of Five submitted it; the Congress tweaked it more.

The Declaration was ratified on July 2, and published on July 4.

DOI Final

The Broadside Edition of the Declaration of Independence, published on July 5, 1776.

Note that of the 1,338 words of the Declaration, the first 1,180 are all about the WHY and the HOW.

The WHAT, the text of the actual resolution of the Congress, appears only in the last paragraph and consists of only 127 words:

“We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.”

And the Declaration closes with the final 31 words:

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Rivals and Friends

John Adams as the second President of the United States

John Adams as the second President of the United States

Adams never quite got over missing the chance to get credit for the Declaration.  He went on to become the first Vice President and second President; Jefferson to be the first Secretary of State and third President.

TJ

Thomas Jefferson as the third President of the United States

History continues to view Jefferson — with all his flaws and contradictions — more favorably than Adams.

The two were fierce political rivals until both left office; then they became fast friends, frequently corresponding with each other (as only former presidents can do).

But Adams continued to envy Jefferson.

And both died on the same day, exactly 50 years after the Declaration was published, on July 4, 1826, exactly 190 years ago today.

According to legend, Adams, on his deathbed and unaware that Jefferson had died several hours earlier, lamented that Jefferson would outlive him.

He uttered this deathbed regret:

“Jefferson Lives!”

Of course, he was right.

 

Below, for reference, the final version of the Declaration of Independence.

……………………………………..

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

 

By Iris Wenting Xue

Graphic Design is the communication framework
through which messages about what the world is now —
and what we should aspire to — reach us.
— Rick Poynor, British writer on design and visual culture

I love fonts.

So I was delighted recently when Ogilvy New York created “TypeVoice,” a website that allows users to generate their own font with their own voice. The technology of TypeVoice records a user’s voice through a computer’s microphone and uses volume, pitch, and other audio parameters as variables and delivers to the user a customized font.

I share a deep interest in fonts, especially when I am typing or reading online content. The typeface and spacing between letters and lines can have subtle but decisive impact on my perception – almost as if good typography puts me in a good mood.

Font is something that is everywhere and at the heart of everything we do. But font is also something that we easily overlook. But font is also one realm in which a small change can shake your world.

I am intrigued by the aesthetics of typeface. But more intriguing is the science behind typography.

Now, follow me and let’s start the adventure!

 

The Aesthetic of Fonts

Before reading the book The Miracle of Font (フォントのふしぎ) by font designer Akira Kobayashi, I could hardly imagine that font designer was a job. I experienced fonts as pre-installed in computer systems. In his book, the font designer, who studied and worked in Japan, Germany and the U.K., shows photos of fonts and insights on how fonts communicate around the world.font book cover

For example, when we see the logo of Louis Vuitton, we immediately associate it with luxury bags and fancy fashion shows.

But in Kobayashi’s eyes, the design of the logo helps the brand to build the high-end image with its kerning – a typography term for the space between each letter. See the comparison:LV font

During my research on logotypes, I found a blog post that describes on how luxury brands design their logos with meticulous attention to font and kerning, and know that a small change in either can cause a significantly different perception of the brand.

Why does the space between letters matter?

Kobayashi does not give us a final word, but he provides another example from ancient Rome. If you have visited the Pantheon or the Foro Romano (Roman Forum), you will be surprised that the ancient Romans did the same spacing between letters 2,000 years ago.

Kobyashi shows photos of the Roman inscriptions as follow:
Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 11.55.19 AM

From a font designer’s view, Kobayashi explains that the ancient Romans intentionally spaced letters apart from each other, and made the words at the bottom smaller than those at the top. So, when people stand in front of the inscription, all the characters appear to be the same size because of the distortion of our view caused by the horizontal and vertical distance in between the letters.

According to The Study of Greek Inscriptions by A. G. Woodhead, the letters of Greek inscriptions are closely packed horizontally, whereas a certain space is left vertically between the lines. This is artistically effective, especially when the inscription calls for variety in size.

A.G

The Science Behind Fonts

In Space Between Words: The Origins of Silent Reading, Paul Saenger describes the neurophysiological effect kerning on the reading process in his book:

“Experiments demonstrate that the placing of symbols within the space between words, while preserving separation in a strictly grammatical sense, greatly reduces the neurophysiological advantages of word separation and produces ocular behavior resembling that associated with un-separated text.
From the reader’s vantage point, the salient quality of intra-textual space is not its relative width in comparison with a letter, but the rapidity with which the eye can distinguish it from the spaces otherwise contained within a text, that is, the space between letters and within letters.”

paul

So, the space between letters and the space within letters need to be intentional. Neurophysiologically, the kerning helps us read more easily, whether ancient inscriptions or modern logotypes.

Kevin Larson of Microsoft Advanced Reading Technologies and Rosalind Picard of Massachusetts Institute of Technology argue that good typeface leads to better cognition.

They prepared the same content, an article from the New Yorker, using two different typefaces. They showed one half of a study group the text in good typography and the other half the identical copy in poor typography. Participants were asked to perform cognitive tasks after reading the texts.

未命名_meitu_0

Those who read the good typography performed better than those who read the poor typography. In one task 4 out of 10 participants who read the good typography successfully solved the task, but 0 out of 9 participants who read the poor typography solved the task.

 

The Most Influential Font Around the World

The one font that influences the world the most is Helvetica.

Here is a brief list of the famous brands that apply Helvetica in their logo:

总

The word Helvetica itself comes from the Latin name for the pre-Roman tribes of what became Switzerland. But today it is really considered as a global font in modern font design. There is even a Helvetica documentary that explores how the typeface affects our lives.

As someone who cannot live without museums and exhibitions, I feel so regretful to miss the 50 Years of Helvetica exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Helvetica is also the first typeface acquired for MoMA’s collection.

German typographer Erik Spiekermann jokes about how much the world loves to use this typeface: “Most people who use Helvetica, use it because it’s ubiquitous. It’s like going to McDonald’s instead of thinking about food. Because it’s there, it’s on every street corner.”

Helvetica has also been used globally in the transportation system. It is the official typeface of the New York City Subway (MTA).

Helvetica has also been applied as the corporate type of Lufthansa to unify its corporate image. The German airline applies the typeface of its logo to all forms of writing, from the menu on flights, to postcards to all publications and screens in the cabin. Even “Welcome” in its brochure and screen is written in Helvetica. In this way the typeface consistently represents the corporate image of Lufthansa.

welcome

Why did Helvetica conquer the world? Here I have three answers.

  • First, as the description in MoMA’s exhibition reads: “Helvetica communicates with simple, well-proportioned letterforms that convey an aesthetic clarity that is at once universal, neutral, and undeniably modern.”
  • Second, when the designer of Helvetica died in 2014, the Guardian newspaper explained, “In 1960s America, the new discipline of corporate identity consultancy used Helvetica like a high-pressure hose, blasting away the preceding decades of cursive scripts, pictorial logos, excitable exclamation marks and general typographical chaos, and leaving in its place a world of cool, factual understatement.”
  • My own answer is much simpler: Helvetica was designed in the time (1957) where the post-war world was craving a change. Its simplicity and clarity is just the opposite of those old decorative fonts. That is probably also the reason why there are so many anti-Helvetica voices today. This font leads the trend of clarity and simplicity in font design for 59 years. It might be time for another change.

 

How Fonts affect Business

Now we know the aesthetic and science behind fonts, and we know how much love companies can show towards one particular typeface. With the background knowledge, we can easily understand why the following backlash happen:

Half year ago, Google and Apple changed their fonts one after another.

Google applied a custom geometric sans serif Product Sans to remain its “simple, friendly and approachable” style by, “combining the mathematical purity of geometric forms with the childlike simplicity of schoolbook letter printing.”

At the same time, Apple’s new system iOS 9 came equipped with the new font San Francisco – the same font used on the Apple Watch.

If you check the online comments of these two font changes, you will find predominantly negative feedback. (Since most of them contain words that are too unpleasant to share, I would suggest you read Why You Hate Google’s New Logo by The New Yorker and Why Apple Abandoned The World’s Most Beloved Typeface by Wired.) (pictures of both changes)

In 2009, IKEA changed the font of its logo from Futura to Verdana. The intention, according to Ikea’s spokesperson Monika Gocic, was that, “it’s more efficient and cost-effective.” We don’t know how much IKEA saved, but we do know that the change caused public disapproval and protests demanding the furniture retailer change back to the original logo.

ikea

In 2010, Gap Inc. also changed the font of its classic logo from Spire to Helvetica, which also evoked huge backlash. One angry designer described the new logo as “a grilled chicken without salt and pepper” because the typeface was not aligned with the brand image. Within one week, Gap Inc. gave up the new alteration and have been using the original logo ever since. (pictures of both changes)

Logo_Evolution_Gap

 

It is no surprise that such arbitrary changes caused a public backlash. As we have learned from previous scientific theories, a good typography can induce good mood and a bad typography can induce bad mood.

In the context of changing brand logotype, consumers are angry not because of how the new font looks, but because the old one, with which they have a strong emotional connection, is gone without reasonable explanation or timely heads-up. So, don’t blame consumers, it’s not their fault, it’s the amygdala that controls their reaction.

amnygdala

 

 

 

By Helio Fred Garcia

Size of Penis Trump

This week the Donald Trump phenomenon seemed to reach a tipping point, with Republican leaders scrambling to prevent his continued wins in the primaries, and with debate discourse hitting new lows.  Not only did we see him feign ignorance of David Duke and the KKK, but we were even treated to debate commentary about the relative size of the candidate’s genitals.

Trump: Not a Cause But a Consequence

But the rise of Donald Trump as the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, and all the bipartisan angst it is creating, is not a cause but rather a consequence.

It is the predictable result of decades of degradation of political discourse, facilitated by a media more interested in grabbing an audience’s attention than in covering issues.  And the worst part is that we should have seen it coming.

In fact, we could have seen it coming if we had known what to look for.  And we should have known.

Even now as the frightening reality is finally being recognized, we seem to be grappling only with the symptom of the problem — what Trump says and how to prevent him from ever being in a position of authority  — without recognizing that there’s a greater challenge that will continue regardless of how we address the immediate problem.

We can solve the Trump problem but still be as vulnerable to another authoritarian figure who energizes the disenfranchised, the angry, and the scared to similar effect.

Orwell Called It

 

41NFa1NER7L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_-1

Almost exactly seventy years ago George Orwell published Politics and the English Language.   That brief essay served as the nonfiction treatment for what two years later would become Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four

Most educated Americans are familiar with Nineteen Eighty-Four.  That popular novel is based in a dystopian future in a continuous state of war, where an intrusive and authoritarian government keeps people uninformed, and where political language is intentionally misleading. So the Ministry of Peace wages war. The Ministry of Truth controls all information, news, propaganda, and art. The Ministry of Plenty rations food. Our term “Orwellian” refers to the use of language to convey the opposite of reality.

1984first

But most educated Americans are not familiar with the essay that served as the novel’s basis.  Sadly, Politics and the English Language helps us understand the current state of the American body politic, and it isn’t pretty.

Says Orwell:

“In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.”

“Political language – and with variations this is true of all political parties… –  is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

The problem arises when politicians use language in a disingenuous way, asserting things they don’t necessarily believe and making arguments that may sound compelling but that logically don’t make sense.

“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were instinctively, to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer.”

But however damaging individual instances of political language, of insincere speech, or of intentionally misleading statements may be, it’s the effect of these that causes harm.

The central idea in Politics and the English Language is this:

  • Political speech has the effect of reducing citizens’ critical reasoning skills….
  • …This creates a self-perpetuating cycle…
  • …where as people become less discerning they become more susceptible to political speech…
  • …which further diminishes their critical reasoning skills…
  • …and so on…
  • …and so on…
  • …until a fully uninformed public creates conditions for authoritarian government to thrive.

 

A Cause Can Become an Effect, And So On:

It’s The Cycle That Matters

Presentation4

The key idea, though, is the relationship between cause and effect.

Orwell notes that an effect can become a cause, and a cause can become an effect.  It’s the cycle that matters.  And in the end the result is a citizenry that remains intentionally ignorant of the issues that matter, unaware of what is happening to them, and easily manipulated by politicians.

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation, even among people who should and do know better.”

“Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.”

The predictable result of this cycle is a citizenry that is easily manipulated, that becomes immune to persuasion by evidence and reasoning, and that doesn’t notice the multiple contradictions all around.

Presentation2

Choosing Ignorance:

Identity-Protective Cognition Thesis

Three years ago Orwell’s argument that political language causes a decline in critical thinking was supported by research by professors at Yale, Cornell, Ohio State, and the University of Oregon.  Their study,  Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government, showed that math problems that seem to be about benign topics are easily solved by people with strongly held political views. But when the same math problems are framed in terms of polarized political issues — in this case, gun rights — both progressive-and-conservative-leaning participants have a very hard time getting the math right.

The authors conclude that

“Subjects [use] their quantitative-reasoning capacity selectively to conform their interpretation of the data to the result most consistent with their political outlooks.”

A 2011 essay in Mother Jones by Chris Mooney on the neuroscience of political reasoning helps us understand why this is so.  The piece begins with seminal research from the early fifties by famous Stanford psychologist Leon Festinger, who concluded:

“A man with conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.”

Mooney explains:

“Since Festinger’s day, an array of new discoveries in psychology and neuroscience has further demonstrated how our preexisting beliefs, far more than any new facts, can skew our thoughts and even color what we consider our most dispassionate and logical conclusions.”

“This tendency toward so-called “motivated reasoning” helps explain why we find groups so polarized over matters where the evidence is so unequivocal: climate change, vaccines, “death panels,” the birthplace and religion of the president, and much else. It would seem that expecting people to be convinced by the facts flies in the face of, you know, the facts.”

Cover What Orwell Didn't Know

Ten years ago, on the sixtieth anniversary of the publication of Politics and the English Language, the New York Public Library hosted a conference conceived by five journalism school deans and sponsored by the Open Society Institute. The conference proceedings later were published as a book of essays called What Orwell Didn’t Know: Propaganda and the Face of the New Politics.  Much of what was described ten years ago can be seen now.

For example, Susan Harding, a professor of anthropology at UC Santa Cruz, who has written extensively about the religious right, explained a process called “revoicing.”  She described revoicing as creating apparent structures of legitimacy and embedding within them positions, points of view, or ideologies that would not pass muster in actual legitimate institutions.  She says that this revoicing process leads to  controversial positions and institutions becoming mainstream by co-opting the symbols and vocabulary of the mainstream. She gives an example of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell:

“Falwell’s church ministries, media and political organizations, and educational institutions were, in effect, a hive of cultural workshops in which both fundamentalist and secular ideas, images, narratives, and practices were smelted, refashioned, melded, packaged, and distributed with spectacular success.

Falwell’s Lynchburg Baptist College morphed into a liberal arts college, Liberty Baptist College, and then into a university, Liberty University. The Museum of Earth and Life History on its campus occupied the cultural space of a museum of natural history, but recorded displays of man and beast with the assumptions of creation science rather than evolution. Liberty Godparent Homes converted a former home for unwed mothers into a staging ground for pro-life save-a-baby narratives that in turn revoiced feminist story lines in born-again Christian terms.

We can see this revoicing, this co-opting of mainstream symbols, vocabularies, and institutions, playing out over the last decade:

  • The Creation Museum, which has the look and feel of a science or natural history museum, but whose exhibits and educational material assert that the earth is only thousands of years old, that evolution is a fraud, and that humans and dinosaurs co-existed.
  • The Intelligent Design Institute, which seems to be a think tank and educational organization is really a media and production group whose work is used to refute the scientific theory of evolution.
  • Fox News, ostensibly an objective news organization, but whose editorial focus in the promotion of conservative causes and candidates.  It even has an appropriately Orwellian slogan, “We report, you decide.”

This process provides cover for those who would ignore mathematics, science, and observation and insist that reality is consistent with a particular political, social, or religious viewpoint.  Take, for example, a fourth grade science quiz administered by a religiously-affiliated school in South Carolina.  The student received a perfect grade for answers that would have been marked as incorrect in a school, religious or otherwise, with a mainstream science curriculum; in fact, some of the quiz’ questions would have been unintelligible in a more traditional science curriculum.  But this approach is influencing millions of citizens and future voters.

Creationquiz1

Truthiness

At about the same time the revoicing discussion was taking place, the new late night comedy host Stephen Colbert coined the phrase Truthiness to describe political discourse.  Parodying Fox News, he defined truthiness as preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true. As  Colbert put it, “I don’t trust books. They’re all fact, no heart.”

 

In 2005 the American Dialect Society named Truthiness the Word of the Year.

Sadly, what Colbert intended as a comedic take on misdirection has proven to be a defining element of much modern political debate.  Candidates argue not the truth they know but the truth they wish, as if it were known.

Why All Heart Matters

Colbert differentiated between thinking with the brain and knowing with the heart.  He actually hit on something profound about how humans make judgments, and why it’s so easy for political language to have the Orwellian effect.

As described by Chris Mooney in Mother Jones:

“The theory of motivated reasoning builds on a key insight of modern neuroscience: Reasoning is actually suffused with emotion (or what researchers often call “affect”). Not only are the two inseparable, but our positive or negative feelings about people, things, and ideas arise much more rapidly than our conscious thoughts, in a matter of milliseconds—fast enough to detect with an EEG device, but long before we’re aware of it.”

“That shouldn’t be surprising: Evolution required us to react very quickly to stimuli in our environment. It’s a “basic human survival skill,” explains political scientist Arthur Lupia of the University of Michigan. We push threatening information away; we pull friendly information close. We apply fight-or-flight reflexes not only to predators, but to data itself.”

“We’re not driven only by emotions, of course—we also reason, deliberate. But reasoning comes later, works slower—and even then, it doesn’t take place in an emotional vacuum. Rather, our quick-fire emotions can set us on a course of thinking that’s highly biased, especially on topics we care a great deal about.”

“We have seen this trend for several decades, where for political expediency citizens have been conditioned to not trust any source of news that includes conclusions contrary to those consistent with a political point of view.”

We Apply Fight-or-Flight Reflexes

Not Only to Predators, But to Data Itself

 Such citizens, who reflexively flee from the facts, are unlikely to be aware of, or even care about, contradictions among any candidate’s positions.  Simultaneously holding two contrary positions, the very definition of absurdity, would ordinarily dismiss someone as not to be taken seriously.  But in the political world such contradictions seem not to matter.

In such an environment citizens literally are unable to notice absurdities. But the same part of the brain, the Amygdala, that causes the flight response also causes the fight response.  So any intruder is seen to be worthy of a fight.  And violence tends to ensue.

And as the French philosopher Voltaire once warned, “those who can make us believe absurdities can make us commit atrocities.”

Presentation3

So within a week of Trump calling for a ban of all Muslims entering the country, we saw a rash of attacks on mosques and on people perceived to be Muslim or Arab.  We have seen people removed from his rallies while being taunted by Trump from the podium, calling for his supporters to punch the person being removed in the face; to have the crowd strip people of their coats before sending them into the freezing weather.  This week, after his flirtation with the KKK and white supremacists, we saw peaceful non-protesting black students ejected from his rallies, and at least one white supremacist leader assault a black woman as she was being removed from the rally.

So what characterizes the Trump voters?

According to Derek Thompson in The Atlantic, the first common element is lack of higher education:

“The single best predictor of Trump support in the GOP primary is the absence of a college degree. ”

“Diplomas are what Ron Brownstein calls the “new Republican fault line.” In 2012, Mitt Romney struggled for months to consolidate support because, even as he had clear support among college-educated Republicans, he fared worse among non-college voters.”

So there’s more than a passing coincidence in Trump’s cheering “I love the poorly educated!” after the Las Vegas caucuses.

The second characteristic is feeling voiceless.  A survey from RAND Corporation, found:

“Voters who agreed with the statement “people like me don’t have any say about what the government does” were 86.5 percent more likely to prefer Trump. This feeling of powerlessness and voicelessness was a much better predictor of Trump support than age, race, college attainment, income, attitudes towards Muslims, illegal immigrants, or Hispanic identity.”

This helps explain voters’ reports that they support Trump because he speaks what they feel.

There is also a fear of the other:

“Trump has clearly played on fears of non-white outsiders, by likening Mexican immigrants to rapists, promising to deport illegal immigrants and to build a wall between the U.S. and its neighbors, pledging to keep Muslims out of the country during the Syrian diaspora, and playing coy with his relationship with the KKK.”

“But he has also told a simple three-part narrative to attract the despondent demographic: America is losing; Donald Trump is a winner; and if Trump becomes president, America will become a winner, too. This Great Man Theory of political change, however, strikes others as potentially dangerous…”

Fourth, Trump voters want to wage war against outsiders, both those within and those beyond our borders.  According to Matthew MacWilliams of University of Massachusetts, Amherst,

“The classic definition of authoritarianism implies a tradeoff — more security for less liberty — but MacWilliams says it’s also about identifying threatening outsiders and granting individuals special powers to pursue aggressive policies to destroy them. The best predictor of Trump support… [is] “authoritarianism … [and] a personal fear of terrorism” that best predicted Trump’s support across the state.”

“Trump’s foreign policy, like his policy for anything, is a muddle. He’s cautious toward the Israel-Palestine conflict, yet he told Fox News he would kill the families of ISIS members to stop their advance, something awfully close to a public pledge to commit war-crimes.”

“But it’s his domestic security policies that have been astonishingly hawkish. He’s promised to shut down mosques, keep a database of Muslims, and round up the children of illegal immigrants. Indeed, when you put it together, Trump’s hysterical promises to protect his white in-group from non-white outsiders looks like race-baiting…”
His support seems to be strongest in places with history of racial animosity:
“According to the New York Times’ Nate Cohn, who used data from Civis Analytics, Trump’s support is strongest from the Gulf Coast, through the Appalachian Mountains, to New York, among marginally attached Republicans (possibly former Democrats). It is a familiar map for some demographers, since it’s similar to a heat map of Google searches for racial slurs and jokes. “That Mr. Trump’s support is strong in similar areas does not prove that most or even many of his supporters are motivated by racial animus,” Cohn writes. “But it is consistent with the possibility that at least some are.”
And what to Trump voters care about?  According to a Public Policy Polling survey of Trump voters in South Carolina,
  • 70% think the Confederate flag should still be flying over the State Capital; only 20% who agree with it being taken down.
  • 38% of Trump voters say they wish the South had won the Civil War; only 24% are glad the North won and 38% aren’t sure.
  • 36% of Republican primary voters in the state are glad the North emerged victorious; 30% are for the South, but Trump’s the only one whose supporters actually wish the South had won.
  • By an 80/9 spread, Trump voters support his proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States.
  • 31% would support a ban on homosexuals entering the United States as well, something no more than 17% of anyone else’s voters think is a good idea.
  • There’s also 62/23 support among Trump voters for creating a national database of Muslims and 40/36 support for shutting down all the mosques in the United States, something no one else’s voters back.
  • Only 44% of Trump voters think the practice of Islam should even be legal at all in the United States;  33%  think it should be illegal.  To put all the views toward Muslims in context, though, 32% of Trump voters continue to believe the policy of Japanese internment during World War II was a good one, compared to only 33% who oppose it and 35% who have no opinion one way or another.

 

Fixing The Body Politic

So what can the nation do to halt the decline and to make things better?

The first thing to note is that things will surely get worse before they get better.

The second is to recognize that there is no easy fix.

Again, Trump is not the problem.  He’s the current symptom of the problem.  South Carolina voters do not hold their positions BECAUSE of Trump.  Trump is merely the person who happens to appeal to their views now.

Rather, the problem is that authoritarian government depends on uninformed, scared, and angry voters, who can channel their negative emotions toward others, and who see in their candidate some relief from their anxieties.

Orwell told us that.  And we have seen it play out over the last few decades.

The problem is a body politic that is comfortable being uninformed and suspicious of facts, data and people with whom they don’t agree or connect.

But the problem arose because of the convergence of social, technological, political, economic, and demographic trends over decades.  The solution is also decades-long.  Regardless of who happens be be the next president.

The central question of our republic is this: Do we continue down the path where authoritarian government becomes both inevitable and seemingly natural, or do we recommit to actual democracy?

There is much we would need to do.

But over the long term, the only sustainable solution will be a restoration of a core founding value of education.  Of elevating the ability of voters to think clearly and to discern carefully.

Indeed, founding father Thomas Jefferson called for education as the key to democracy.

Jefferson becomes the antidote to Orwell.

Jefferson: An Educated Citizenry

is Necessary for a Thriving Democracy

Jeffereson

Throughout his life, including before and after serving as president, Jefferson noted that education is the key to accepting others and to exercising effective citizenship.  (Indeed, on his tombstone, he lists only three accomplishments: author of the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom; author of the Declaration of Independence; and founder of the University of Virginia.  His term as president didn’t make the cut.)

Among his views on the relation between education and democracy:

  • “I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”
  • “The most effectual means of preventing [the perversion of power into tyranny are] to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large, and more especially to give them knowledge of those facts which history exhibits, that possessed thereby of the experience of other ages and countries, they may be enabled to know ambition under all its shapes, and prompt to exert their natural powers to defeat its purposes.”

And, as if in direct rebuke to Donald Trump:

  • “No nation is permitted to live in ignorance with impunity.”
  • “[I have] a conviction that science is important to the preservation of our republican government, and that it is also essential to its protection against foreign power.”

A Decent Respect for the Opinions of Mankind

But of all the Jeffersonian notions, the one that most directly speaks to remedying the challenges Orwell describes is a little-remembered but central idea from Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.  In the opening paragraph, Jefferson describes why the Declaration was needed in the first place.  He declared:

“…a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

That decent respect for the opinions of mankind goes in many directions:

  • A decent respect by politicians for the opinions of citizens.
  • A decent respect by citizens of this nation for the opinions of those in other nations.
  • A decent respect by governments for the people.

 

But decent respect has been sorely missing in American politics for some time.  Orwell called it…

Fred

Please note: Helio Fred Garcia is executive director of Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership; board chair of the Interfaith Alliance Foundation; and an adjunct associate professor of management and communication at New York University School of Professional Studies, MS in Public Relations and Corporate Communication, where he teaches, among other things, communication ethics.  But the views expressed here are solely his own and not necessarily reflective of any other entity.

Introduction by Helio Fred Garcia:

This is my fourth in a series of guest blogs featuring my recently-graduated capstone (thesis) advisees in New York University’s Master’s in Public Relations and Corporate Communication.

Wall-Street-Reputation-NYU-Flag-2014-Sep (1)

(See my earlier posts, On Wall Street, Reputation, and Recovery: Guest Blog by Julia Sahin here; On Changing Narratives in Oil Conflict Regions: Guest Blog by Claudia Espinel here; and A 10-C Model for Apologies: Guest Blog by Iris Wenting Xue here.)

In this blog, Jocelyn Jaixin Cao applies a foundational principle of effective persuasion – start with Why – to the core identity of companies. She notes that the most successful companies are those which make the Why a central part of their work, both in their statement of values, vision, and mission, and in the day-to-day decision criteria they use.

Quite presciently, among the many companies she studied, she contrasts Google, which has a very strong Why identity, and which just overtook Apple as the largest company in the world, with Yahoo, which has always been a What company focused on features and benefits but without clear purpose, and which is now struggling to survive, never mind remain relevant.

You can see the complete capstone here.

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DEVELOPING THE “WHY” FRAME IN BUSINESS DECISION-MAKING AND COMMUNICATION:

GUEST BLOG BY JOCELYN JIAXIN CAO

 

Jocelyn Jaixin Cao

Jocelyn Jaixin Cao

To stand out from competitors and to survive in a rapidly changing business environment, most companies spend the majority of their time in differentiating their products or services. However, studies show that differentiation is not enough to establish trust and loyalty. Companies need to earn trust by communicating and demonstrating their core values and beliefs clearly and consistently to their audience. Creating a “why” frame that includes these values and beliefs within the corporation becomes vital.

Companies influential on a global scale, such as Google, Facebook, and Uber, follow a similar communication strategy. They tell us first why they exist before talking about what they are selling. They know that to successfully connect with their audience, they need to first address what the audience cares about, not what is important only tothemselves. The origin of the “why” comes from the genesis story and the core values embraced by the company. It is not simply a slogan for the purpose of grabbing attention, but something the corporation truly believes in and is willing to fight for: it is the foundation of a corporation’s mission and vision.

  1. The Importance of “Why” in Business Decision-making and Communication

Google, Facebook, and Uber all have a clear “why” of their existence in the first place. The origin of their “why” is not for themselves, but for better serving the society. Google was created because Larry Page and Sergei Brin wanted to improve people’s search experience at that time; Facebook was brought into being because of the desperate need by Harvard students for a comprehensive online social network based on real identity; Uber was built to tackle the common issue of frustrating taxi services in major cities around the world. They are all originated from finding solutions for problems experienced by people at that time, and this is valued more than making money.

In addition, they all place their “why” at the center of decision-making, whether for big business decisions or day-to-day management. When Google’s engineers were developing a new project, they were encouraged to ask the question “Is it best for our users? Is it evil?” When hiring new employees, Google ensured that the person not only had the skills needed, but also fit into its “smart creative” culture – a culture that is “willing to question the status quo and attack things differently.”

Don't be evil

Facebook rejected advertisers whose businesses were not relevant to a college social culture even though they were companies like Goldman Sachs that could bring large amounts of money to them at their early stage. Later, it also turned down several deals with big investors such as Viacom and Yahoo because Mark Zuckerberg did not think those companies understood Facebook’s vision. When Uber was facing the huge backlash from the taxi industry and government officials, they did not fight back immediately, but focused on presenting their “why” to their customers and local governments through face-to-face conversations. It did not work out in every city, but it provoked a worldwide discussion on this issue, which to some extent increased Uber’s brand awareness.

Smart Creatives

Moreover, they all never stop enlarging and enriching their original “why” frames, which shows their constant thinking about the “why.” Google interpreted its “why” clearly to the public through the “Ten Things We Know To Be True”. Facebook revised its mission statement several times since its first establishment in 2004. Uber positioned itself as a lifestyle and logistics company, rather than a car service company, with its new trials such as Uber Ice Cream and UberCARGO.

In contrast, many of the competitors in the history of Google, Facebook and Uber failed to create their “why” or prioritize their “why” in communications. Therefore, they either lost the competitive advantage quickly or simply could not compete at all.

(1) Facebook vs. MySpace: MySpace existed and was widely welcomed before the inauguration of Facebook. It targeted the same audience – college students, received a lot of early press, and generated huge valuation among its investors. However, Facebook quickly overtook its market share. One crucial reason is that after being purchased by the News Corporation, MySpace’s original “why” no longer fit into its new reality. News Corp tried to guide MySpace by using the “professional management” approach. Leaders from News Corp sat down describing where the business would head, where they would invest and how they would earn a positive ROI by carefully calculating what would work. Those professional leaders at News Corp had no idea about the nature of social network among college students and they ran MySpace like a professional business. Contrarily, Zuckerberg allowed Facebook to go wherever the market wanted it. His team looked into the comments of their users and understood their audience well.

(2) Google vs. Bing: On May 28, 2009, Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, publically demonstrated Bing for the first time at the All Things Digital Tech Conference in San Diego, California. In the live interview at the conference, when asked the reason Microsoft decided to rebrand the name of Live Search as Bing, Ballmer said the search engine industry was a large growing market and Microsoft should be in that market. To make their presence more obvious, they needed a short and crispy name that could “verb it up.” Reports also showed that Microsoft was planning to spend $100 million for the marketing campaign of Bing. Compared to Google, Bing indeed differentiated itself in many aspects to demonstrate its specialty. However, after six years, statistics shows that Google is still the dominant search engine with 66% market share around the world while Bing only accounts for 12% even after its partnership with Yahoo. When companies lose their “why” at the beginning, it is usually hard to catch up later. Microsoft did not know clearly why they rebranded their search engine. Therefore, even though they successfully differentiated the product from competitors’ via marketing campaigns, loyalty did not follow.

(3) Uber vs. Lyft: On May 22, 2012, John Zimmer and Logan Green launched Lyft to “give Uber some low-priced private driver/taxi competition.” Lyft differentiated itself from Uber by adding two more pillars to its business: ride sharing for long-distance car rides, and a University program where Lyft charges colleges for specific campus car-sharing programs. Now three years after its launch, Lyft has indeed received positive reviews from its community and is growing steadily in the U.S. However, compared to the sensation Uber has created around the world, Lyft looks more like a different version of Uber, rather than having its unique corporate identity. When a company’s “why” is mainly based on business competition, rather than the solution to the problems cared by its users, it may see a sound short-term gain by differentiating the services, but will soon be replaced by new companies with better products. Zimride, Lyft’s predecessor, is a failed example.

Uber Ice Cream

  1. Developing the “Why” frame

The process of creating the “why” frame can be divided into two parts:

The first part is the formation of the original “why.” Usually, a company’s genesis story is at the core of its original “why.” Page and Brin created Google in Stanford dorm as part of their PhD research, and their academic backgrounds and personal beliefs later influenced many aspects of Google’s growth. Zuckerberg’s dramatic founding story distinguished Facebook from other startups at that time, and was later brought live on the big screen by Hollywood in 2010. Uber’s original “why” emerged in a raining night in Paris when Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick were annoyed by the taxi services there. At that moment, they decided to crack the problem. These stories were not just stories, but later became core elements of their corporate cultures.

The second part is the enlargement of the “why.” To successfully fulfill the mission of the original “why,” leaders need people who share their vision to make it real together. At this time, corporate culture becomes significant for a company to convey and to represent its “why” to the outside world. Both Google and Facebook establish their unique cultures at very early stage. Both of them adopt the bottom-up management style and the flat corporate structure as they believe in openness and transparency, but despise bureaucracy. Both of them use the working environment to demonstrate and communicate the values to their employees. They build up their offices based on those values so that employees can be constantly reminded and inspired.

  1. Implementing the “Why” Frame in Daily Communications

The implementation of the “why” begins first internally among employees. Google and Facebook start very early on establishing an effective communication mechanism within the corporation. Whether it is Google’s weekly all-hands (TGIF) meetings, the quarterly OKR (Objective and Key Results) reports, or Facebook’s Q&A session every Friday with Zuckerberg, the regular Hackerathon competition, leaders at Google and Facebook know clearly the importance of internal communication to a corporation’s long-term success. Employees are, after all, a company’s best and most valuable brand ambassadors. An inside-out approach to engagement empowers employees in this process by allowing them to personify the company’s values externally. Therefore, companies should first think to develop an efficient and sustainable system for internal communication – to create a culture of “why” within the company.

After having a solid “why” internally, companies will have more confidence in external

communication. One key principle in external communication is to meet audience where they are. This requires companies to shift their focus of communication from brand itself to its audience because the audience, or the market, is always the “why” brands exist in the first place. By first addressing what the audience are concerning about, companies create a frame of communication that provides meaningful context for introducing the facts and features of their brands. It is also a process to activate and connect with the frames already existed in the audience’s minds. Companies should always ask themselves why the audience should care about what they are saying.

startwithwhy

Start with Why

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” This is the core argument Simon Sinek articulated in his TED Talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” and his book Start With Why. Sinek says there are only two ways to influence human behavior – manipulation or inspiration. Business decision-makers can easily grasp and reproduce manipulative strategies such as reducing prices or increasing marketing campaigns to grab attention, while generating inspiration usually requires richer thoughts and deeper motivation. Developing the “why” frame starts the company on a journey of self-exploration and lays the foundation for a steady flow of inspiration.

The Golden Circle

 

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Jocelyn Jaixin Cao received her BA in English Language and Literature from Southern Yangtze University School of Foreign Studies and Honors School in Wuxi, China. She studied linguistics in the Global Studies program at University of California, Davis. She received her MS in Public Relations and Corporate Communication from New York University in December, 2015. She is a certified interpreter in the New York City mayor’s office.

Jocelyn Jaixin Cao with her professor and Capstone advisor Helio Fred Garcia.

Jocelyn Jaixin Cao with her professor and Capstone advisor Helio Fred Garcia.

by Iris Wenting Xue

Eleven years ago, in the book The Game-Changer, Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley defined the First Moment of Truth as the moment when consumers are physically reaching for the product they intend to purchase. The concept was further developed, as the Second Moment of Truth and the Third Moment of Truth, referring respectively to the moment when consumers purchase the product and the moment when they share reviews after using the product.

Five years ago Google released its study on the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT): the moment when consumers research before they decide whether to buy. According to Google, 88% of US consumers explored online before actually buying a product (ZMOT, 2011). The number is still rising as Internet and mobile technology have advanced in recent years to make buying products online and on a phone easier than ever before.

(Source: YouTube)

ZMOT was a revolutionary idea in brand management and marketing by quantifying consumers’ behavior patterns before they bought a product. While many focus strictly on the “numbers” around ZMOT, the impact of this insight could be applied far beyond just numbers. And beyond just brands and marketing.

As I watched the ZMOT video above and read other journal articles about the topic, I found an interesting parallel between this concept and what I have learned and practiced when working with clients on how to manage their reputation. Just as with Moments of Truth when products are being judged, and those same critical moments exist when a company, leader, or organization is being considered and judged. If we understand those moments when organizations can influence the perception of their stakeholders, what I call Moments of Reputation, we can be more prepared to maintain the strong reputation no matter what happens.

Before I translate the four moments of truth into four moments of reputation, we should note that a company’s reputation is not only determined by consumers, but also broader stakeholders such as investors and employees. Reputation symbolizes an organization on a macro-level. It goes beyond the goodwill on the balance sheet. Reputation is the way in which a company is perceived by those who matter most to the company. The same is true of brand reputation, and even an individual’s reputation.

 

The Four Moments of Truth:
  • Zero – Consumers research a product prior to their purchase decisions.
  • First – Consumers are physically in front of the product.
  • Second – Consumers buy the product.
  • Third – Consumers share their thoughts and experiences about the product.

The goal of the brand or company is to sell the product.

 

The Four Moments of Reputation:
  • Zero – Whether positive, negative or neutral, every stakeholder holds his or her own perception of an organization. Note: No perception is also a perception; it counts as neutral and is very easy to change.
  • First – Something happens. Sometimes that something is planned (a product launch); sometimes that is accidental (an acute crisis); sometimes that something is not bad enough cause criticism; sometimes that is so good that it evokes envy.
  • Second – Stakeholders are influenced by whoever describes that event first.
  • Third – Stakeholders follow what happens next and judge the company the through a tinted lens. Most of the time, the tinted lens is comprised of what happened in those first three moments.

The goal of  the company, leader, or organization, is to maintain their reputation.

 

These Moments of Reputation can help us understand when a company, leader, or organization has the greatest chance to influence the perception of the company to stakeholders.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 10.49.55 AM

From what we can see, after the Zero Moment of Reputation, a company’s perception is taken to some degree outside of their control – something has happened, good or bad, that the company has to manage. This means that first and foremost, companies need to invest in the Zero Moment of Reputation, because this moment is when the company has a greater degree of control in building up the perception of the company to stakeholders, before something else happens that makes them visible.

However, companies also need to be prepared for when that First Moment of Reputation arrives, that turning point for the company and its reputation. It is hard to predict what will happen at any minute, so companies should be equipped with mental readiness the moment something happens to respond quickly and effectively. Most of the time, they rely on the communication department to clear up a messy situation. They think they are safe once they have a communication director, a spokesperson; a media list spreadsheet and a 100-page crisis plan.

But they are not necessarily as safe as they think. This mental readiness goes beyond any practical tactics. It is also about being strategic – how can the company maintain the trust and confidence of their stakeholders. It means thinking more clearly about those practical tools already available to the company with critical eyes. Does the communication director leverage both internal and external partnerships? Does the company have an appropriate spokesperson and is he or she well trained? Is the media list double-checked? Is the crisis plan up-to-date? Can the company seize the initiative when the First Moment of Reputation occurs?

Reputation is hard to measure and manage. The Zero Moment of Reputation is a good opportunity to examine whether a company is prepared for anything that will make it suddenly visible. Once a company passes this first test, it is more likely that it will control the other critical moments when their stakeholders are making judgments about them.

The Zero Moment of Reputation is an undeveloped blue ocean. I will continue study and research this topic. Stay tuned.