Last week’s viewers might have felt the president’s inclusiveness, but history will remember his dire warnings.

Ten days before handing the Oval Office keys to a successor famous for his mega-rallies, Barack Obama gathered one last huge crowd of his own. His January 10 farewell address was all about his 20,000 admirers at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

“You made me a better president,” Obama said, “and you made me a better man,” Over the course of his 4,267-word speech – the longest presidential farewell of the broadcast era – he used “you,” “your,” or “yours” 81 times. That’s 19 “you” words per 1,000 total words, besting Ronald Reagan’s 1989 mark of 12 per 1,000.

As with inclusive “we” words (like “we,” “us,” and “ours”), the use of “you” words is a hallmark of effective leadership communication. According to Quantified Communications CEO Noah Zandan, who studies and advises on public speaking, visionary leaders like Tesla’s Elon Musk and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg use “you” words 60 percent more often than the average speaker.

More popular presidents use more “you” words, too. Obama reflected the glow of his 56 percent approval rating in the latest Gallup tracking poll, ending a list of accomplishments by telling his audience, “That’s what we did. That’s what you did. You were the change.”

Reagan, who left office with a 62 percent approval rating and a nickname as “The Great Communicator,” did much the same in his farewell address. “I’ve had my share of victories in the Congress,” he said, “but what few people noticed is that I never won anything you didn’t win for me.” Reagan also laced the speech with vivid portraits of presidential life, putting watching Americans in his shoes. “You spend a lot of time going by too fast in a car someone else is driving, and seeing the people through tinted glass … And so many times I wanted to stop and reach out from behind the glass, and connect. Well, maybe I can do a little of that tonight.”

Among the seven farewell addresses of the broadcast era, there’s a clear correlation between the frequency of “you” words and the president’s final approval rating – tighter than the slightly positive relationship between “we” words and approval, or the slightly negative one between “me” words and approval.

“You” words are likely both a cause and an effect of the public’s thumbs-up. It’s possible that “you” words are a president’s response to high approval, as when Obama said, “You are the best supporters and organizers anyone could hope for, and I will forever be grateful.” Or, “you” words could be a driver of high approval, convincing voters that the president cares about them: “I am asking you to believe,” Obama said, “Not in my ability to bring about change, but in yours.” (Obama used the word “change” 14 times in his farewell address, echoing his final State of the Union last year and, most of all, his 2008 campaign.)

However, the part of Obama’s swansong that will most likely capture the attention of 22nd Century historians isn’t his inclusive tone. It’s when he drew on the mother of all precedents, George Washington’s hand-written 1796 farewell letter, to go from eulogy to sermon and back again. Bookended by a list of accomplishments and a list of thanks, Obama devoted the middle 57 percent of his speech to warning of three “threats to our democracy:” Economic inequality, racial division, and political partisanship.

“Democracy does require,” Obama intoned, “a basic sense of solidarity – the idea that for all our outward differences, we are all in this together.” Or, in Washington’s words, “You should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness.”

The similarity wasn’t lost on Obama, who at one point even cited his source. “In his own farewell address, George Washington wrote that self-government is the underpinning of our safety, prosperity, and liberty, but,” Obama said, quoting Washington, “’from different causes and from different quarters much pains will be taken … to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth.’”

The most famous phrase of any modern farewell address is a warning, too. Dwight Eisenhower coined the term “military-industrial complex” to warn of runaway defense spending as he left office in 1961.

For more, follow @Tiouririne on Twitter.

by Helio Fred Garcia

This is my seventh 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:

In this blog, Carolina Perez Sanz summarizes her capstone, focusing on the particular challenges women face in a workforce where men disproportionately fill the top positions.  This could apply to banking, engineering, or any other industry.

And Carolina develops insights that would apply to all similar sectors.

But her primary focus is public relations, where women are 70 percent of the workforce but only four percent of the leaders.

Carolina completed a PhD in applied linguistics at Instituto Universitario de Investigación Ortega y Gasset in Spain. She is also a certified speech therapist.  For her PhD she did extensive research into how female broadcasters use their voices when performing on the air.

Her dissertation, “Laryngeal Adjustments in the Voice of Female Broadcasters,” uses a technique called electroglottography to analyze the physiology of professional broadcasters’ larynxes when using their conversational speaking style and when using their professional speaking style. She showed that when speakers hyper-articulate, not only do they move their jaws, lips and tongues faster and more strongly, but also their larynxes.

She also writes her own blog, Power at Speech, that focuses on how voice and speech influence the perception of public figures’ personalities.

Carolina, who just received her M.S. in public relations and corporate communications from New York University’s School of Professional Studies, moved from science to social science, looking at women in leadership.

She takes into account cultural and personal biases, and also reflects on current insights on leadership generally.

She builds an interesting model based on trust at  three levels of leadership:

  • Being trusted to perform tasks
  • Being trusted to manage projects
  • Being trusted to lead people

She notes that many women find themselves stuck at the first or second level, and offers strategies to overcome this self-sabotage.

Her insights can help women in public relations and other fields reverse much of the marginalization they experience, and build more fruitful careers.

You can download the entire capstone here.


Female Leadership: How Women Can Inspire Trust and
Become Leaders in Male-Dominated Work Environments

by Carolina Perez Sanz, PhD, MS

Carolina Perez Sans, PhD, MS

Carolina Perez Sanz, PhD, MS

If being very good at what one did was the critical factor to becoming a leader, the business world would look very different. Competence is necessary, but certainly not enough to taking on the mantle of leadership.

In the highly feminized industry of public relations, the disproportionate numbers between female employees (70%) and female top leaders (4%) gives proof of this disparity. Women get the work done because they excel in competence and ability, but it is men who set the goals and strategies for the firms.

The reason is that inspiring trust, and not mastering skills, is the defining trait of leaders.

Trust Is Key

Trust happens (or does not) between two people in a relationship. It is complex and nuanced, and different factors on both sides of the relationship contribute to bolster or cripple it.

The trustor (the person who trusts) needs to be in a psychological state of trust. The context of the relationship, personal and social biases, and the reputation of the other party influence the trustor’s inclination – or lack of thereof – to trust.

Factors That Contribute to Trust

Factors That Contribute to Trust

The trustee (the person to be trusted) needs to appear trustworthy in the eyes of the trustor. To do so, he or she has to possess and display certain characteristics.

The typical features that boost trustworthiness are grouped into three categories: ability, integrity and benevolence.

Ability: “I Can”

Ability encompasses the capabilities that professionals have that allow them to perform the assigned tasks. It includes the knowledge, experience, expertise and skills that are in the realm of the work that needs to be done. The expression ‘I can’ symbolizes the Ability level of trust.

Gardeners prove ability with their knowledge about plants, soil and weather, their patience, or their photographic memory. For neurosurgeons, ability includes a steady hand, a deep knowledge of brain anatomy, or being able to concentrate for long periods.

Integrity: “I Will”

Integrity is built on behaviors such as keeping one’s word, being loyal to the other party and the relationship, and respecting a set of values that both parties adhere to. The Integrity level reflects an ‘I will’ attitude.

Mail carriers exhibit integrity when they deliver the mail in a timely fashion to the right recipients, or when they don’t disclose mailing information to other recipients or senders. Public relations professionals show integrity by not working for a client’s direct competitor, or by not sharing clients’ confidential information.

Benevolence: “I Care”

Benevolence entails being able to put the other party’s objectives ahead of our own, demonstrating good will towards the other party in a business relationship, and caring for them more than we care for ourselves.

But it doesn’t mean sacrifice for the sake of an abstract concept of goodness, or avoiding hurting other people’s feelings. In business contexts, being benevolent means to behave in ways that are best for our clients and/or company.  ‘I care’ summarizes the Benevolence level.

For advisors, benevolence entails speaking truth to power. They show benevolence because they act in the boss’s or client’s best interest and are ready to put their own position at risk. Attorneys demonstrate benevolence when they turn down cases that they cannot win.

3 levels of trust

The Competence – Trust Gap

The Three-Level Model of Trust provides an explanation for the imbalance between women’s participation in the workforce and their share of leadership. As Climb Leadership Consulting president Chuck Garcia very accurately told me, “Women strive for perfection, while men strive for progress.” In other words, women excel in the ability level.

Three Self-Sabotaging Mistakes

Perfectionism leads women to three common self-sabotaging mistakes that undermine their ability to inspire trust and hence, stifle their leadership potential.

  • Deference to authority
    When women’s most important objective is to deliver spotless, perfect work, they reflect that they expect that an authority figure will judge them and their work.Because they defer to a higher authority, they tend to hold back in meetings.Expecting (and fearing) to be judged, they prefer not to share an idea lest it be imperfect.And since they believe they need someone to validate their ideas, they are not assertive. Striving for perfection makes some women berate themselves for the mistakes they make.Again, their fear to be judged compels them to self-justify before someone starts pointing fingers at their mistake.
  • Inability to create and project a vision
    When they berate themselves for not being perfect, they show their inability to see errors as points in time and necessary steps for progress. They get stuck in what went wrong and why, which prevents them from looking to the future and finding the solution.Women apply only for jobs they feel they are perfect for.According to, women don’t apply for jobs unless they meet 100% of the criteria, while men apply when they meet 60%. Besides insecurity, this habit reflects these women’s incapability to envisage their future selves. They can’t foresee how they will change and learn on the job because they consider only how they are now.
  • Lack of benevolence
    The perfectionist’s main objective is to be judged well. Benevolence, on the contrary, implies being able to erase oneself and work in the other party’s best interest.When women strive for perfection, they imply that they care about how they appear to others more than they care for others.

Bridging the Gap

While aiming at high quality standards is commendable, women need to get past the “worker ant” stage if they want to reach top leadership positions.

Showing authentic care for the objectives of others is what defines leaders.

When speaking in public, leaders care about the audience and help them connect. When leading teams, leaders care about the followers and help them thrive.

When leading a company, leaders embody its vision and help employees work strategically towards the ultimate goal.

#  #  #

You can download the entire capstone here.

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.


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.


Introduction by Iris Wenting Xue

This is my second 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.

I myself was a guest-blogger when I graduated two years ago from the program. (See A 10-C Model for Apologies here.) And it is my great honor to become a Capstone advisor and contribute to the program.

In her capstone, Stella Zhao analyzed corporate apologies in terms of wording, tone and body language. She compared different apology styles in the U.S., China, and Japan and came up with customized recommendations. As she notes, apology is not only about communication but also about anthropology. You can read the entire capstone here.


Stella Danqing Zhao

Stella Danqing Zhao

Through the Looking Glass:

A Cross-cultural Study on Proper Usages of Verbal and Nonverbal Elements in Corporate Apology Speeches – Guest Blog By Stella Danqing Zhao

My thesis is a study on different apology styles regarding wording, tone, and body language in the U.S., China, and Japan. The wording part mainly focused on IFIDs of each country, which means “Illocutionary Force Indicating Device”, also known in this case as the key apologetic words. The body language part focused on the eye contact, facial expression, gesture, posture, and also a particular way of apologizing – bowing.

The study contains two parts –  study and survey. In the case study part, nine cases, three from each country, are analyzed to find the common apologetic words, tone, and body languages:


  • Domino’s Pizza:
  • General Motors:
  • Blackberry:


  • 2015 Shenzhen Landslide:
  • Mindy Quah:
  • Sixth Naphtha Cracking Plant:


  • Rikuentai Bus Company:
  • Tokyo Electric Power Company:

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 2.36.49 PM


In the survey part, a survey was distributed and assembled using the survey software Qualtrics. Participants were first asked to answer a few questions on corporate apologies to see their general perceptions regarding wording, tone, and body language. After this part, they were shown two corporate public apology speech videos – one from Volkswagen, the other from Toshiba. To exclude the influence of participant’s knowledge of certain language, they were asked to focus only on the nonverbal part and answered a few questions regarding on the tone and the body langue of the two speakers.

  • Volkswagen:
  • Toshiba:


Based on the case studies and the survey, several similarities and differences were found between the perspectives of the audiences from those three countries. Therefore, we can have some recommendations on different apology styles in each country.


In the U.S., the most common IFIDs are “sorry” and “apologize”. According to the survey, people believe that the word “apologize” is more effective than the word “sorry”, but both of them can be used based on different situation. When using apologetic words, adverbs such as “sincerely” can be used to strengthen the tone. Honorific words are not extremely necessary and the speech can be informal to some degree, but it should still be written clearly and express regrets.


A consensus between the three countries is that the tone of an apology speech should be regretful, humble, and empathetic. However, in the U.S., people can accept a more firm, positive, and confident apology. It’s important to show your audience that you have the determination to fix the problem.

As to the body language, it’s important to make direct eye contact in the U.S. Avoiding direct eye contact can be seen as hiding and dishonest. The facial expression should be serious, and proper gestures can be applied. The posture should be formal but with natural movements instead of standing stiffly. Bowing is not recommended in the U.S. because it may be seen as an overreaction.


In China the common IFID is the derivatives of the word “qian (歉)” [In English: apology] such as “bao qian (抱歉)” [In English: apologize] and “dao qian (道歉)” [In English: apology/apologize] . “dui bu qi (对不起)” [In English: I am sorry] is also a common apologetic word but it’s less used in a formal corporate apology. Adverbs such as “cheng ken (诚恳)” [In English: sincerely] and “fei chang (非常)” [In English: very] can be used to show sincerity. One should also address the audiences with “nin (您)” [In English: you, but in a very respectful way, like “Your Majesty” rather than “Hey, you”], which is the honorific form of “you” in Chinese. The speech should be written in a formal style.

Besides being regretful, humble and empathetic, the tone of the apology speech should let people feel that you are somehow ashamed for the wrongdoing, which shows that you realized what you did was improper. It should also be firm without hesitation.

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 5.14.39 PM

In China, direct eye contact is also welcomed. People can accept having a modest smile on their face, which means the facial expression doesn’t need to be blank or stiff. Proper gestures can be applied, and the posture should be as formal as possible. Although bowing is not required in apology speeches in China, it is recommended to show more sincerity.


In Japan, there are strict requirements for the choice of apologetic words. Using informal IFIDs such as “sumimasen(すみません)” [In English: Excuse me] and “gomen nasai(ごめんなさい)” [In English: apologize in daily setting] can be seen as a mistake. IFIDs such as “moushiwage gozaimasen (申し訳ございません)” [In English: apologize in professional setting] and “owabi shimasu (お詫びします)” [In English: apologize in professional setting] are recommended. One can use multiple apologetic words in one apology to make it stronger. Using adverbs such as “fukaku (深く)” [In English: deeply] and “hontoni (本当に)” [In English: truly] are also a good way to show sincerity. Honorific form of the words is required in a formal apology.


In Japan, the tone of the apology speech should be more “negative”, meaning it should be more sad, regretted other than positive and confident. It’s better to show you remorse for bringing other people trouble.

Direct eye contact is not recommended when apologizing to Japanese people. Lowering the head can show your regrets and humble. A smile is strongly prohibited. Although in the survey the respondents didn’t disagree with using gestures, they are seldom found in previous apology speeches. Usually, Japanese people stand in a very formal posture with their hands beside their body. Bowing is required and can be applied multiple times according to different situations.


U.S. China Japan
Wording IFID “Apologize”/”Sorry” Derivatives of “qian” (歉)

“moushiwage gozaimasen”


“owabi shimasu”


Adverb Sincerely “fei chang” (非常)

“cheng ken” (诚恳)

“hukaku” (深く)

“hontoni” (本当に)














Body Language Eye contact ✔✔
Gesture Apply properly
Posture Somewhat natural Formal Formal
Bow ✔✔


The table above briefly summarizes how wording, tone, and body language shape public perceptions of corporate apologies, and how apology style differs in U.S., China and Japan. Reflecting on a better understanding of how stakeholders think and feel can help a leader, and those who advise the leader, to more likely craft an apology that will work.

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



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.


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


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.


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.



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.”


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


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…


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.





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.


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



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

Last month, my mentor and boss, Helio Fred Garcia, and I visited more than 20 organizations, including top universities and prestigious corporations, in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, and Tianjin.

During our visit, we have experienced different learning approaches and different cultural styles of lecture attendants. We had international students from joint-venture universities; Chinese students at top Chinese universities majoring in business (both MBA and Executive MBA), communication, and other liberal arts and sciences; senior PR managers from multinational groups; mid-career bankers from a national banking commission; and officials from local governments.

This post is the second in a series of posts on how to understand and overcome sociocultural obstacles. I learned three lessons about sociocultural and linguistic gaps during the Logos The Power of Communication China trip. In my last post I described the first gap: different languages. We can easily bridge the language gap by translation.

Today I will describe lessons about two other gaps that are harder to solve, although we constantly talk about them.

Lesson 2: Different Learning Approaches

In order to demonstrate how hard it is for audiences to pay attention, we showed many of our audiences the video Invisible Gorilla. You can click on it and watch before you keep reading. You will be surprised about your counting skills.

Gorilla screen shot

I first watched this video during my strategic communication course at New York University in the Public Relations and Corporate Communication Graduate Program.

In this 30-second video, six people – three in white shirts and three in black shirts – pass basketballs around. The task for the audience is to count the number of passes made by the people in white shirts, and spot a gorilla that strolls into the middle of the action, thumps its chest and then leaves.

At that time I had a robust discussion with my classmates about 1) why was it so hard to accurately count how many times the players passed the basketball and also to spot a gorilla among human beings, 2) how to understand cognitive tunneling, which is what makes the tasks so hard, and 3) what we could learn and apply to our work from that exercise.

This time in China, I discovered some interesting learning approaches beyond these three takeaways – each specific to different groups of people.

1) PhDs

When we showed this video to a group of, let’s say, 50 people, there were always 15 who counted accurately, 10-ish who came close but got the number wrong, 10-ish who got close but chose a different number, 7-ish of some less-close number and two or three people who counted very wrong.

So one of our conclusions was “Counting numbers under 20 is not as easy as we thought it’d be.”

However, when we showed the video to a group of people including Ph.Ds in China, one of their conclusions was: “The answers could be plotted as a curve.”

This was the first time we discussed The Invisible Gorilla with PhDs.   And this was the first time we received a response with the word “curve.” So, we responded with their language, “Gaussian distribution,” to acknowledge their worldview, to motivate them, to deepen the conversation.


2) Bankers

After the count, we typically asked: “While you were counting how many times the players passed the basketball, did you see a gorilla?” People either saw it or did not see it, so when they watched the video again they either were proud of their observation skills or disappointed that they had missed the gorilla.

We played the same video to a group of mid-career bankers. When we rewound the video, they denied that they had missed the gorilla:” We saw it, but we didn’t think it was a real gorilla. Instead, it was a human with a gorilla costume.”

This was the first time we had showed bankers The Invisible Gorilla. This was also the first time the audience challenged the content of the video. We respected the different habits, so we reframed the “gorilla” as “a human in a gorilla costume” based on their descriptions, to keep the conversation going.


3) Heads of Communications

Our routine at the end of the discussion was – “Any other thoughts and comments?”

Typically audiences will respond with their opinions about their counting skills or the missing gorilla.

But when we showed the same video to a group of PR directors, heads of public affairs and senior PR managers  —  from Standard Chartered, General Motors, Estée Lauder Companies, Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical Company and some other multinational enterprises — some of their final thoughts went far beyond the counting and the gorilla. Some of them knitted their brows and raised questions like “Are you manipulating us?”


They provided an interesting reason why the curve occurred, and why the gorilla, or the human with a gorilla costume, was overlooked. They insisted that the designer of the experiment manipulated the audience through putting a black gorilla among black-and-white-shirted players. They argued that since they concentrated on counting the passing of the white-shirt team, they could not pay attention to the black team and the black gorilla. If it had been a light brown gorilla, they would easily have dentified it.

How would you respond to this tricky question?

Lesson learned: “Understand your audience” appears in the slides we show to our clients.  But we have to walk the talk and meet our audience by observing their approach and adopting their language.


Lesson 3: Different Cultural Styles

Before we landed in China, we thought we would face one group of audience – Chinese audience. To our surprise, our audience differed in certain ways: Some of them were shy but smart; some of them were as open like those in the States; some of them stayed in their own world, and it took us a long time to understand their thoughts.

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I use the word “cultural style” to emphasize their subtle differences beyond imagination. To my surprise, I found in my research that Professor Dan Kahan of Yale Law School blogged this conception based on his study with his collaborators on Joseph Gusfield:

 “The term “cultural style” is, for me, a way to describe these affinities. I have adapted it from Gusfield. I & collaborators use the concept and say more about it and how it relates to Gusfield in various places.…

Examples of these are cultural generations, such as the traditional and the modern; characterological types, such as ‘inner-directed and other-directed’; and reference orientations, such as ‘cosmopolitans and locals.’”

I agree with Kahan about how people differ from each other due to the difference of location or character and share the affinities with each other due to time or education background.

Below are the four main cultural styles during our trip:

1) Top Local University Style

We visited four of the top ten universities in China. Not to our surprise, the institutions are powerful. Here are some recent updates of some of them:

Tsinghua University celebrated its 104 anniversary this past Sunday and posted some old pictures of its famous alumni, including current President Xi (graduated from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences Department and later got an LLD degree), former President Hu (graduated from the Water Conservancy Engineering Department); the governor of the People’s Bank of China Xiaochuan Zhou (got a Ph.D. degree in Automation and System Engineering), and the controversial Chinese-born American Nobel Physics Prize winner Chen-Ning Franklin Yang (received a Master’s Degree and later became an honored director).

Xi Jinping, as a student at Tsinghua University, and now as President of China

Xi Jinping, as a student at Tsinghua University, and now as President of China

Shanghai Jiaotong University, through its School of Media and Design (at which we spoke) and the University of Southern California jointly established The Institute of Cultural and Creative Industry (ICCI). Ernest J. Wilson III, Dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, visited the same campus we visited one month after our visit.


To our surprise, some of their current students were not as vocal as we expected. Lectures we held in the top local universities were much more silent than those we held in joint-venture universities, although we discovered later that they had brilliant thoughts. In general, they are proud about being “blue blood”, and they tend to appear modest but think aggressively. They were reluctant to share their personal opinions about some topics until we pushed them several times.

2) Joint-Venture University Style

Elite universities in China and other countries are already on the path of exploring partnerships with universities from other countries. For example:

  • In 2004, The University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) was set up by the University of Nottingham (UK) with the cooperation of Zhejiang’s Wanli Education Group in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province.
  • In 2006, the Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) was jointly established by University of Liverpool and Xi’an Jiao Tong University in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province.
  • In 2012, Duke Kunshan University was organized as a collaboration between Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, with Wuhan University, and the city of Kunshan, Jiangsu Province.

Among joint-venture universities we visited in China this time, we were impressed with New York University Shanghai, Johns Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies, and Sino-British College.

NYU Shanghai is NYU’s third degree-granting campus. Its enrollment started in Fall 2013, and now there are only Freshmen and Sophomores. Students are not only from China, or other Asian countries like Singapore, South Korea and the Philippines, but also from the States, Canada, France, Dubai and many other countries.

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The Johns Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies is a joint educational venture between the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University and Nanjing University. It has been operating in Nanjing since 1986.

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Sino-British College is an international university college in Shanghai, China, jointly established by the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology (USST), and nine British universities (The University of Bradford, The University of Huddersfield, The University of Leeds, Leeds Metropolitan University, Liverpool John Moores University, Manchester Metropolitan University, The University of Salford, The University of Sheffield, and Sheffield Hallam University).


These three joint venture universities have built global classrooms with a global view, where students are open and comfortable hearing other opinions and sharing opinions themselves. The diversity of student and faculty kindled the diverse discussion we typically associate with academia.

3) Business Style (Communicators and Non-Communicators)

Business audiences tended to be more worldly and more serious. For example, when we talked about crisis management in a Corporate Social Responsibility Forum in Shanghai and showed a picture of an oil platform explosion to the communicators, participants immediately identified it as “BP”. It was self-evident. They were aware of what was happening in the crisis management field, even though they live in a country where people tend to whitewash scandals. Also, some of them asked tricky questions like “Is it a smart crisis strategy to find another crisis that will shift the focus and will thus save our company from the spotlight?”

Coast Guard Attempts Burning Off Oil Leaking From Sunken Rig

Here is another sign of how seriously the business community takes professional development. When the largest residential real estate company in China (which has an office in New York) invited my boss, Helio Fred Garcia, to hold a speech about The Power of Communication, they not only offered a huge auditorium of 200 people, but also live broadcasted it to 40 other national offices. Each office was equipped with live broadcasted lecture and real-time slides. Each office had at least 20 attendants. And even though it was a Friday evening lecture, the company told us that they had an attendance rate of over 90 percent and that nobody left in the middle of the speech.

Executives at a Vanke regional office spending a Friday evening watching Prof. Garcia's workshop via remote technology

Executives at a Vanke regional office spending a Friday evening watching Prof. Garcia’s workshop via remote technology


4) Local Government Style

We coached 90 officials from Nanyang, a “small” city of 10 million residents in Henan Province.

They were being trained in crisis management because they were working on a huge national project “South–North Water Diversion”.  (Think of the drought in California, and imagine diverting a major river 800 miles to California.) Due to this project, a huge amount of Nanyang residents had to relocate. So government officials were eager to be trained for if (or when) a crisis might happen.

Route of the Water Diversion Project to bring water from the South to the greater Beijing area

Route of the Water Diversion Project to bring water from the South to the greater Beijing area

I did the simultaneous translation for the lecture. My observations are as follow:

  • The officials were focused on the lecture, even though the majority of them cannot understand English beyond “Hello” and “Thank you”.
  • They were the only group of people that were uniformly unfamiliar with Professor Garcia’s references to Greek tragedies. Every other group understood immediately when he referred Greek tragedies as the example that people remember bad things rather than good things. They were the only group of people that could not get our point of “Greek tragedies are all about choices — Do I kill my father and marry my mother?” Every other group, including students from universities and even engineers from big companies, laughed at the reference. The officials remained silent.
  • They were eager to share a Confucius quote, and insisted that I translate it simultaneously for Professor Garcia. They also expected his response and feedback to the Confucius quote. In other words, they were the group who seemed to ignore others culture, but emphasize their own culture.


Zeus hurling thunderbolts; Confucius

Zeus hurling thunderbolts; Confucius


Lesson Learned: When social patterns and cultural differences are involved, we have to be very careful about what is happening to people who do not share the same learning approach and same cultural style as ours.

The two lessons we learned today are much harder than the first lesson. Accordingly, there is no single solution for each of these gaps.  But one large takeaway from the trip is that we need to take seriously not only differences in language but also differences in learning approach and cultural style.



by Iris Wenting Xue

Earlier this year I organized last month’s four-week China book tour for my mentor and boss, Helio Fred Garcia.   The Chinese edition of his book, The Power of Communication: Skills to Build Trust, Inspire Loyalty, and Lead Effectively, and Logos Institute’s approach to leadership, communication, and crisis management, were well received and highly appreciated by Chinese readers and audiences.

PoC English Chinese

We visited 15 prestigious universities and had many public events in four Chinese cities.  Our audiences were from such disparate organizations as:

  • Top Chinese universities such as Tsinghua University, Peking University, Communication University of China, Nankai University, Shanghai Jiaotong University and Shanghai International Studies University;

Chinese University Logos

  • Joint-venture universities such as New York University Shanghai, Johns Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies, and Sino-British College;

JV School Logosjpg

  • 3) Large corporations like Vanke, the largest residential real estate developer in China, and

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  • 4) Renowned media organizations like Shanghai Daily.

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We dealt with varied groups of people, from 20-something college students to 70-something millionaires; from public relations majors to MBAs, and EMBAs;  from journalists to government officials; from crisis managers to bankers and engineers…

As a result of this exchange, Logos Institute is now in discussion with several top universities for longer-term academic collaboration, but that is not the most valuable result of the trip.

Right of Prof. Garcia, in green, Dr. Xiaojun Qian, Professor and Assistant Dean, School of Economics and Management, Tsinghua university; Left of Prof. Garcia, the publisher, Wendy Yang of Publishing House of Electronics Industry

Right of Prof. Garcia, in green, Dr. Xiaojun Qian, Professor and Assistant Dean, School of Economics and Management, Tsinghua university; Left of Prof. Garcia, the publisher, Wendy Yang of Publishing House of Electronics Industry

We have built relationships with several institutions and companies for future cooperation, but again that is not the most valuable result.

Lessons Learned

As a communication practitioner, a tour observer and a translator, I discovered three lessons to be the most valuable outcome of the trip; lessons that can help us all to better understand, respect, and bridge the communication gap between different audiences.

We should understand, respect and bridge the gaps caused by:

  1. Different languages
  2. Different learning approaches
  3. Different cultural styles

These three lessons are universal and universally applicable.

Below I elaborate on the first lesson, different languages. In a subsequent post I will elaborate on each of the remaining two lessons.

Lesson 1: Different Languages

One obvious gap between the American author, Helio Fred Garcia, and the Chinese audience is language.  We can easily overcome this obstacle by translation; translating both the slide content for visual reinforcement, and simultaneous or consecutive translation of the spoken word.

Some universities and organizations in Shanghai, and Johns Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies in Nanjing, did not require simultaneous or consecutive translation because most lecture attendants spoke fluent English.

But on most other occasions I translated the lecture, the Q&A session and even the meeting with deans, professors, or other leaders.

These two scenarios were easy to handle compared to the third scenario – The audience or the leader had the illusion that they were fluent in English, and then the misunderstanding came as expected.

This illusion of fluency has consequences, sometimes tragic, sometimes comical, but often just frustrating.

Throughout the trip, I discovered many of the challenges associated with the illusion of fluency.  I offer just two representative examples:

1) “Publicity” or “Propaganda”?

Chinese is one of the three hardest-to-master languages in the world (The other two are Arabic and German).

One difficulty is its brevity. One Chinese character could easily have five or six meanings, so there could be various explanations for one Chinese word.

For instance, the Chinese word 宣传  (“Xuan Chuan”) can be accurately translated in English as both “propaganda” and “publicity.”  In English the word “propaganda” is derogatory.  But “publicity” is benign, if not commendatory.   Because of this linguistic phenomenon, many Chinese cannot understand the subtle difference between publicity and propaganda. They interchangeably use them, just as Americans in a big city might interchangeably use “subway” and ”metro.”

To add to the confusion, there is a Chinese Central Government Department called the “Xuan Chuan Department.”  Technically, it should be translated as “Department of Publicity.”  However, because many Chinese conflate publicity and propaganda, they simply translate that department as “Department of Propaganda.”   Many even prefer the word “propaganda” because, as one person confessed to me, it “looks premium and shows the translator’s profound English vocabulary.”  This can create a deep sense of suspicion among native English speakers that “this Chinese Central Government Department does nothing else but propaganda.”  Fortunately, the official name of this department is now “The Publicity Department.”


2) God uses [a] VPN (virtual private network)?

It is commonly acknowledged that many Chinese popular foods are hard to translate. CNN and HuffingtonPost featured some humorous accounts of this.


For example, “Fo Tiao Qiang” is a southern China dish or soup originating in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912).  It contains shark fin, quail eggs, bamboo shoots, scallops, sea cucumber, abalone, chicken, Jinhua ham, pork tendon, ginseng, mushrooms, and taro.  The literal meaning of the name is “Buddha Jumps Over the Wall.”  It is meant to suggest that the dish is so enticing that even Buddha would be unable to resist its lure, and would jump over the wall of his temple to be able to taste the soup.

But last month we saw the soup translated as “God uses VPN.”  Some context:  In China much of the internet is blocked behind a firewall.  But Chinese people know how to access some of the forbidden parts  — Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.– simply by using a virtual private network (VPN) to get past the firewall. The same Chinese words lead to dramatically different English translations.


So, the delicious dish traditionally translated as “Buddha Jumps Over the Wall” on at least one menu is now rendered “God uses VPN.”  How can we understand it without the context?

In my next post I’ll address the two remaining questions:

How to understand, respect and bridge the gaps caused by

  • Different learning approaches
  • Different cultural styles.




Worth Reading: Jock Talk: 5 Communication Principles for Leaders as Exemplified by Legends of the Sports World by Beth Noymer Levine.



I am honored to have written the Foreword to Jock Talk by my friend Beth Noymer Levine, the head of SmartMouth Communications.

It is an inspiring book that will help any reader enhance his or her leadership communication skill.   Well worth reading, digesting, and applying.

Beth Noymer Levine, Author of Jock Talk

Beth Noymer Levine, Author of Jock Talk


The following is adapted from the Foreword:

Thirty years ago I made one of the best business decisions of my career. I hired Beth Noymer Levine.

I had just started work in the world’s largest PR firm, one of 25 people devoted full-time to a single Wall Street client. I was a mid-level member of the group, tasked with assembling a small team to promote our client’s nascent investment banking business. Beth became part of our five-person investment banking communication team. It was 1985, the go-go years on Wall Street — just a few years before actor Charlie Sheen captured the pace and possibilities, as well as the consequences of overdoing it, in the film Wall Street. We spent our days at our client’s Wall Street offices and trading floor, grazing for news by morning and early afternoon, and speaking with the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other media by late afternoon, all to earn our client a disproportionate share of voice in the papers.


We were young and brash and somewhat fearless. We began not knowing a thing about Wall Street — in my job interview I had to point out that I didn’t know the difference between a stock and a bond. My future boss reassured me, “you will.” And indeed we learned. And Beth was a star, earning not only our trust but also that of our (sometimes difficult) client and the news media. She was very, very good at it.

After a few years I left for another firm, and Beth also left for yet another. We reconnected at the end of the decade, when I became head of communication for a large investment bank. I retained Beth’s firm. Beth became my advisor, and I discovered that she had assembled her own team of young, brash, and talented investment banking communicators.

A couple of years later I had begun teaching investor relations and financial communication at New York University’s Marketing & Management Institute. They asked me to teach another course, so I needed to hand off Investor Relations. I could think of only one person to take over the course: Beth. She joined the NYU faculty and taught brilliantly for the next several years. Then her career led her to Atlanta, where she became head of corporate communications for a large bank – one that eventually would become part of Bank of America.

And then we went our separate ways. Beth started her own consulting practice and got involved in the world of Olympic and professional sports in addition to the corporate world. I spent the next 20 years building a crisis and leadership coaching practice, with a heavy emphasis on Wall Street, healthcare, and the military.



We reconnected over coffee in New York when she came to meet with people about her book idea – what became Jock Talk. And we discovered that we were each working on similar books – books on how to lead, build trust, and inspire loyalty through effective communication. Only I was doing it through the metaphor of military strategy, she through sports. We didn’t really compare notes. But we agreed to stay in touch.

My book, The Power of Communication: Skills to Build Trust, Inspire Loyalty, and Lead Effectively, came out in mid-2012; Beth read it only after she had finished writing hers. But – perhaps not surprisingly – the two books are completely aligned. We come at things from different directions and use different vocabulary. But we’re fellow travelers, applying and interpreting the same principles in ways we have found to work for our clients. And why not? We came of age together, discovering the hard way what works and what doesn’t. One small example: Beth’s First Principle is audience-centricity. My book’s Second Principle is that you can’t move people unless you meet them where they are. Same idea. But hers also embodies her Fourth Principle: Brevity.

I was honored and humbled when Beth asked me to write the Foreword. I devoured her book. It is brilliant. It is witty. And it works. I know that after you’ve read the book, and taken to heart Beth’s principles and techniques, you will become a more effective communicator, and therefore a more effective leader.

Beth and I agree on this: If you cannot communicate effectively you will not lead. Whether you’re an athlete, a candidate for political office, a business executive, or just someone trying to build a career, you will benefit mightily from Jock Talk’s approach.




by Helio Fred Garcia

I’ve been in China for just over a month, the last two weeks of which were spent on book tour in connection with the publication of the Chinese edition of The Power of Communication: Skills to Build Trust, Inspire Loyalty, and Lead Effectively.

Book Tour


Publications - PC China Cover - 2014 Jun 12
The concepts from the book and the best practices and principles applied by Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership have been very well received by both academic and business audiences here.  I have spoken so far in three cities: Shanghai, Nanjing, and Tianjin.  I’m now in Beijing, and all the remaining work will be here.

By the time we’re done, I will have spoken at fifteen universities, including most of the top-10-ranked Chinese universities.  And also will have spoken at a half-dozen corporate events.

From business school deans and graduate students to newspaper editors to business executives, there has been an appetite for the best practices in crisis management and crisis communication, and also in executive leadership skills.  As China goes through extraordinary change, there is also a recognition that a management approach that promotes a culture of compliance but not of innovation may not be sustainable.  The tough migration to leadership that inspires, and to timely decision-making that maintains trust, has produced meaningful desire to get the principles right.  It is part of a larger change taking place across all elements of Chinese society.

Announcement at Nanjing University

Announcement at Nanjing University

Three universities so far have asked to discuss formalizing long-term relationships with Logos Institute, but no commitments in either direction have yet been made.


The tour started in Shanghai, in friendly territory: NYU Shanghai, where NYU Shanghai student and Logos colleague Evan Chethik made introductions.   The school, only in its second year, is housed in an ultra-modern building with smart classrooms, up-to-date labs, and even iPads in public areas for student use.  Their art lab has two 3-D printers.  I gave two classes, one on The Power of Communication and Leadership for the Global Liberal Studies course, and a public lecture focusing more on Power of Communication and barriers to effective audience engagement.  The students were smart, engaged, and engaging.  About half of my group were Americans visiting for a year; some were from NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus; the rest were Chinese, part of the first two classes of Chinese students to get an NYU Degree completely from NYU’s Shanghai college.

With my Logos colleague and NYU Shanghai student Evan Chethik

With my Logos colleague and NYU Shanghai student Evan Chethik

Our NYU Shanghai contact, Professor Ray Ro, is also on the faculty at Sino-British College, a consortium of University of Shanghai for Science and Technology and nine British universities.  We went there the next day.  Most of the students were Chinese, majoring in either engineering or business.  They too were quite engaged and engaging.

Teaching MBA students at Shanghai International Studies University

Teaching MBA students at Shanghai International Studies University

The same day we visited Shanghai Jiaotong University’s School of Media and Design, teaching graduate students on effective interpersonal communication.  Great students.

With Dr. Zhen Fan, Dean of the School of Business, Shanghai International Studies University

With Dr. Zhen Fan, Dean of the School of Business, Shanghai International Studies University

The next day we visited Shanghai International Studies University School of Business.  This was the first of two visits to the university, and three classes.  Here the students were getting their MBAs, some with a concentration in communication.  Most were Chinese, but there were some Americans and several Europeans.  The discussion was lively and vivid.

Teaching undergraduate business students at Shanghai International Studies University

Teaching undergraduate business students at Shanghai International Studies University

We returned to Shanghai International Studies University, to teach School of English Studies and in the undergraduate business school.

NYU MS in PR/CC Student Reunion

2014 grads of the NYU MS in PR/CC. L to R, Iris Wenting Xue, Ci Song, Judy Zhu, and Ada Yang. (I was thesis advisor to Iris and Judy)

2014 grads of the NYU MS in PR/CC. L to R, Iris Wenting Xue, Ci Song, Judy Zhu, and Ada Yang. (I was thesis advisor to Iris and Judy)

One of the highlights of the Shanghai visit was a reunion of several of my NYU MS in Public Relations and Corporate Communication students who now live and work in Shanghai.  All are working in good public relations jobs.  (A similar reunion is planned for Beijing.)

Corporate Presentations

While in Shanghai we had the opportunity to speak at three corporate events.

Shanghai Daily, the English language newspaper of Shanghai, invited me to give a luncheon workshop on crisis management to the heads of communication of about 25 multinational corporations.

Shanghai Daily StoryThe event was also attended by a number of editors and reporters from the newspaper, and officials of the Shanghai city government.

With Joyce Wu, Editor-in-Chief of Shanghai Daily, the English language newspaper of Shanghai

With Joyce Wu, Editor-in-Chief of Shanghai Daily, the English language newspaper of Shanghai

That evening we went to the headquarters office of Vanke, a the largest residential real estate developer in China.  Our evening was jointly sponsored by Vanke and Ivy League English, which hosted us several times.  The session was on strategy, leadership, and the power of communication.

The main room at Vanke, 250 people, plus 40 offices participating remotely via video hookup

The main room at Vanke, 250 people, plus 40 offices participating remotely via video hookup

In addition to the 240 people in the headquarters office, forty of Vanke’s offices throughout China also participated via video hookup.  This was the first session we held where we needed simultaneous translation into Chinese (although at all sessions, our slides were in both English and Chinese).  Ivy League English will also sponsor a similar session in Beijing.

Vanke employees at one of 40 remote locations participating in the workshop

Vanke employees at one of 40 remote locations participating in the workshop

Several days later we met at Ivy League English’s Shanghai headquarters offices for a meeting of Shanghai CSR We Can, a group of 25 heads of corporate social responsibility for major Chinese companies and for the Chinese offices of multinationals.  We spent the afternoon covering the overlap between corporate responsibility and crisis management; especially the need in each instance to take seriously stakeholder expectations and concerns.  We had lively discussion and debate.


We then took the bullet train to Nanjing, and spent a whirlwind 36 hours there.

That night we gave a public lecture at the Johns Hopkins University Nanjing Center, a campus of the School of Advanced International Studies.   The topic was the use of power in all forms, but especially communication as soft power, and therefore more sustainable than hard power.  The students were getting their MAs or graduate certificates in international relations and foreign policy.

The announcement at the Johns Hopkins University Nanjing Center

The announcement at the Johns Hopkins University Nanjing Center

These students, generally older and more experienced internationally than the business students I had met at other universities, had a sophisticated understanding of foreign policy, economics, and military force.  We had lively discussions of American foreign policy, framing (ISIS or ISIL?), and the limits of soft power.

Student interaction at Johns Hopkins University Nanjing Center

Student interaction at Johns Hopkins University Nanjing Center

Another unexpected delight on the trip was a surprise visit to the Johns Hopkins lecture by my former NYU PR/CC student Tao Feng.  He graduated in 2014, and now works for Burson-Marsteller in Guangzhou, China.  He happened to be in Nanjing for a client meeting, and saw the notice of the lecture on Weibo (Chinese equivalent of Twitter) and was able to get to the lecture, his boss in tow.  We shared a taxi afterward.

With Tao Feng, 2014 graduate of the NYU MS in PR/CC

With Tao Feng, 2014 graduate of the NYU MS in PR/CC

The next day we returned to downtown Nanjing to speak at a public workshop at Nanjing University on maintaining trust in a crisis.  It was a small but focused group of undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctorate students.

We spent the afternoon at a distant campus of Communication University of China, Nanjing.  The public lecture on effective leadership communication was held in the library auditorium to a standing-room only crowd.  The discussion was lively and toward the end got a bit raucous.  Or, as Dr. Shirley Tse, our host, said, the students were vivid.

Teaching at Communication University of China Nanjing

Teaching at Communication University of China Nanjing


After class we took the bullet train from Nanjing to Beijing, and seven hours later took the bullet commuter train the half hour (90 miles) to Tianjin, a city of 13 million known for its technology and manufacturing base.  (Logos has several large industrial clients with facilities here.)

The announcement at Tianjin University College of Management and Economics

The announcement at Tianjin University College of Management and Economics

That day we spoke at Tianjin University’s College of Management and Economics.  Tianjin University, founded in 1895, is the oldest university in China.

With Dr. Zhang Wei, Dean, College of Management and Economics, Tianjin University

With Dr. Zhang Wei, Dean, College of Management and Economics, Tianjin University

We spoke to the MBAs, Executive MBAs, and other business students on leadership and the power of communication.  The next day we were back in Tianjin to speak at Nankai University’s business school.

Teaching business students at Nankai University Business School

Teaching business students at Nankai University Business School

And then we rested.

My wife, Laurel Garcia Colvin, returned to New York Saturday, after four and a half weeks in China.  I got a three-day weekend, just ending now.

The trip has been ably assembled and managed by Logos Institute Research and China Business Development Associate Iris Wenting Xue (who also did most of the simultaneous translation, when needed). She has worked closely Beryl Young,  a manager with the book’s publisher, Publishing House of Electronics Industry.

Tomorrow the Beijing portion of the trip begins, and will last nine days.  Stay tuned…


Watchtower on the Northwest Corner of the Forbidden City, Beijing, from across the moat

Watchtower on the Northwest Corner of the Forbidden City, Beijing, from across the moat