Never Say Never

June 2, 2017

by Roger Pynn

We can all hope that British Airways never again has an IT failure like the one that stranded thousands of passengers over the weekend, and while it may be a laudable objective, saying you plan to never let something terrible happen again is an all-in bet you might not want to make.

“Once the disruption is over, we will carry out an exhaustive investigation into what caused this incident, and take measures to ensure it never happens again,” BA CEO Alex Cruz said.

Those advising Cruz on messaging should have known better and that in an industry that has been taking so many hits, erring on the side of caution is the best rule.  Just as you can’t be sure you won’t have an unruly passenger or turbulent weather, you can’t promise technology won’t fail.

So what makes sense in a case like this when the pressure is on?  Perhaps you advise your executive to acknowledge that “in today’s technology dependent world we all know the potential for glitches, but it behooves us to investigate this situation exhaustively and do everything in our power to find solutions and redundant protection for the future.  We truly apologize and appreciate the patience of all those who were inconvenienced.”

Is the President Christian?

February 25, 2015

by Dan Ward

Do you think President Obama is a Christian?

You’d be justified in asking why that question is being posed in a blog about strategic communication. But that misses the point.

Of course that question has nothing to do with the subject of our blog. It also has little or nothing to do with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s policies or record, but that didn’t stop Washington Post reporters Dan Balz and Robert Costa from asking it of him.

Conservatives argue that the question was inappropriate and an example of media bias. Liberals question why he didn’t just answer, “of course.”

I argue that communications professionals better get ready.

Journalists know that successful politicians are well-trained to stay on message regarding their policies. That’s why they’ve taken to asking nonsense questions. Get someone off-script, and you have a good chance of creating controversy that drives click counts. That strategy of asking unimportant, irrelevant questions will soon find its way to interviews with business and civic leaders.

Communicators need to adapt. For instance, we no longer train spokespersons on how to answer specific questions, because the potential list of questions is now limitless. Instead, our Message Matrix® training program focuses on responses that are tied to issues rather than questions. No matter how nonsensical a question may be, you can always tie it back to a key issue and speak to that issue … responding to a question, rather than answering it.

Reporters may no longer want to ask questions of importance, so it’s our job to provide answers that matter.

Effortless Messaging

June 10, 2014

by Kim Taylor

Have you heard of Zingerman’s?  If you haven’t, you’re welcome.  If you have, you probably already know that as a brand they just “get it.” I’d rank them alongside brands like Ben & Jerry’s and Life is Good.  Cool products and a brand story that works.  They know their audience and their messaging is custom-made for them.

Speaking of custom-made messaging … I couldn’t help but giggle when I saw this email:


I can’t say for sure if the demand for their Reuben Kits caused an issue with their site, or if they’re just maximizing promotion of their Father’s Day gifts.  Either way, their message was clever enough to make me reconsider my own dad’s day purchase.

If you truly know your audience, messaging really can be effortless.

The Perfect Message

August 27, 2012

by Dan Ward

When I learned this weekend of Neil Armstrong’s passing, my first thought was not of his legendary achievement of being the first to walk on the moon, but of a long-ago class assignment on the message he broadcast to the world July 21, 1969.

Our teacher issued what at first seemed a simple challenge:  re-write Armstrong’s “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind” message in our own words.

But after struggling for what seemed like hours, I came up with nothing.  I walked up to the teacher and said, “I can’t do it.  What he wrote was perfect.”

As a professional communicator, I’ve always prided myself on the ability to edit.  There are always words that can be revised or removed to convey a stronger, more concise message.  But I still see no way to edit what Armstrong said that day.

He was not only the first human being to walk on the moon.  He was perhaps also the first human being to craft the perfect message.

Communication & Leadership

August 26, 2011

by Roger Pynn

This item from LeadingBlog about Diana Smith’s new book “The Elephant in the Room” reinforces the role public relations can play in building mutually productive relationships and achieving consensus … particularly in stressful times.  If, as Smith describes, two egos as large as Roosevelt and Churchill could learn to accept each other by looking beyond their personal opinions to understand the other’s perspective, it would seem there are very few who can’t.


In a world so complex and full of messaging, however, isn’t that what public relations people really ought to focus on … bridging misunderstanding as opposed to simple promotion?  Whether you are trying to build understanding of a brand, position a product for sale or overcome misperceptions of an individual’s positions, what we really do is create an environment in which negotiation can take place without tension.


In the end, what I think isn’t nearly as important as what the person I am negotiating with perceives.  If I can see the world through their lens I’m far more likely to understand the barriers to them adopting my position.


That’s the first step in leadership.


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