I hold Lance Morgan in the deepest affection. He's an amazing strategist, counselor, friend, mentor and boss. I also think he's flat out wrong in his concern over bringing TV cameras into the Supreme Court.
Consider Lance’s thoughtful Washington Post op-ed on restoring civility and worth to presidential debates. He called for a structured process in which candidates would actually engage on the issues rather than talk at and around each other. And he rightly observed that “television is a hot medium that benefits the cool personality.” Exactly.
The civil and lofty tone Lance is calling for in presidential debates exists right now at the Supreme Court, but few pay attention to it. If you've never seen it in person, you've missed one of the treasures of our way of government. I don't think inviting more people to observe these good manners, well-framed questions and responses, and respect for people and differing positions would be a bad thing for society. Nor do I believe the tradition, norms and culture of the Court and Bar is so fragile as to be corrupted by allowing some sun to shine on the proceedings. As long as the Court keeps its arguments hidden, there will be those who think that there’s something embarrassing or untoward happening.
(It’s not unlike what we constantly tell our clients. If you say nothing at all in response to a lawsuit or charge filed against you, folks will assume you are guilty.) The fact is, the debates in that big marble building could be a great teacher to the rest of us.
Lance is no doubt right that televising the Supreme Court risks changing it, in a media version of the observer effect. But the bottom line for oral advocates before the Court will be the same as ever: they want to win for their clients. (Don’t we all?)
Anyone who tries to get too cute and plays to the cameras would suffer the worst form of punishment available to someone who makes her living talking to ladies and gentlemen in long black robes – being brought down a notch in credibility. And I think there’s a greater risk to the legitimacy of an institution made up of lifetime appointees by remaining cloaked in secrecy as the rest of the world becomes ever more transparent.
Finally, while I’d also prefer 1987’s Senate roster to today’s, let’s not kid ourselves that the pre-television Congress was some sort of civility paradise lost. After all, one of the most violent days in the Senate occurred more than fifty years before Philo T. Farnsworth was even born. On May 22, 1856, Rep. Preston Brooks (D-SC) beat Sen. Charles Sumner (R-Mass.) unconscious with a cane on the Senate floor after a particularly intemperate Sumner speech entitled “Crime Against Kansas” – all without C-SPAN’s cameras there to document it.
Flickr Creative Commons Photo by dbking
I have enormous respect and affection for Brian Wommack as a person and a professional. But as far as his views on televising the Supreme Court are concerned, he is — to quote a very wise man — wrong, wrong, wrong.
Many barrels of ink have been spilled and innumerable millions of pixels wasted debating whether or not the Supreme Court should have televised the oral arguments on the health care bill this week. A few more won’t hurt.
As a firm subscriber to the Kikuyu theory that cameras may steal your soul (relax, I’m only half serious), I thought it was a lousy idea when Congress started televising floor “debates.” Before arguing with me on that one, hold a roster of the Senate in 1987 in one hand and a roster of the Senate in 2012 in the other and compare quality.
Televising the Supreme Court doesn’t seem like a good idea either. Before you send me threatening emails, please go to C-Span.org and listen to the oral arguments. You will hear things that will astonish you: temperate discussion, calm questioning and reasonable discourse from both sides of the bench and the political aisle.
Then ask yourself this simple question: If cameras were on, would the tone be the same, the demeanor as professional, the discussion as thoughtful? Or would any (all?) of the participants have been compelled -- by virtue of the all-seeing eye – to be just a little cuter, pithier or more telegenic than they would have been without the cameras?
There is much good about the visual world we are increasingly inhabiting. And something important to be said for not letting everything be televised.
Today, the Supreme Court began six hours of oral arguments over three days to review the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. You have to go back to the mid-1960s to find oral arguments that lengthy.
Perhaps as an informed citizen you’d like to watch some of the proceedings. Simple, right? Surely something as critical to our government, our economy, our politics, our very lives (to hear folks on both sides of the arguments tell it) is on television. Maybe CourtTV? Or C-SPAN? Or at least major excerpts will be available on news broadcasts?
Wrong, wrong, and wrong.
If you want to observe any of the proceedings yourself, you needed to get in line (or hire a professional line-sitter — don’t get me started on that) last week. That’s right. Real-time access is available for a price, or to those who braved the rain and the elements and lived on First Street over the weekend.
To its great credit, the Senate Judiciary Committee has tried to get the Supreme Court to open up, but legislation to require it obviously has separation-of-powers implications. In 2007, I wrote a piece for the Legal Times arguing that the Supreme Court should “Let the People See Justice.” More than four years later, a media and technology revolution has made us all into citizen journalists and repressive regimes everywhere fear the new transparency. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect that a branch of our own government would remain one of the most closed in the world.
In a major concession, the court will release same-day audio of the arguments. (Usually, these recordings come out at the end of each week of argument.) But as Americans rightly demand more transparency from all institutions, the notion that we should be shut out of watching such historic arguments in real time seems deeply anachronistic.
Whatever one thinks of Justice Roberts’ jurisprudence, he is a reasonable man. He is himself a product of the media age, and the youngest chief in more than 200 years. From my work with him on behalf of a common client when he was still in legal practice, I would say that he has some understanding of and appreciation for the role of the media. I have to believe that deep down, he realizes he missed a historic opportunity to invite Americans to watch proceedings that promise to profoundly impact their lives.
The revolution will be televised, but at least for now the Supreme Court will not be.
I am excited to be attending the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship Conference today and tomorrow in Phoenix. The event draws over 600 corporate CSR professionals and opinion leaders together for conversation, presentations and thoughtful reflections on the many dimensions, challenges and rewards to corporate citizenship programs.
I’m facilitating a panel tomorrow on how companies can pursue strategies that link reputation and citizenship activities. The panelists are Jennifer Silberman, Vice President, Corporate Responsibility, Hilton Worldwide and Nicole Rustad, Corporate Citizenship Program Director, The Walt Disney Company. It promises to be an excellent discussion.
As I’m sure the panelists will speak to, citizenship building efforts can be enormously helpful to strengthening reputation and enhancing brand equity. Yet, it’s also not without its challenges in managing stakeholders and driving internal engagement and support. We’ll talk about how their corporations – both large and iconic brands – approach CSR and citizenship strategies.
I’ll be asking a number of questions of the panelists. Are there any topics you’d like us to cover?
Joseph Kony is a monster – that fundamental truth is plain and simple. But that is where the simplicity stops. To gauge the African perspective of the KONY2012 film, I called Uganda and spoke to communication experts across the country. They shared perspectives that are emerging from Kampala, Gulu and points far beyond. While people in Northern Uganda hurled rocks at the screen during a recent screening, here is how my colleagues articulated their frustrations with the film:
• It is an oversimplification of a complex issue. The terror waged in Northern Uganda saw atrocities on all sides. There were clear examples where the government failed to protect its people and according to many were at least complicit in the slaughter of its people. The roots of this problem are deep and according to one expert, “will not be solved by a tweet from Rihanna or Bono.”
• It obscures what’s really needed. Before Joseph Kony there was another warlord in Northern Uganda. According to Uganda’s Daily Monitor, “The LRA is a raggedy bunch of a few hundreds at most, poorly equipped, poorly armed and poorly trained.” A military solution will stop one villain, but leave a hole for the next monster if we don’t address the health, education and development needs of the people.
• It doesn’t reflect the realities of the people. Kony hasn’t been in Northern Uganda for six years. In that time the people have been rebuilding. While Invisible Children has assisted in that effort, its film ignores the fact that today in Northern Uganda people are planting crops, touring game reserves and exhaling after years of fear. This film carelessly threatens a burgeoning tourism industry and economy beginning to find its feet in Uganda.
• It smacks of a tired narrative. The white man (albeit accompanied by his adorable child) saving Africans. It’s been done before and while a broader global consciousness is important, we need to find a new way to tell this story that isn’t so, well…patronizing.
My African colleagues share important lessons for all those who will take a page from the KONY2012 playbook:
• Create collaboratively. The video is powerful, but imagine how much more powerful it would have been if the rocks had been thrown during a test screening.
• A simple rallying cry is important; just make sure it’s the right one. Action is urgent and necessary, but let’s ensure we find the right goal.
Google the phrase “auto manufacturers 1912” and the first citation will take you to a wikipedia entry that lists hundreds of American car companies that existed 100 years ago. Today, three remain.
My guess is that a century from now, when our grandchildren Google -- or activate their neuro-cranial mnemonic devices to view -- the term “online news organizations,” the ratio between the defunct and existing outfits might be somewhat comparable.
The profusion of news sites and the confusion they have wrought about what journalism means, and what it means to be a journalist, will undoubtedly continue. The barriers to entry are very low. Anyone with access to the Internet and three nanograms of brain matter (or less), can start acting as if the world cannot wait for their latest pronouncement on the human condition.
But eventually, both truth and quality will win out. The Wild West media environment that Howard Fineman talked about in our media panel discussion last week will be tamed. The gunslingers will move on, retire or die off because there will be no market for their product. New ones will take their place and the cycle will continue, of course, but the only ones that thrive will be the ones that offer real value.
In a week when another “journalist” was outted for fabricating a story (see Mike Daisey and “This American Life” on Chinese workers and Apple), we got some positive news about the news media from the 2012 “State of the News Media” report from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.
The report notes that the explosion of mobile devices is being accompanied by a rise in people’s news consumption that is “strengthening the lure of traditional news brands and providing a boost to long-form journalism.” It turns out, it seems, that having easier access to news throughout the day is impelling people to use that access.
For the first time in a decade, news audiences grew (4.5%) at the three traditional broadcast networks. Local broadcast audiences grew in both morning and late evening time slots for the first time in five years. Cable outlets grew in 2011 after a down year in 2010. CNN’s audience grew by 16% in median prime-time viewership, compared to a 3% increase for MSNBC and a decline at Fox, which still has by far the largest audience of the three dominant cable news providers.
Of course, not everything is rosy in media land. The report noted that in the last five years, an average of 15 newspapers – about 1% of the industry – has gone out of business. As a result, a growing number of executives predict that in five years many newspapers will offer a print home-delivered newspaper only on Sunday, and perhaps one or two other days a week that account for most print ad revenue. Despite this downturn, Pew said that mobile devices increased traffic on major newspaper websites by an average of 9%.
Social media are increasingly important, the report says, “but not overwhelming drivers of news, at least not yet.” No more than 10% of digital news consumers “very often” follow news recommendations from Facebook or Twitter, the survey said, and almost all who do are still using other ways to go directly to news websites or apps.
The mechanism by which people get their news is less important than the quality of the product they are receiving. In this regard, the Pew report continues to point to hopefulness in our news consumption (at least to me).
Some years ago, it was reported that despite the online media explosion, the vast majority of people got their news from major media like The New York Times, Washington Post, CBS, etc. This still seems to be the case. Gresham’s Law, in which the bad of a commodity drives out the good, is being held at bay – at least for the past 12 months and, hopefully, for a long time to come.
In a world of texts, tweets and Facebook posts, the filmmakers of Kony2012 asked us for 27 minutes. The result, as we all know, has been the biggest viral video of all time. It's been viewed more then 100 million times—that is more than twice the population of Uganda, where the story of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) began in 1986. We’ve all been watching the phenomena of Kony2012 and following the subsequent backlash. The spread of the video and the conversation it sparked have been astounding. Social media has indeed changed the game in how you build an advocacy movement.
Still, the critics are out in full force — as they were with the Save Darfur movement — pointing out what’s wrong with the video’s simplification of a complicated story, its white-man’s-burden thematic, and its questionable call to action. The filmmakers have responded directly saying the video is an entry point and that they want people to dig deeper. The verdict is still out on if that is really happening.
So what is it that made us “pay attention” to this story? With all the videos, campaigns, events addressing issues around the globe how did this one rise to the top? And, importantly, will this video result in long-term engagement?
Over the next few days we will attempt to answer these questions. We hope you will join us and share your thoughts and comments.
P.S. Most recently, the video’s lack of voices from the ground is stirring debate. Yesterday, a projector was set up in Northern Uganda to show the film. So while we continue to debate its merits, the people who survived the tragic nightmare of the LRA were actually able to watch it. The early reviews aren’t good. Watch for thoughts on this soon from our own Deanna Peterson in Johannesburg.
The soaring costs of health care make it increasingly clear there must be a reinvention in the way health care is delivered. Currently health care is 18 percent of the U.S. GDP and by 2050, it is predicted it will reach nearly 40% if the climate maintains the status quo. General Motors spent $4.6 billion on health care in 2007 - more than it spent on steel. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 80 percent of uninsured people are part of working families.
At SXSW, crowdsourcing health care was presented as a potential solution to this problem. The concept of crowdsourcing is essentially that strong and innovative solutions can originate from those who are allowed to collaborate and organize organically. The panel, led by influencers at the Department of Health and Human Services, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, NASA and others, suggested the time is now to welcome varying voices – entrepreneurs, providers, developers, patients - into the health care debate. Panelists touted the use of incentive-based programs as not only an effective mechanism for spurring innovation, but a model that is becoming more mainstream.
While the use of challenges and prizes have been a motivator throughout history, a recent McKinsey & Company report shows a dramatic spike of late. “Philanthropic prizes are growing in number and size, are appearing in new forms, and are being applied to a wider range of societal objectives by a wider range of sponsors than ever before,” the study reports.
This can in part be attributed to the passage of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, enabling all federal agencies to execute such competitions, and sanctioning the use of appropriated funds to support this innovation.
Indu Subaiya, Co-Chairman and CEO of Health 2.0: User Generated Healthcare, and Jeffry Davis, Director of the NASA Human Health and Performance Center, cited the benefits of this crowdsourcing model to include:
- Production of innovative ideas and an element of surprise due to cross-discipline participants
- Facilitation of broad collaboration and a convening of influencers who care about the issues
- Acceleration of product/idea development time and reduced cost
- Inspiration of public engagement and ultimately, a mechanism for sharing best practices.
Health 2.0, which works with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to engage government agencies, community organizations, nonprofits and others, to date has launched 25+ online challenges, more than 10 code-a-thons and offered $900,000 in prizes. Many of these challenges are not only producing fresh, creative ideas, but also building communities through the process of competition and driving discussion. Imagine the potential revolution of the health care industry if everyone was an active participant. Are you up for the challenge?
About 10 years ago, I received at rather unusual call. A nurse was on the line telling me that my bone marrow matched a woman with Leukemia somewhere in the Midwest.
A few months later, I was at Georgetown University Hospital getting an epidural and having marrow removed from my hip.
Science has advanced in the last decade and the donation process is now much easier. In the majority of cases, bone marrow is harvested through stem cells collected from a patient’s blood. No surgery needed.
But while the donation process has become much more accessible, a huge challenge still remains: there aren’t enough donors. Only half of the people needing transplants find a suitable donor.
The big question has always been how do you encourage people to donate and how do you actually make it possible for them to do it?
Graham Douglas has found a rather ingenious answer. He created a kit that goes inside a Band-Aid box. When you go to grab a Band-Aid you’ll also find a swab.
Put a drop of you blood on it, insert into the postage-paid envelope and mail. That is it. You are on your way to being part of the National Marrow Registry.
This type of smart and innovative solution has remarkable potential to change tens of thousands of lives.
For me it’s a reminder that the most creative and powerful ideas aren’t the ones with fancy bells and whistles. The best ideas are almost always the simple ones.
The “Help I Cut Myself” kit hits stores next week.
For those who can’t wait, visit the amazing team at Be the Match.
Flickr Creative Commons photo by familymwr
The front page of Saturday’s New York Times served to remind me all over again about the essential ingredient in almost every news story. The irony here is that most organizations, in crafting a media strategy to tout a product or service or cause, often avoid that very element, acting almost as if it’s non-existent.
The common denominator I’m talking about here is conflict.
That recent newspaper front page abounded with conflict.
- The settling of the lawsuit over the BP oil spill.
- President Obama supporting the law student badmouthed by Rush Limbaugh.
- An analysis of why American soldiers in Afghanistan burned copies of the Koran.
- Two former business partners turned rivals.
- A court case about a gay student apparently driven to suicide.
It is the savvy organization that, looking to tell a story, will acknowledge the presence of conflict. The executive fired from his first job who went on to become a CEO. The product that became a blockbuster only after umpteen failed experiments. The engineering concept that the previous board of directors rejected. The unknown, unheralded basketball player who came off the bench to ignite a winning streak and thrilled the world.
Years ago, a high school teacher showed us the classic movie “Citizen Kane” in class. Early on is a shot of a murky palatial mansion as seen through high metal gates. “Do you know what those gates represent?” the teacher asked us. None of the students answered. “Conflict,” he said.
At the time, because at 16 I already knew everything you could possibly know, I dismissed the answer as pat. Now I recognize the statement as valid – and key to a story properly told.
Virtually every story of merit is a good-news-bad-news scenario. Every success story can be a success story in the first place only because of obstacles overcome and problems solved.
We’ve adopted this practice with our own clients. Teenagers daily drop out of school, but here comes the U.S. Army with a program to keep kids in school. Baby Boomers are at risk of coming down with hepatitis C, but the Department of Health and Human Services urges us to get screened.
In strategic communications, the element of conflict is a reality that should never be sidestepped. Rather, it should be embraced. Only then can your story unleash the force known as the truth.
Facebook has announced big changes to brand pages, which affect every organization, association, company and nonprofit on Facebook. This means that brands (more than ever) now need to be storytellers – not marketers – on Facebook, as the timeline format turns the Facebook page into a true storytelling canvas.
Do you have a plan in place?
Brand pages can now showcase the entire history of their brand, dating back long before Facebook’s creation and featuring important moments in brand history. A great example is the New York Times timeline, which now features facts and information about the newspaper going back to its founding in 1851.
In the new format, if you want to post something important you don’t have to worry about it being buried in other comments on their page.
As my colleague Lauren Melcher points out, Facebook pages will no longer display content in a purely chronological order. Administrators can choose which posts take two columns instead of just one. In addition, the new setup allows brands to pin a post to the top of a brand page and hide other posts. This gives brands much more control over their Facebook page content layout and messaging.
Meanwhile, instead of posting complaints and questions directly on a Facebook page, visitors now have the option to message the administrators directly. Administrators reply directly to answer questions and minimize the number of negative posts on their own pages.
As you can see, these are big changes. All brand pages will migrate to the new format on March 30 whether they’re ready or not. Make sure your organization isn’t left behind.
Photo by Jackie Danicki, used with permission
We’ve known content is king for some time now, but the kingdom is getting increasingly complicated.
According to Altimeter Group’s recent report, organizations must “think and function as publishers, producers — and often — as community managers.” This is causing disruption within organizations, not only because of the demands inherent in publishing, but also the creativity involved in breaking through in a crowded marketplace.
In a recent Forbes post, our own Chris Perry challenges brands to come up with “original ideas that go beyond republishing content you have on the shelf.” Not just any content will do given the increasing pressure to meet the demands of our discerning audiences. We have to get more creative.
In order to help us meet these expectations, here are three trends to keep in mind:
• Multidimensional Storytelling
Look beyond linear storytelling (such as a single video with one entry and exit point) as a way to fight for attention and increase the time people spend engaging with our content. We should embrace our users who are increasingly used to interacting with content in more tactile ways thanks to touch-and-gesture devices. Content that combines the best in video, animation, data photography and sound can create visceral experiences that capture and compel our audiences. Bear 71 and Welcome to Pine Point are two great examples of how multidimensional storytelling can come to life.
• Persona-Based Content
Move away from one-size-fits-all content model. As the Web becomes more targeted and personalized, content should follow suit. Create content with the audience personas in mind and then serve out tailored content based on what we know about the user. Whether through paid syndication programs or site user habits, we need to create unique content based on users instead of blindly blanketing everyone in the same way. For example, the video ad company MixPo allows you to tailor your video assets through personalization and targeting without creating multiple assets.
• Real-World Content
Use the physical environment as a part of the story. While QR codes have shown limitations, we should not ignore what TrendWatching calls “Point & Know.” The devices we carry enable us to connect what our eyes are seeing with the vast knowledge and interactions of the digital world. And if Google, and its Google Goggles, has its way we won’t even have to reach into our pocket or purse to bring this virtual reality to life
As we wrestle with the daunting task of scaling content marketing programs that reach and engage our audiences, we can’t forget to create amazing content that meets their needs and desires as well. No doubt technology will keep getting more immersive and allow us to find richer ways of telling our stories.
Powell Tate is happy to invite you to a March 13 breakfast and panel discussion on how leading journalists navigate the changing media landscape.
- Gloria Borger, Chief Political Analyst, CNN
- Paul Brandus, Founder and CEO, "West Wing Report"
- Howard Fineman, Editorial Director, AOL Huffington Post Media Group and Analyst, NBC/MSNBC
- Charlie Mahtesian, National Politics Editor, POLITICO
- Ylan Q. Mui, Financial and Retail Reporter, The Washington Post
- Sally Squires, Senior Vice President, Powell Tate, former nationally-syndicated columnist and reporter, The Washington Post
- Tuesday, March 13, 8-9 a.m.
- Powell Tate, 733 10th NW, Washington, DC, 20001.
Executive Vice President and Senior Global Corporate Strategist
Senior Vice President
Chief Communications Strategist
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