UN Global Goals: Investing in What Matters

Paul Massey

The recent United Nations General Assembly convened 193 member states and took an important step in approving new Global Goals for Sustainable Development, focused on critical areas: people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership.

This ambitious agenda for the next 15 years recognizes that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with efforts to build economic growth and address a range of social needs, including tackling climate change.

It’s an agenda that Weber Shandwick is energized to support – and has been supporting – in partnership with our clients. Weber Shandwick is proud to be supporting more than 150 client assignments focused on the 17 new Global Goals, spanning creative campaigns focused on poverty, hunger, gender equality, economic growth and more – some of which are featured in the short video below. 

In meeting these new goals, there is a powerful opportunity for leadership from the private sector – to bring financial resources, human capital and innovation to bear on complex social issues. We look forward to continuing to support organizations that will have a major impact on the success of the Global Goals in the decades to come.


The Potential and Progress of Networked Smart Cities

Lauren Klein

Cities are amazing. Whether its Beijing or New York, Delhi or Singapore, Sao Paulo or Paris, these metropolises of millions bring together people from a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives and throw them together in a sea of humanity. In the best of those cities, there is incredible smarts and ingenuity in providing sustainable infrastructure, economic opportunity and improved quality of life for citizens.

But much of the potential of “Smart Cities” is still untapped. With more than half the world’s population living in cities today - and that number only set to grow - there is an incredible opportunity to source and scale innovation within and across global cities to ensure our urban centers continue to provide a vibrant, equitable, sustainable and livable environment for all residents.

Given this immense opportunity and the challenges that go along with it, our Social Impact team took a deep look at the Networked Smart Cities movement to see what role different sectors can and should play to advance this work and communicate progress. This smart cities report is the first in a series of investigations the key macro trends that are shaping the future of social impact work.

Estimates indicate the global market potential for smart cities - infrastructure development, technology integration, and e-government, energy and security services - could reach $3.3 trillion by 2025. Much of that market potential will be realized by collaborative investments in solutions and innovations that address inclusivity, sustainability and resiliency. This then requires greater capacity to identify the right partnerships, communicate complex ideas to and among stakeholders, and engage the larger citizenry in campaigns that galvanize support and action at all levels – from local communities to networked city ecosystems that connect people across geography and technology.

We explore these themes in our new report Networked Smart Cities. We invite you to take a look and let us know what you think. And stay tuned for additional reports with insights on how key trends - from improved transparency to inclusive economies - are transforming how people, organizations and systems connect to drive positive change. 


Media Decoded

We strongly believe that success in media and marketing today requires relentless curiosity and experimentation. For us, it also means a learn-by-doing mindset that puts us in the trenches and requires us to constantly re-evaluate our approach and the results we drive.

Weber Shandwick's Media Decoded

That’s why our parent company, Weber Shandwick recently launched Media Decoded, a content platform that will help us navigate the changing media landscape together. Media Decoded identifies key themes and provides perspectives on the major shifts in the digital and media landscape, as well as shares learnings from the innovators who are reshaping media. It also serves as a platform for us to test and learn new technologies and processes we recommend to our clients for their own content creation.

Media Decoded houses insights and analysis from our staff as well as high-profile media change agents. At launch, we had bylines and interviews from a variety of notable influencers, including:

  • Fred Wilson — founder of Union Square Ventures, early investor in Twitter, Tumblr, etc.
  • Garance Doré — author, photographer, Vogue columnist and fashion influencer
  • Gabe Rivera — Mediagazer and Techmeme founder
  • Jamal Edwards — UK amateur-turned-mogul who launched Ed Sheeran on YouTube
  • Vivian Schiller — former head of news partnerships for Twitter and CEO of NPR
  • Doc Searls — co-author of Cluetrain Manifesto and Harvard fellow
  • Gretchen Rubin — best-selling author of The Happiness Project, host of top 10 iTunes podcast Happier with Gretchen Rubin

Our intent with Media Decoded is to bring the best insights from our staff, partners and media innovators to the forefront. We want to shed light on the most interesting, most material subjects and encourage sharing and discussion around them. We would also love to hear from you. If you would like to contribute to the platform or have an area of focus you’d like to see us “decode,” please leave a comment below. 


3 Tips for Amplifying an Industry Issue

Greg McCarthy

America's Strength PanelThis year the U.S. Navy announced that it soon would be unable to maintain an aircraft carrier presence in the increasingly volatile Persian Gulf due to increased demand, a strain on sailors and ships and adecreased budget. To bring this critical national security gap to the forefront of the conversation about overall defense strategy, Powell Tate’s defense team and the America’s Strength Campaign hosted a panel discussion for a packed room of representatives from the media, military, defense industry, think tanks, and congressional staff.

America's Strength Panel

Bryan McGrath of the Hudson Institute and founding managing director of The Ferrybridge Group moderated the dynamic conversation between three panelists: Retired Admiral Mark Fitzgerald, former commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa; Retired Vice Admiral Peter Daly, CEO of the U.S. Naval Institute; and Dr. Robert Farley, Professor at the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce.

Three key strategies contributed to the success of this panel discussion, and can be used to amplify issues across all industries and subject areas:

  1. Enlist subject matter experts with varying perspectives. Each panelist came to the conversation from a well-informed yet different personal experience, which ensured that blanket statements were challenged and the issue was explored in depth.

  2. Make the subject accessible to the media, and in turn, a national audience. The complexities of defense spending and the appropriations process, combined with the intricacies of aircraft carrier shipbuilding and maintenance, can be hard to digest. Through the use of personal stories and strong anecdotal evidence, the experts were able to make a complicated situation approachable. Panelists stayed in the room after the discussion ended as well to give the media one-on-one access for additional context.

  3. Continue the conversation beyond the event. Live updates on Twitter ensured that members of the media and defense industry who were unable to attend the event received key takeaways in real time.

To stay updated on the aircraft carrier gap and other significant issues within the defense industry, follow us on @WSGlobalDef


Altering the Face of Beauty

Julie Heinrich

Here was the moment Carrie Hammer had been dreading: the model line-up.

Carrie had recently designed a new line of stylish clothing for working women, and she needed to choose the models. But when one of the models in the line-up turned out to be 12 years old – yes, 12 – Carrie decided there had to be a better way to go.Credit: instagram user daniellesheypuk

She decided to launch her clothing line on the bodies of women who were most likely to actually wear them, women she also deeply admired – role models, not runway models. She started calling friends who were successful women in business, law and other fields. One of whom, Danielle is “leggy and blonde” and a successful psychologist. She also happens to use a wheelchair, making her the first woman to ever appear on the runway in this fashion. 

Carrie shared her story at the Social Innovation Summit, held in Washington D.C. earlier in June. The summit brings together innovators in technology, investment, government, international development and business to explore solutions and partnerships that are disrupting history and generating positive societal benefits. Not only has Carrie’s show generated hundreds of emails and social media posts from girls with disabilities, touched by her decision, it has also impacted the fashion industry more broadly. Soon after Carrie’s show, three different clothing lines launched with models in wheelchairs.

Stories like Carrie’s catch my attention because I too spend a lot of time thinking about how women are portrayed and perceived. We have the pleasure of working extensively to empower women and girls, through our work with clients like the United Nations Foundation and the Nike Foundation. We also support a women’s empowerment portfolio that includes partnerships with the Tory Burch Foundation, the Cherie Blair Foundation, and Vital Voices (the Global Ambassadors Program), made possible by funding from Bank of America.

Carrie and the Social Innovation Summit remind us that if we wish to project a stronger, smarter image of women and implement meaningful change that catches fire and inspires others, our solutions must be unique, unexpected and authentic. Inspiration is everywhere…if you know where to look.


Unlocking the Magic Kingdom of Engagement

Raphaele Schnoll

Conferences are a magic kingdom of authentic engagement for executives. Within the conference walls, is a live stage beckoning executives to come and share their unique stories.

You may ask, “How does one get the key to unlock such kingdoms and their engagement potential for executives?” It’s simple. The key is a robust on-site amplification plan. Once the conference has been selected based on criteria like business opportunity, audience, and message relevancy, it’s imperative to develop a strategic plan that maximizes opportunities for onsite engagement and offsite amplification.

Cydcor Conference

The plan should include a mix of:

  • Recommended meetings with influencers, peers, and potential customers
  • Suggested reporters for onsite interviews
  • Social media strategy for the executive to share event participation and insert their messaging into the conference conversation
  • Content for internal channels to share news of the executive’s participation with employees

The next question you likely have is, “What’s the value of an amplification plan for an executive who will deliver a few key messages and then leave as soon as the talk ends?”

That’s the old, wrong, way to think. Gone are the days when executives should arrive just before their speech and leave minutes after. Conferences have evolved to a live media model where speeches and thought leadership reach far beyond attendees in the room via live streams and repurposing of content through traditional and social media channels. The value that the right plan delivers is turning every moment and interaction at a conference into a new stage.

My team secured a panel opportunity for a CMO client at Fortune Brainstorm Tech. By following the amplification plan we created, the CMO was quoted in a article, invited to the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit, given the opportunity to create a post for Fortune’s MPW blog, and invited by another panelist to participate in his company’s onsite SXSW activation.

Remember that the keys to unlocking the engagement potential of conferences are not one size fits all. Amplification plans can take any shape, but they must be customized to the conference’s media environment and developed within a framework that supports the executive’s engagement and business goals. So, really, don’t forget your key – a magical kingdom of engagement waits within conference walls.


Meeting the Transparency Challenge

Paul Massey

How are foundations bringing transparency to their work to solve complex, global challenges?

That’s the question that was the focus of a standing-room-only event that our Social Impact team hosted.

Marc Gunther, editor-at-large of The Guardian Sustainable Business and author of the blog Nonprofit Chronicles moderated a discussion with clients including Jeremy Hill, Director of Corporate Communications at the World Bank; Joanne Krell, Vice President of Communications at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation; and Allyson Burns, Senior Vice President of Communications and Marketing at the Case Foundation.

The conversation was candid, fluid, and interactive, focusing on how organizations are prioritizing transparency – and identifying the most meaningful and sustainable ways to report on impact. The consensus of the evening was that while progress has undoubtedly been made toward increased transparency, there is still important ground to be covered. Panelists offered the following as advice:

  • Fail Forward: Be open and honest about missteps and share lessons learned with the broader philanthropic community. Allyson Burns of the Case Foundation spoke frankly about the importance of failure to the overall transparency discussion. She spoke about the contrast between start-ups, which often support a fast-paced, iterative, failure-as-a-positive environment, and philanthropic organizations which tend to embrace a more risk averse, slower moving culture. As Allyson Burns suggested, perhaps foundations could learn something from the open-sourced mindset that makes start-ups so successful. The Case Foundation’s #BeFearless campaign, which Weber Shandwick helped to launch, is about failing forward (faster) to move on to things that work more effectively.
  • Bring Your Stakeholders With You: Include those who support you on your journey. According to Joanne Krell of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, “shared knowledge is a critical component of social impact and in order to create real change, foundations need to more effectively communicate to core stakeholders.” Additionally, Joanne spoke about the foundation’s efforts to build an organizational culture that supports increased transparency.
  • It’s a Journey: Integrating more transparency into day-to-day operations takes time. Jeremy Hillman of the World Bank noted that being more open with your stakeholders is a long and potentially daunting process. It takes significant planning and time to cultivate a transparency mindset within an organization. In addition to younger donors seeking transparency in reporting, Hillman also noted that increasing pressure from large donors is going to push the professionalization of giving.

Check out the photo gallery below, and follow Social Impact on Twitter at @WSSocialImpact for the latest on trends and insights in corporate social responsibility, sustainability, and social issues.


What you can learn about marketing from a pet rock

Amil Husain

Gary Ross Dahl, the creator of the Pet Rock, the 70s fad, died this March. It was estimated that Dahl sold over 1.5 million Pet Rocks, each for around $4. For those unfamiliar with Pet Rocks, they’re exactly what they sound like: a plain rock placed into a box with a pamphlet giving instructions on how to “care and feed” it. The Pet Rock is a good example of how far kids will go to fit in, but a better example of how to create market demand from scratch. For brands that compete in oversaturated markets where attention is sacrosanct, there is much to learn from companies like Dahl’s, which successfully generate their own demand.Powell Tate: What you can learn about marketing from a pet rock

Blustering celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay said that he cried for days after losing a Michelin star at one of his restaurants. That’s the power and allure of the Michelin star system. But did you ever ask yourself why the fine dining guide has the same name as the tire company? In the early 1900s the Michelin brothers started a tire company in France at a time when there were only 2,000 cars and a rudimentary road system. The Michelin brothers created hotel and restaurant reviews to draw patrons to far off locations and use up their tires in the process. Today, the Michelin Guide is in 24 countries across four continents, and the Michelin name is just as synonymous with fine dining as tires. The Michelin brothers saw a need, thought way, way outside the box and developed a market where one never existed.

Remember the image of a crudely drawn character that flew in the air with red wings? Red Bull started out as a humble sugary drink with a boatload of caffeine. The product was a hit with consumers but a plethora of copycat companies quickly flooded the market. As a leader in an undifferentiated market, Red Bull was faced with a dilemma: Do they promote the value of drinking Red Bull or do they create a lifestyle brand to tap into how people want to feel drinking their product? Red Bull chose the latter.

To get consumers excited about the feeling of drinking Red Bull, in 1987 the company began organizing extreme sports events: street luge (including jumps getting 90 feet of air), air acrobatics, surfing a 25-foot tidal wave, rail sliding and more. Sales of Red Bull catapulted as they began producing more and more content with extreme athletes pushing boundaries.

Today, Red Bull is a publishing empire that also sells a beverage. They’ve made millions from the articles, videos and photos featuring Red Bull-sponsored extreme athletes. As a result, the company has become the apex of content marketing case studies, embodying the extreme brand they wish to project in every facet.

So does this mean for you? While you might not sell rocks as pets, tires or fizzy sugar water, there is much to learn from companies that have masterfully created demand from nothing.


Facebook, “Instant Articles” and the Changing Face of Media

Robert Howard

Yesterday, the Grey Lady finally opened her arms to Silicon Valley. In a landmark partnership, The New York Times announced it will publish content, including articles, photos and videos, directly to Facebook. Nine other media companies, including NBC News, Buzzfeed and National Geographic, are also part of the initial deal.

Facebook, “Instant Articles” and the Changing Face of MediaAt its heart, this union offers a glance into how media companies will survive in an increasingly fragmented marketplace dominated by smartphones and waning attention spans. Forcing Facebook’s mobile users to open new webpages to read articles is clunky, inefficient and frustrating. On the other hand, so-called “instant articles,” hosted directly on the social network’s mobile app and by its servers, load quickly, present a sleek, responsive design that encourages users to stick around and, of course, feature ads that Facebook sells.

This partnership is the latest development in Facebook’s long, often uneasy history with publishers. The social network already drives pageviews (and ad dollars) to every major platform: Facebook accounts for up to 20 percent of traffic to news sites, according to the analytics company SimpleReach. 

Yet that spigot can be quickly turned off without warning. In what some saw as a veiled threat to force publishers onto the platform, changes to Facebook’s algorithm resulted in a dramatic drop in news content’s reach last winter: the 100 most shared English language stories had only 10.2 million shares in February, compared with 16.4 million in January.

Other challenges await. Aside from the ethical quandaries (what happens if the Times publishes an expose about the social media giant?), outlets must decide whether a larger audience and a cut of ad revenue justify forking over control of customer relationships, data and the reading experience to an outside platform. 

What is undeniably true is the line between publisher and platform is blurring – for whose benefit is still anyone’s guess.


Is SXSW worth attending anymore?

Emily Semmelman

Last month I attended the interactive arm of South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas on behalf of Powell Tate. With 30k+ attendees and 800+ sessions, SXSW is a premier gathering of interactive professionals, but its sheer size and craziness has people questioning its relevance and wondering whether it has jumped the shark.

Is SXSW worth attending anymore?

In an Ad Week commentary, RPA’s Time Leake says yes. We should attend SXSW because it’s crazy, just like the real world. Essentially, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. Here are a few examples of how I saw fellow marketers live that belief:

  • Meeting a Real Consumer Need: When you’re at SXSW, you’re always connected – on your smart phone, your tablet, your laptop. It’s a common problem for SXSW-goers to need a battery recharge and find themselves without a way to power up. Mophie to the rescue! Mophie, a smartphone accessory company, set up a program where you would tweet to them that you needed a charge, and they would send their team of St. Bernard dogs to come find you and charge your device. St. Bernard dogs are known for rescuing hikers who are lost in the Alps, so Mophie did the promotion in partnership with the St. Bernard Rescue Foundation. 
  • Forging Smart Partnerships: It is difficult to stand out at SXSW, especially if you aren’t a brand with a natural tie to the event. Carefully crafted partnerships are a great way in. Two of the stand-out collaborations I saw at SXSW were Spotify/SoulCycle and Uber/ClassPass. Standing alone, SoulCycle and ClassPass are not perfect fits for SXSW (although they could be pretty smart for the post-queso, post-breakfast taco week following). But paired with smart digital brands, they found their place. SoulCycle worked with Spotify to offer live-deejayed cycle classes, and Uber and ClassPass partnered to surprise and delight Uber riders with ClassPass swag bags.
  • Making Connections Beyond the Splash: With 800 sessions, there is a lot of competition for attention from SXSW attendees. Parties and panels use flashy, clickbait titles to bring lots of people in the door. But in order to make a real impact, marketers need to make one-on-one connections too. The most successful SXSW events focused on building relationships with attendees. For example, the Spredfast Social Suite offered an intimate setting for SXSW attendees to listen to exclusive speakers, check out the hot eateries around town with the ATX Instagram Snacker Tracker and spend time relaxing and getting to know the Spredfast team.

For more on SXSW, check out a recap by Amanda Long from Weber Shandwick St. Louis here.


The Power of Patient Stories

Michelle Crowson

Three years ago, Mike Kukla walked into his doctor’s office with debilitating stomach pains. At 37, the doctor thought he was too young for cancer and didn’t order a CT scan. One long year later, Mike got the scan, along with a diagnosis of Stage IV colon cancer. MITA: The Power of Patient Stories

Unfortunately, this meant the cancer was caught in its latest stage. Had Mike been diagnosed just a year earlier, it’s very likely his prognosis would have been more positive and his chances of survival greater.

Since this diagnosis, in between rounds of chemo, Mike has advocated tirelessly to make sure patients get exactly what he didn’t: the right scan at the right time.

In March, he was one of 17 Right Scan Right Time cancer advocates who convened in Washington, D.C. to meet with policymakers about the need for access to imaging. These advocate meetings came at a critical time, just as Congress ramped up negotiations on Medicare physician payments. In the past nine years, Congress has cut Medicare payment rates for medical imaging 15 times, which limits access to life-saving scans for patients who need them. This year, the personal stories that Mike and his fellow advocates shared played an important role in making sure this didn’t happen again.

Two weeks ago, in a rare moment of overwhelming bipartisan collaboration, Congress passed a bill that fundamentally revamps how Medicare pays physicians. This time around, the bill doesn’t include any payment cuts that would threaten access to medical imaging. For millions of patients around the country – like Mike and his fellow cancer advocates – it was a victory.

The effort reinforced the powerful role of patient stories when delivering this type of messaging to audiences. Industry topics like “medical imaging technology” can be incredibly complex. When professional lobbyists take to Capitol Hill to talk imaging, conversations tend to focus on statistics and hard data. But patients like Mike bring a face and human experience to the issue and help lawmakers understand that it’s not just about the technology, it’s about giving patients better quality of life.

It’s about getting more time with family.

It’s about surviving cancer.

Meeting cancer survivors and patient advocates like Mike is one of the best parts of my job. Helping them turn their stories into meaningful action on Capitol Hill is more than a job—it’s an honor. 

Watch Mike share his thoughts on why access to imaging is so important to him and his family. 


Powell Tate Appoints Peter Carson to Lead Washington, D.C. Public Affairs Practice

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 22, 2015 – Powell Tate, the Washington, D.C. division of leading global public relations firm Weber Shandwick, has named Peter Carson managing director of Public Affairs. Carson will be responsible for overseeing public affairs work in the Washington office and providing strategic counsel to Weber Shandwick clients throughout the network.

“Peter’s Capitol Hill background and expertise in several important policy areas will help us continue our strong growth in the years ahead,” said Pam Jenkins, president of Powell Tate. “I’m confident that with his leadership we’re going to generate more opportunities to build our policy and issues management work across all industry sectors.”

Carson joined Powell Tate in 2007 and has led the Healthcare Public Affairs practice, in addition to working with the firm’s financial services clients.

“Companies and associations face not only increased external pressures but a more complex and rapidly changing media environment,” said Carson. “Clients are looking for smart, creative solutions and results in the converging social, digital and mainstream media worlds. Powell Tate has built a deep bench of top talent and expertise that is delivering those results.”

Carson spent 12 years on the staff of former Representative Christopher Shays (R-CT), five of them as Chief of Staff. Prior to joining Powell Tate, he worked for Ogilvy Public Relations. A graduate of Kenyon College, he resides in Alexandria, Virginia.

About Powell Tate

Founded by two of Washington’s most respected press secretaries – Democrat Jody Powell and Republican Sheila Tate – Powell Tate has been one of Washington’s leading public affairs firms for more than two decades, maintaining its bipartisan heritage while developing cutting edge programs that communicate across political aisles and multiple platforms. Recently cited as one of DC’s “Best Places to Work” by The Washington Post and Washington Business Journal, Powell Tate is the Washington division of Weber Shandwick, one of the world’s leading global public relations agencies and the only PR firm named to Advertising Age’s “A List.”


The Role of Purpose in Advertising

Paul Massey

Our client partners at BSR, a global nonprofit organization working with more than 250 member companies to build a just and sustainable world, have released a report with Participant Media, Transparency, Purpose and the Empowered Consumer: A New Paradigm for Advertising

It examines a central question: can advertising linked to corporate social responsibility (CSR) deepen engagement with consumers? 

The answer is a resounding yes. 

Content centered on CSR can build trust and affinity, provided that it is truthful and accurate, empowers consumer expression and dialogue, and is purposeful. 

In fact, as the report documents, there’s been an encouraging trend of major brands putting purpose at the center of their advertising. It’s a demonstration of how CSR is bringing purpose and profits closer together. This spans industries and includes:

The BSR report is timely, given the recent heightened attention to corporate engagement on social issues, from companies like Apple, Salesforce and Nike (client) taking forceful stands on the issue of LGBT equality in Indiana; to Starbuck’s effort, Race Together, addressing the complex issue of race in America. 

Increasingly, companies see engagement on critical social issues as a business imperative (no longer a nice-to-do), in order to advance their business interests and to bring their expertise and scale to tackle social problems. It’s encouraging that there is a rise in advertising that reflects CSR as a strategic business priority. It increases the likelihood that consumers will know more about which companies are contributing to both economic and social progress and reward them with their business and loyalty. 


Getting to the heart of a story

Lucy Jenkins

The conflict in Syria has forced nearly four million people to flee their homes. From a comfortable office in DC, it’s difficult to imagine what it’s like to have to leave everything behind. As part of our work with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, KRC Research partner Anita Sharma and I had the opportunity to go to Jordan to see their dedicated staff in action and meet with the families now living in refugee camps. Despite going through some deeply traumatic experiences, I was constantly amazed at the resilience and generosity of each refugee we met. They could not have been kinder or more hospitable. (Anita and I lost count of the number of times we were invited into homes and offered tea!) Much has been written about the violence and conflict, but I wanted to share a few things I learned about the families, and how they cope, that might surprise you:

Insulation sheets can be used to make pretty cool toys.

The fruit and vegetables in camps can be better quality than those in many DC grocery stores.

Jordan gets a surprising amount of snow. Snow makes life a little tougher at the best of times, but through a winterization program refugees were given items such as blankets and gas heaters to help stay warm.

The largest refugee camp in Jordan has a 24-hour medical center where babies are born each week.

This was an amazing opportunity to see the reality that refugees and UN Refugee Agency Staff deal with every day, and to see humanity at both its greatest and toughest moments.

We’re excited to take these insights and apply them to the global branding work we’re developing for the organization.


Starbucks, Race and the Culture of Criticism

Lance Morgan

We live in a culture of criticism so it's to be expected that Howard Schultz is facing a crescendo of complaint for his decision to have Starbucks' baristas spice up their customers' lattes with a discussion on race relations in America.

Like Starbucks coffee, the foaming at the mouth comes in all shapes and sizes: it's a PR stunt that's doomed to fail; the baristas aren't qualified to lead the discussion; customers don't want to have it; it's ridiculous to address this subject in a matter of seconds over a coffee counter. The list goes on.

I demur. It’s unseemly for those who us who constantly bemoan our polity’s inability to have adult conversations (and I mean me) to complain when someone wants to encourage them.

Yes, the idea might not work. It might backfire. Some customers might be irritated. Some verbal, or physical, arguments might ensue. (For a really good essay on the pros and cons, see Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s piece on

But maybe some constructive interactions will result. Maybe some stereotypes will be shattered. Maybe some common ground might be found among some uncommon pairings.

Anyone who has a better idea and a more public platform is welcome to try something else. In the meantime, as communicators, shouldn't we applaud the attempt at communications?

PS -- There is plenty of room for disagreement here so in the spirit of encouraging dialogue, please fire away.

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