Merry Christmas from Florida!!!

Just a quick note on Christmas Day to wish all our family, friends, colleagues, clients and everyone a stress-free, enjoyable and fulfilling Christmas from sunny (well not exactly today, but hey that's okay) Florida!! For the first time in my life I celebrated the Big Day by taking a dip in an OUTSIDE pool. Just to do it, right?

Then what do I get Blackberried to me, but an 'ice storm' warning for Ottawa on Boxing Day. Was my immediate reaction, 'oh no, isn't that terrible?! Uh....no not really I confess. I had that certain Schadenfreuden feeling about it. But now I'm over that, and I do feel badly for anybody caught in it - especially since the famous Ice Storm of ten years ago still clings to my memory....long after the images of me trying to warm a cup of coffee in our sun room on a tiny camping stove thingy have drifted away, thankfully.

Anyway, no more Tiger...let's leave him in peace and hopefully he finds it. No more partisan slashing and burning on the political landscape (although that is so not going to happen).

So last night we went to St. Anthony of Padua Church  in a small town, San Antonio, nearby where they had a beautiful Midnight Mass at  at 10 pm (my favorite kind of midnight). But on the way home we stopped into St. Leo's Benedictine Church and attended the first half of the real midnight service with beautiful choral singing from the monks and a packed, amazing church. So that was a great way to kick start Christmas in the Clark Gris- uh McLoughlin household.

I hope your Christmas is beautiful!


Tiger does the right thing...at last!

We're getting nearer to Christmas and....I've actually bought a few gifts! I'm shocked at myself as I usually begin around noon on Christmas Eve. But as you can see by this Ottawa Citizen story today, Laura and I have at least got the house decorated:

Doing the Right Thing.....Finally

Well here I am back blogging about Tiger's crisis management efforts. However when somebody finally does the right thing (in response to having done the wrong thing) it's worthy of comment.

Earlier today, Tiger announced he is leaving the tour indefinitely to concentrate on getting his personal life together. Now where did I hear that advice before? Oh yeah...in my previous blog below this post.

Now I'm sure that's just a coincidence right? Although everyone fired off opinions on camera and in the blogosphere from the moment the story came out, strangely not one of them mentioned this possibility - at least that I could find.

Why do people have to keep learning the same (crisis management lessons) over and over again?

1. Part of the reason is that people tend to think only inside the box.
2.They rely also on old bromides to guide them in their thinking: "it's nobody's business"; "just go back to playing golf" blah blah.
3. Quite a number of so-called crisis management specialists and media consultants were filling the airwaves with sadly ludicrous advice that was definitely not objective. When a crisis happens, the crisis advisor must be the most objective person in the room.
4. A lot of people (especially the truly gifted in my experience) tend to think that the rules don't apply to them. That, of course, is why they got into trouble in the first place.

Check out his message below. It had the right tone of humility, vocabulary (he moved from 'transgressions' to 'infidelity') and his apology seemed very real:


How did this compare to my suggested message? You be the judge (see below)

Tiger finally has good advisors or perhaps he's now listening to them. They are now giving him realistic and solid advice. In this media circus, if he tries to go on with business as usual it would be total, frenzied chaos. No one - not even a man of such prodigious talents as Tiger - could honestly concentrate at the level required to be at the top of his game. All the mistresses will have used up their fifteen minutes of fame, while he takes the time to put his personal house in order.

Forgiveness and Redemption

Tiger, you did wrong and you have admitted it - without equivocation or excuse. You are a flawed human being. We all are.

Everyone who has done wrong should be given a chance to change his heart, make things right as much as possible, and should be forgiven. Through that process can come redemption. Here's hoping you find it.


Recovering from a Crisis

Welcome back!
Well here I am in St. John's Newfoundland. A truly beautiful city by the sea with some of the warmest and most generous people I know. Laura and I are here to do a seminar. We arrived just on the tail of the first major snowstorm of the winter and head back tomorrow night into the eye of the storm in Ottawa.

Of course we are saturated with the Tiger Woods 24 hour 'all-news-all-the-time' world. You think the Copenhagen Summit is important? That Afghanistan troop levels matter? That governments are up to their eye-balls in debt? What are you crazy? Didn't you hear? Tiger's a 'cheetah' and that's the biggest story of the year, right? Time Magazine will probably name him Man of the Year. However, as we know, "news" is not necessarily what's 'important' but what's 'urgent'. If it happens to athletes and celebrities; if you throw in sex and strange 'accidents' you have the perfect brew!

The way Tiger has handled it was obviously not the right way - it was begrudging, vague, and too little, too late to get into the driver's seat (no pun intended). So what should he do and say now that: (i) the mistress count is at nine and growing; (ii) his mother-in-law had to be taken to the hospital in the middle of the night, (iii) his long-suffering wife has likely already left him, (iv) the police suspect he had over-dosed on prescription medications. The spiral downward is picking up momentum.

Tiger Needs to Take Hold of this Situation

The two key questions that one is asked in managing a crisis are: 'what do we do and what do we say'?

Let's start with what he should do

1. Announce that he is taking a long leave of absence to focus on his family and marital troubles. This will serve to cool out the situation and build anticipation of his re-entry - refreshed and rarin' to go.
2. After about three months (in time for the Masters) he should return to his game with some semblance of stability in his personal life. If it's to be a divorce, then so be it. Uncertainty is what will kill him.
3. Find an opportunity before he returns to do a television interview with a respected broadcaster. Perhaps Matt Lauer? Anderson Cooper? Oprah?  Diane Sawyer? Larry King? In the interview, he answers as many questions as he can to clear the air. Then he does what he does best -  by getting back to work.
4. Once he returns he has to pick up where he left off, and win tournaments. When he does, his sponsors will be relieved and the controversy will fade into the background.

What should he say?
"I am deeply sorry for the pain I caused my wife and my family. This was entirely my fault, and there are no excuses or explanations to justify what I did. My wife is a wonderful person, and a great mother.
I don't blame her for leaving. She had to do what she thought was right. I hope that one day I can make this right and have my children proud of their dad.

I want to reiterate my apology to you, my fans. Your words of support have helped me more than you can know. I know I have let you down and I will do my best to make up for this by redoubling my efforts on the golf course and to live my life in a way that can justify your faith in me.

Finally I just want to say a few words to the many young people here and around the world who have looked up to me as a role model. I have always felt honored by that and I am sorry that I have not lived up to that. I do not want you to repeat my mistakes. I have learned some very important lessons in this terrible situation.  The most important lesson is to be true to your values. I wasn't always true to mine and I deeply regret that."

Tiger has to remember that even though things look bleak, almost all of these situations are ultimately recoverable. But he must move boldly now, if he wants to recover from this personal crisis.

Until next time, let's all drop the stones and get back to our glass houses.


Tiger Lands in the Rough

Welcome back!
I'm just back from a few days in Vancouver and, as always, am blown away by the sheer beauty of that city. Although busy with a seminar and an all-day meeting I couldn't help but be impressed by the 'yes we can' spirit of British Columbians as they get ready for the 2010 Olympics, amidst some tough economic realities.

Two 'Crashes' of a Different Kind
Two un-related incidents occurred since my last posting - involving the 'Crash' theme - have prompted me to write.

First, the party-crashing exploits of the Reality-show wannabes Tareq and Michaele Salahi of the White House state dinner.

A lot of blame has been focused on the Secret Service. No doubt some of it is justified. However, having experienced up close and personal the Obama mix of celebrity and security (in Laura's and my case - the Inaugural Balls) I merely add a few remarks to give some context to the challenge the White House faced as they simultaneously welcomed and screened their invited (and uninvited) guests.
Intrepid readers will recall that Laura and I were lucky enough to be selected to do the 'VIP Screening' at the site of six official Presidential Balls on Inauguration Day.

The challenge, as I am sure it was at the White House last week was to be welcoming of the celebrity guests, while checking quickly to see if they were indeed on the invite list. It appears that either no one at the checkpoint had the invite list or they failed to consult it. That's not good, to say the least.

At the Inaugural Balls we had a different set of challenges - where the 'accreditation' process was done in advance, and everyone had to be in possession of two separate photo ID badges which they wore around their necks. We had to check each of those badges up close, while welcoming not only the celebrity but also their entourages who came swarming in with some of them. All the while, we were cheerful and welcoming in tone. I found the Secret Service agent terrifically professional and he didn't try to do our job for us and vice versa.

So the 'party crasher' couple at the White House had figured out the vulnerability in a social setting like that - dress like everyone else, sweep in when there's a crowd moving through and act confidently. If that couple make it as regulars on 'Real Housewives of Washington D.C.' as a result of this stunt, then we all have to promise to boycott the Bravo network if they dare to air it. [On second thought, calling for a boycott, would only send their ratings through the roof..]

Just to recollect on our Inaugural experience, check the link below:

Tiger's Crash
Speaking of other 'crashes', in the past few days, the media could hardly contain themselves as they feed on every morsel emerging (or not) from the Tiger Woods 'accident' in front of his home. As the greatest golfer in history, and as one of the most recognized and admired people on the planet, I can't help but cringe at his mis-handling of what should be a fairly-straightforward incident.

Here we are, three days into the issue, and on three separate occasions Florida State police have been rebuffed in their efforts to get a statement from Tiger and to answer their questions. Instead, he posted a statement on his website, which only served to confuse the issue and deepen the mystery.

So let's cut to the chase. If it was just an accident, then why all the delay in speaking to the police? Why did he say, "this situation is my fault... I'm human and I'm not perfect. I will certainly make sure this doesn't happen again?" None of us can make sure an accident doesn't happen again. That's why it's an accident. Hhhmmmm. That statement just raised more questions than it answered. That of course is the opposite of what you do in crisis management.

What should he have done? For starters, meet with the cops and tell them what happened. He should meet with the media and respond to their questions. If he can't do that for reasons of embarrassment or for legal matters that we may be unaware of, then he needs to find an opportunity to meet with a respected journalist or broadcaster and respond to his or her questions. The latter is a proxy for a full-fledged news conference but at least he is responding to the questions that people have about it. As an international figure, he is entitled to a private life, but once an unexplained incident such as this occurs which threatens to hurt the Tiger 'brand', he needs to respect that and move quickly and expeditiously to resolve it.

He cancelled his appearance at his own golf tournament in Thousand Oaks California. It was inevitable that he did this, but it didn't necessarily have to be....if he had handled the media side of it more quickly. Sorry Tiger, but at the risk of one more golf cliche, once you're in rough this deep, stop hacking away, pick up your ball and go for a clean drop. Your gallery will still root for you. They just want a straightforward story and the sooner the better.

Until next time.....


The Streets of London

Welcome back....

"So how can you tell me you're lonely,
And say for you that the sun don't shine?
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London
I'll show you something to make you change your mind." 

 - Ralph McTell

Well since we last got together less than two weeks ago, my travels have taken me to Toronto, Mt. Laurel NJ, Halifax NS, Philadelphia PA and London, England. Certainly not in Barack Obama's or Stephen Harper's league, but nevertheless I've been on the move indeed. In fact, I am off to Vancouver two days from now, so it hasn't stopped yet! I always say that getting on a plane to fly off somewhere to do a seminar is the second worst complaint you can have. The worst being that nobody calls you in the first place! However, I always have a book or two on me, and I think of the flights as time to think and relax. Sometimes it even works.....

Laura and I had one of those great travel experiences when we had a wonderful opportunity to fly over to London and back on a Gulfstream jet. Now that kind of spoils you for commercial travel, but, hey, somebody's gotta do it, right? We arrived at Biggin Hill airport in south London and were whisked through immigration. I had one of those great 'life comes full circle moments' as we pulled up to a stop. It all came back to me, that when we were kids living in RCAF Station Cold Lake Alberta, the school district was called.....the Biggin Hill School District. Who would have thunk it, right?

London was - as always - beautiful, with hardly any rain, and Laura and I did our favorite thing - walking through the winding streets of Mayfair, on our way to and from our three seminars. Although we didn't have a lot of spare time, we savoured every minute of the London experience.

The U.K has been hard hit economically and there is much political jockeying as Prime Minister Gordon Brown tries to catch up with Conservative Leader David Cameron in  public opinion. So far it looks like an impossible task, as he has to call the election by next May. We were there for the Queen's Speech, the British equivalent of the 'Speech from the Throne', written by the PM setting out the government's agenda, but delivered by Her Majesty. Although it seems like an anacronism to Americans and others, it has a certain majesty to it (no pun intended), which at the very least lifts it above the often nasty political discourse of the House of Commons.

President Obama was burnishing his foreign affairs credentials in Japan and China - and in spite of the censorship of the Chinese government - managed to tweak the Communists about their attempts to control free expression in a staged 'town hall' meeting with Chinese 'students'. Good for him!

Prime Minister Harper also made great strides in building his foreign relations experience, this time on his trip to India. Although lots of tsk tsking at home about the political impact on the 1 million South Asian Canadians (perhaps they would be more satisfied if he toured Antarctica?), it was absolutely the right thing to do - given India's rapid economic growth and increasingly global presence. 

So Sarah Palin's Going Rogue, huh? I notice that she is finally doing the kind of media interviews that she should have done during the campaign - Barbara Walters, instead of Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson! By the way I loved that faked-up Fox News item showing clips of huge crowds from the 2008 campaign, presenting them as the audience who are showing up for her book tour speeches:

So until next time.....may all your travels be smooth...and true....and if you could get on one of those Gulfstreams, go for it!


Remembering our Veterans

Welcome back
November 9th is a day with special significance in our family. It would have been my brother Stephen's 56th birthday, but he passed away in 2001 (although it seems only a short while ago that we lost him to kidney cancer). In a poignant footnote to that, my beloved mom, May (Beveridge), passed away on the 9th of November three years ago. From the moment of the call in the middle of the night, I thought about the significance of that.

So we spent a little time on a beautiful and incredibly warm Sunday visiting their gravesites next to each other on a beautiful site overlooking the National Military Cemetery at Beechwood in Ottawa.

It also gave us pause to walk over there to see the touchingly beautiful memorial to fallen soldiers who died in service to their country - many of them the same age as our children.So as you can imagine, on the eve of Remembrance Day (or Veterans' Day in the United States where I am now), that one's thoughts are with the families of these brave young men and women. As the proud son of a World War II veteran (my dad served with the R.A.F. in North Africa and India), I am vulnerable to some sentimental feelings at this time of year. Well okay, not necesasrily even at this time of year!

At our Church every year, Father Joe LeClair puts together a moving ceremony. Always one of the highlights is the hauntingly beautiful, 'Green Fields of France', by Eric Bogle (the prolific Australian singer/songwriter who also wrote the powerful 'And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda').

The Green Fields of France
Well, how do you do, Private William McBride,
Do you mind if I sit down here by your graveside?
And rest for awhile in the warm summer sun,
I've been walking all day, and I'm nearly done.

And I see by your gravestone you were only 19
When you joined the glorious fallen in 1916,
Well, I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
Or, Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did the play the pipes lowly?
Did the rifles fir o'er you as they lowered you down?
Did the bugles sound The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?
And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
In some loyal heart is your memory enshrined?
And, though you died back in 1916,
To that loyal heart are you forever 19?
Or are you a stranger without even a name,
Forever enshrined behind some glass pane,
In an old photograph, torn and tattered and stained,
And fading to yellow in a brown leather frame?

The sun's shining down on these green fields of France;
The warm wind blows gently, and the red poppies dance.
The trenches have vanished long under the plow;
No gas and no barbed wire, no guns firing now.
But here in this graveyard that's still No Man's Land
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man.
And a whole generation who were butchered and damned.

And I can't help but wonder, no Willie McBride,
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you "The Cause?"
Did you really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame
The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain,
For Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.

© Eric Bogle

So on November 11th, let's wear a poppy, go to a memorial to the fallen and spend that two minutes of silence in deep gratitude.
Until next time....


How to Connect with your Audience

Welcome back I don't know about you but is life just incredibly busy right now, or is that just me?![Of course, it's the second-worst complaint you can have....]. This week's post is about how to connect with your audience. Although my references are from the world of politics, hopefully you can see how this will apply to the non-political world. All political junkies will enjoy the HBO Documentary on the Obama victory, By the People: The Election of Barack Obama. It shows the power of message, focus, motivating and organizing volunteers in the Obama campaign's two year run for the Presidency. All of it added up to connecting with the American public at a time in which the hunger for change was profound, but the risks attached to their choice were never higher. The documentary shows how they broke through into the consciousness of the American people, how they generated massive support by focusing on "change we need...change you can believe in...yes we can!" I particularly enjoyed watching the debate preparation, having spent a lot of time doing that with candidates over the years.They nailed the mistake that the McCain campaign made when in their debate prep they said, "John McCain switched from 'experience' to 'change' as his theme. What a mistake! No kidding. So regardless of your political stripes, it's a fascinating lesson in successful campaigning. Powerful Speeches that Connect with Audiences As someone who trains people on how to deliver speeches on TelePrompters (among other things of course) I pay close attention to political leaders who use it as their preferred delivery tool. Barack Obama is a master. He seems so at ease doing it, that at times it's hard to tell if he is using one. Ah..but that is the art form.Check out this video on the President's over-use of the TelePrompter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PAxmNQ-faqo Prime Minister Stephen Harper also utilizes the TelePrompter very often and he has clearly developed a comfort zone with it. I thought one of his best speeches ever was on the 65th Anniversary of D-Day over in France. He did it so seamlessly that it isn't until near the end - when we see the glass screens - that we know he is using the TelePrompter tool. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8qi6m8vBWM Five Quick Tips on Using a TelePrompter 1. Practice looking through the center of the screen - not a left-to-right, word-by-word approach. 2. Feel your words, don't just read them. If it sounds like you're reading it, then that's not good. 3. Don't lock in too long with one screen. Vary your delivery from one screen through the center of the room and then over to the right screen. Then do it in reverse. 4. 'Scoop' your words up off the screen and deliver them out to the room. [This requires a lot of practice. You can practice that with the printed version as well. 5. Did I mention practice?


Leadership, horses and faith

Welcome back!

A beautiful Sunday playing a late Fall round of golf! What could be better than that? Actually some ice on my elbow and soaking my aching muscles in a hot bath.....

This week's posting celebrates leadership - in this case from the worlds of harness horse racing and politics.

W.C. Fields once said, "horse sense is what a horse has which prevents it from betting on people."

First a look at the last race - this time the 20th win for the harness racing champion, Muscle Hill, selected and trained by Gregory Peck, my brother-in-law. As you can see from the video, Muscle Hill is a three year old stallion champion who has dominated the harness racing world this past year. His final race - a bittersweet experience for all who have shared in this beautiful horse's victories, as Saturday marked his last race. This time he won the Breeder's Crown at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto.

Take a look at his speed and gait. I had the privilege of visiting Muscle Hill immediately after his previous win and was amazed how cool and unaffected he was considering what he had just gone through. Congratulations to Gregory, the incredibly talented driver, Brian Sears, and the ownership team for the most incredibly successful year for any harness horse in history!. Now it's off to stud for Muscle Hill!


Now turning to leadership in the political world....

Ted Kennedy's 'True Compass'

I spent several days last week in Alberta and had the opportunity on the long flights to finish Ted Kennedy's auto-biography, True Compass. While a great tour through recent American history, I was particularly impressed with how he wrote about his deep and abiding Catholic faith. He certainly admits his many all-too-human failings and indeed his own differences with the Church in areas of public policy.

It did get me to thinking about the role of faith in public life. I was brought up to respect people of all faiths - and increasingly - of no faith too. In my view, we shouldn't 'privatize' faith so that it has no role in the public domain. Rather, faith informs us and helps shape our values. If done properly, that can have a profoundly positive effect. If done badly, it can be a disaster. Kennedy obviously spent a lot of time thinking about his religion and seemed to appreciate it even more as he moved through the tragedies and triumphs of his life.

It's a delicate area, as most people don't want it shoved down their throats, so to speak, by political leaders who blur the line. Take a look at this example of HOW NOT TO combine politics with religion:


Isn't that priceless? I can't decide whether the poor guy needs media training or re-programming.
Until next time...


Has Rush Limbaugh Jumped the Shark?

Welcome back!

Political Advertising: New media trends and do attack ads work?

I just got back from a working trip to San Francisco and British Columbia. I was blessed with sunny (but cool) weather, but caught up with family and friends and it was all wonderful[in spite of the anti-customer attitudes exhibited by certain cable car brakemen]. A relaxed outdoor lunch in San Francisco's Union Square was interrupted by a megaphone-shouting group of protesters against the U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Signs that read "U.S. baby killers out....". I felt like suggesting they add the phrase "Taliban in" but they probably wouldn't have got the sarcasm. Why can't the protesters do an honest job of raising concerns rather than indulge in such a dishonest harangue? They just do the anti-war side a disservice.

In case you were too busy enjoying your Sunday/Thanksgiving/Columbus Day dinner with your family, and missed my appearance on October 11th's broadcast of CPAC's Nik Nanos Report, here it is (about five minutes in):

Has Rush Limbaugh Jumped the Shark?

I admit to having long enjoyed Rush - in admittedly small doses - particularly as he has skewered the MSM (mainstream media) and various elite political targets over the years. However, Rush may well have crossed an invisible line - not with his failed attempt to be in on a St. Louis Rams football franchise - but with his admission in a rare interview on - yes- the MSM that he is doing it for the money. Rush may have thought he was just being 'honest' in his admission, unlike all the other shills on radio, I guess. However, the moment someone who has espoused his conservative beliefs for over two decades, and is widely seen as the heart and 'soul' of the Republican Party, that is a disaster, which will come back to haunt him far longer and in more damaging ways than his Oxy-Contin problem of years past.
Check it out here:

Why, you may ask?

Well the millions of 'ditto-heads' that follow 'El Rushbo' religiously have just discovered that he's essentially nothing more than a money-grubbing 'entertainer'. It raises profound questions about Rush and his views? If he's doing it for the money, does he really believe what he is saying? If it started to lose him the precious advertising dollars, would he start to change his views? If money is his God, does that mean his views and beliefs are secondary?

IMHO, the public is looking for a vision that is larger than oneself. They are tired of selfishness and greed (if you don't believe it, recall the outrage over banking and insurance executive compensation revelations - let alone Bernie Madoff, today's Adolph Hitler).

Sean Hannity 'Owned' by Michael Moore

Check out Sean Hannity and how he was 'owned' by Michael Moore [Capitalism: A Love Story]in a recent broadcast of Hannity's show.

Elsewhere in the face-off, Sean makes it clear his real interest is that he should be paying less than the 60% tax rate that he currently claims to pay. When he asks Moore what would be reasonable, Moore replied that perhaps 50% would be about right. And besides, Moore added, that he didn't believe that Hannity really paid 60% in taxes. Sean refused a third party look at his tax filing. Then he mounted his attack on Moore, claiming that unless Michael Moore gave up 95% of his earnings then he is a 'hypocrite'. Huh?

Although I am not a fan of Michael Moore, I have to admit he came off looking a lot more reasonable than the completely self-interested Sean Hannity. [Maybe Sean, once again, has taken a page from his mentor Rush, and thought that somehow people were going to support him in his purely selfish look at public policy. Sorry Sean, imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it was a PR disaster for you too!

Until next time.....


David Letterman Apologizes....Eventually

Welcome back!

As previously mentioned in this blog, the only serious omission in 'David Letterman's Apologia', was, in fact, an apology to his wife and to his staff.
Now that he has taken care of that oversight (and that was quite an oversight - no doubt doubling his wife's rage levels, let alone the emotional impact on his staff), he can move forward. HIs goal now is to say as little as possible on the case.

A quick analysis of his follow-up apology is that he did an honest job of sharing the pain he has caused his wife. For an incredibly private public personality, it is something we have never heard before from Dave. So we will have to assume that his self-inflicted pain was ratcheted up pretty high on the scale.

He has an interesting way of combining a fairly blunt denunciation of his own behavior with humor. Usually the two don't mix. Because his first statement was missing the apology, he didn't quite find the right balance, but last night he did. So until the next wrinkle in this tabloid gossip saga, he can move on.

Speaking of television, I will be on the CPAC TV network this coming Sunday, October 11th on The Nanos Report, which airs at 10:30 A.M. ET or 7:30 PT and repeated at 8 p.m.ET/ 5 p.m. PT. It will be available the next day online at http://www.cpac.ca. Nik Nanos, one of the country's leading pollsters, has his own new weekly show, He and I discuss the Stephen Harper performance with Yo Yo Ma at the National Arts Centre last Saturday night - in terms of its potential to alter the public perception of the Prime Minister. As well, I commented one as what works and what doesn't in political advertising. It was fun. Check it out - I'll be taking attendance:)

Until next time....


Prime Minister Harper Belts One Out of the Park!

Welcome back...
I attended the National Arts Centre Gala Saturday Night and along with 2200 people in the audience was blown away by sight of the Prime Minister of Canada strolling onto the stage with a drummer and a guitarist and the world's most famous cellist, Yo Yo Ma, the evening's headliner. Before anyone could quite comprehend what they were witnessing, Stephen Harper sits down at the piano and launches into a pitch perfect rendition of "I Get By With a Little Help from my Friends."

The audience went nuts and cheered and applauded throughout as the PM confidently delivered the goods - more in the style of Ringo Starr than Joe Cocker's version.

In one fell swoop, Mr. Harper turned it into a huge political hit. The risk he took doing that was extremely high. All of us know people who can tinkle the ivories in their living room or sing in the shower. But to get up in front of a huge audience with such high stakes and pull it off is exceptional. So, regardless of one's political stripes, you gotta admit, it was a perception-altering smash!

A little birdie told me that the spark for the idea was first lit at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh when Stephen and Laureen Harper (the NAC Gala Fundraiser's Honourary Chair) met Yo Yo Ma.

Check it out on YouTube.

David Letterman Follow-up
I will be on CBC Newsworld Sunday afternoon at 3:15 p.m. EST when I will be assessing David Letterman's handling of his "crisis".


David Letterman's Apologia

Welcome back!
This quick post is motivated by tonight's revelation by Dave Letterman that he had been blackmailed over his "creepy stuff" as he describes it. How did he do? David rolls it out with a combination of humor and 'guilt' over his sexual relationships with a number of women on his staff. From the discovery of a package he finds in his back seat at 6 a.m. to meetings with the would-be screenplay writer/blackmailer, to the handover of a $2 million check to his appearance this morning before the Grand Jury.

How did he do?
Actually he did very well. He reveals the "creepy stuff" was "I had sex with women who worked on this show..would it be embarrassing..yes it would...especially for the women...but that's a decision for them to come forward....I just want to thank the special prosecution bureau, the District Attorney, Robert Morgenthau, I need to protect those women, my family and I don't intend to say anything more about this."

After thanking the audience for their patience he continued on with the show.

Coming out of the commercial he reveals that he had invited questions during the break and told viewers that a guy in the audience had said, "Dave I'd kinda like to see that movie!" Good kicker to the story.

Well, once we were over the shock (although many viewers had been apprised of it in the media and online in advance), I believe most of his fans would instantly forgive him due to his forthrightness. He got ahead of the story and told it without defending it. By characterizing it as 'creepy stuff' he took the sting out of it. all in all, it was crisis management 101. If only Roman Polanski had adopted a similar strategy on an admittedly far more 'creepy' admission than Dave's (see below).


If I Were Roman Polanski's Media Advisor

Welcome back!

Finally, thirty years after fleeing America, Roman Polanski was arrested in Zurich. Much has been written about his drugging and raping a thirteen year oldIt begs several questions:
1. What was he thinking? By announcing in advance that he was coming to Zurich (to accept a lifetime achievement award), was it hubris that finally did him in? He had to have known that the warrant on him was outstanding. He gambled and lost.
2. Did his reaction help his case? All we heard was that Roman was "fightin' mad". I didn't hear "sorrow", "regret", "willing to face up to what I did", or anything to indicate that he gets it.
3. Did his Hollywood friends, French politicians or other elites help his case? Uh....no. They hurt his case. I mean, a character reference from Woody Allen? Gimme a break! It served to make him a caricature of the spoiled "law doesn't apply to me" ethically-challenged person that he obviously is.
4. What should he have done? The moment he was carted off to a Swiss jail, he should have issued a statement that he would voluntarily return to Los Angeles and ask the Court for mercy. His statement would make it clear that what he had done was wrong, and that he realized that there should be consequences.
5. What would the judge do? I believe that he would have got a light sentence in recognition of his apology and his willingness to recognize how wrong his actions were. (I'm not sure if he had been involved in any charitable work during his thirty years on the lam, but it sure might have helped too.)

However, remember "arrogance is its own reward!"

Is Canada Going to Have an Election or Not?
Now that the NDP has voted with the government on a major money bill (Employment Insurance reform) and has said it will not support the Liberal's non-confidence motion, there won't likely be a Fall election.

Who wins and who loses?

The Conservatives win by looking strong and sure-footed (neither weak nor devious). The Liberals have been saved from certain defeat; yet are empowered to continue voting every time against the government, with impunity. Given the recent in-fighting in Quebec Liberal ranks, however, that delay can only help the Liberals. the Liberals, however, have entered into a narrow channel - of all or nothing. That is high stakes poker with a weak hand. The NDP have survived to live another day but will have to avoid voting for legislation that they cannot stomach. That could be increasingly problematic as Stephen Harper - with one eye on the polls - might decide to feed Mr. Layton just such a 'meal'.

Until next time, remember the old Russian proverb:"the difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits."


Celebrities Selling Health Care Reform

Tips on Creating Viral Videos

A new viral video [produced by Will Ferrell, with Mad Men's John Hamm and other Hollywood celebs] uses satire quite effectively to skewer the health insurance companies. All for the cost of the video! I'm surprised more organizations aren't using viral videos online to support their campaigns. You can see this by googling it and search it on MSN and YouTube, among other sites.

If you're thinking of creating a viral video, here are some tips:
1. Satire and humor are the best ways to ensure the video goes 'viral'. Not too heavy, but people have to laugh.
2. Make sure the target is clear and the message flows naturally. If it's too obscure, it won't work.
3. Give the viewer a website or a clear 'action' to take. Otherwise, it's fun, but no real measurable output.
4. Using a celebrity can enormously increase the initial impact, but it's not essential. If the characters are well-honed and it's well-scripted, it can take off on its own merits.
5. Don't be too heavy-handed. You're evoking a visceral response. This isn't the time for hectoring or lecturing.
6. Limit it to 3 minutes. If you can't make the point in that time, you probably don't have a clear point to make!

Until next time.....


Live-Blogging the President on Letterman

Welcome back.
Before I get to my comments on President Obama's Letterman appearance,I was on Tom Clark's Powerplay on the CTV News Channel Monday evening to discuss the Canadian Government's advertising and whether or not it's appropriate.

"Ladies and gentlemen, live from the Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway, it's the David Letterman Show Starring...Barack Obama!"

In a first for David Letterman, President Obama dropped in tonight, following a whirlwind round of the Sunday Morning talk shows, and he looked as relaxed as George Clooney schmoozing Dave about Brad Pitt and his pals.

He immediately keyed in on the audience member with a heart-shaped potato and played it for all it was worth. He already had the audience from the get-go with a standing ovation. Even Clooney doesn't get that.

Dave's series of photos of the President at the White House with family, Bo and Hillary (!) kept the warmth going. [And having sat in the Ed Sullivan Theater during a Letterman taping, that is quite an accomplishment, I assure you! Although even the President asked the audience if they were cold!]

Dave's questions about the pace of the President's life moves into the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh later this week, and an easy slide into talk of families struggling during the economy; clean energy, the Lehman Brothers' crash last year; and bridging to making 'ordinary folks' and helping them.

The President claims that his stimulus spending was a "tourniquet to stop the bleeding" and saved 1.5 to 2 million jobs, and from there he moves into the theme of 'long-term sustainability'. He manages the expectations of no overnight solution, having lost $5 trillion in wealth, and then ends that sequence with 'we're going to come back stronger than ever'. [I sense a targeted email campaign coming on! So get your Blackberries ready folks!]

The 'Racist' Issue

After a commercial break, Dave leads him into Jimmy Carter's comments about the racism issue, triggered by the "you lie" shout-out by Rep. Joe Wilson R (SC). Obama hits it out of the park with "I think it's important to realize I was actually black before the election." Letterman tops him with "oh really, how long have you been black?"

The President connects back to the 'commie' labels and other epithets that previous Presidents like Kennedy and Reagan had to endure. He links back to "common sense and integrity" and how the public expects more from their elected officials.

Dave doesn't let go and the Prez allows that "you can have differences with me...health care...but suggesting that some of the anger is mis-placed" He shifts from there into feeling the taxpayers' pain over the lack of regulation allowing billions of dollars to line the balance sheet of banks (although he doesn't mention that the former Treasury Secretary put a gun to their heads to take the money. "The last thing I signed up for was bailing out banks and big auto companies."

High road, empathy path all the way...

On health care, Dave leads him into it by asking "what is it about health care that I don't understand?"
The President says that health care premiums have gone up about 125% in the past ten years, and the 'big insurance companies' have been dropping people from coverage....In five or ten years, employers won't be able to cover you...and people are going to go bankrupt. If you do have it he wants to make sure the insurance companies can't drop you, moving to electronic forms, and ends up with hitting back at the status quo thinking.

Dave breaks up the heavy going by observing that the President's job is "tougher than mine" but he doesn't get all this labeling of the British and Canadian systems as 'socialism' when it sounds pretty good to me!"
Dave does a shout out to Britain and Canada.. The Prez says that the Canadians like their system (big applause from Canadians from Canadians in the audience. I can't tell if Paul Schaeffer applauded.]

Mr. Obama refers to fear over 'the devil they don't know.' He admits that's why he's on the Letterman show - to reach regular folks about the issue.

Dave pokes fun at the 'death panels... "if only we could get those going right away." The President smiles but wisely chooses not to say anything as he would be instantly YouTubed no matter what he would say.

During the commercial break, the paparazzi are allowed to move up to the set for their photos - not an everyday thing on the Letterman Show for sure - all the while Paul Schaeffer and the CBS Orchestra are playing some great Chicago blues in honor of the special guest.

After the second last commercial break....

Dave moves into the moving out of Iraq and moving into Afghanistan. The Prez reaffirms the pull-out of combat troops by 2011 [AUDIENCE APPLAUSE] although admits Iraq won't be 'perfect". He distinguishes Iraq from Afghanistan and links the US interests from the 3000 Americans who lsot their lives in 9/11 [APPLAUSE].

He recognizes frustration with the progress in the war...and emphasizes military, diplomatic and humanitarian help. Hits an emotional chord when he says before he writes a letter to a military family that their child wasn't going home, he wants to clearly have the strategy to justify those steps, and he will be asking some very tough questions." [It works on an emotional level with the audience much better than on a literal one.]

Obama says that 'given the stakes in Afghanistan we should have finished the job there." "Iraq is better off without Saddam." He notes the enormous risks of 'doubling down' on Afghanistan. If there were easy answers, they wouldn't have fallen onto his desk. He ends with the assertion that the number one issue in A'ghan is that there are a number of extremists determined to kill innocent people and he keeps that firmly in mind.

Pretty masterful footwork through a tricky juxtaposition of two theaters of war. [With Democrats in Congress becoming more vocal in their opposition. Although Dave did not bring up the leaked document from the U.S. military commander on the ground whose criticisms of the effort made all the news earlier today. [One of the advantages of going on a talk show.]

After the last commercial break...

Dave sucks up somewhat with mentioning that as he goes on to address the UN tomorrow, 'how fascinating it is to watch you work". But then saves it with congratulating him for being in possession of a heart-shaped potato."

Nice tie-in to the opener and the President reaches out with a handshake, a big grin and it's all over for his debut on Letterman.

Barack, if the political thing doesn't work out, Dave's renewed contract ends in 2012...just in time for.....a new gig!

Until next time...


No election....for now!

Welcome back!

Well Jack and Gilles saved Iggy....at least for now. I know I have been predicting a fall election since June, but now that Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe voted for the Conservatives last Friday on a major money bill (Employment Insurance reform),what;'s going to happen?

An election may only have been delayed - for several reasons:
1.Jack Layton and the NDP will not be able to continue propping up the Conservatives.
2. Stephen Harper is aware of this and may give him increasingly unpalatable legislation to endorse, forcing him to choose between an election reprieve and the NDP's credibility with its own base.
3. Stephen Harper is now consistently over 35% in the polls - within striking range of a majority government. It's either go now or wait until next spring, giving Ignatieff more time to define himself, his policies and build fundraising efforts.

So what's the likelihood of a fall election? Still a major chance to be called some time in October. It's doubtful that the NDP and Bloc will give the Liberals credibility in their early October no-confidence motion. So watch for the poison pill by the Conservatives within a few weeks.

"Racism' and Rep. Joe Wilson, R (SC)

I don't agree with Obama supporters that Rep. Joe Wilson, R (SC) in his 'you lie' call out to President Obama indulged in an act of racism. First, it cheapens racism when it's thrown around to cover virtually every criticism or yobbish behavior aimed at Obama. Save that allegation until there is some direct connection to that odious trait. Second, there is little evidence that critics have unearthed that Wilson indulged in racist comments in the past. Usually, racist comments are not 'one-off' experiences.

So my advice would be stay cool, stay focused, stay high-road and such boorish behavior will be seen in such a light that makes the President seem even more Presidential, the more he forgives people like Mr. Wilson.

Just Imagine if We Were Better Storytellers

Which brings me to my final note for this post, and that is the stories that politicians such as Barack Obama use to create a narrative or drive home a message. Check out this article, Just Imagine if we Were Better Storytellers, by Colleen Ross on CBC.ca and see how executives and politicians are using stories in their presentations and speeches:

By Colleen Ross
Just imagine if we were better storytellers

"When I was young, my family went downhill skiing almost every weekend. It was fun and great exercise, but truth be told, some days were long. And cold. So to entertain myself, I made up a soap opera called On the Slopes.
Former U.S. president Bill Clinton: A natural storyteller. (Mike Wintroath/Associated Press)Former U.S. president Bill Clinton: A natural storyteller. (Mike Wintroath/Associated Press)

I created several plot lines with different characters, even different accents, and told the stories aloud to my imaginary audience as I barrelled down the ski run. I recall many dramatic scenes in the emergency room involving doctors with gratuitous British accents. The soap opera format was perfect, because I could just pick up the plot when next on the slopes.

Perhaps this imaginative storytelling propelled me toward a career in broadcasting, in which oral stories are so central. As a journalist, I've listened to many people speak — at all levels of government, at conferences, in churches, at rallies, at funerals. I've laughed. I've cried. But often, I've sighed. I wish more people knew how to tell good stories.

It turns out that good storytellers may be made in childhood. The key? Imaginary friends. Research shows that anywhere from a quarter to half of young children have played with them. Now, a study has found that imaginary friends — whether they're named Emily or Giant Strongman, whether young or old, male or female — help children become better storytellers. And that in turn, helps boost their reading comprehension and overall language skills.
Storytelling starts young

In the July/August issue of the journal Child Development, researchers investigated the language skills of 48 boys and girls aged 5½, about half of whom had imaginary friends. Associate professor Elaine Reese of the University of Otago in New Zealand and her former student Gabriel Trionfi first assessed the children's language skills by measuring their vocabulary. Then they asked the children to tell two types of stories: fictional and realistic. In the fictional storytelling activity, the children were read a story rich with dialogue and then asked to retell the story to a puppet. In the realistic storytelling activity, they were asked to tell a story about a real-life event such as a trip to the beach.

While the children didn't differ in their vocabulary skills, the children with imaginary friends used more dialogue and characters in retelling the fictional story, and gave more information about time and place in the realistic story. One child described going to an A&P show — an agricultural exhibition — with heaps of horses jumping and winning ribbons, and cows going around in a big circle in a paddock. Not bad for a five-year-old.

The researchers say the children with imaginary friends told higher-quality stories than the others; they simply get more practice telling stories both to their friend and to other interested folks. Trionfi says it's a gift: "Understanding how to tell a story to someone who wasn't there, or doesn't know what you know, all takes abstract thinking skills."
We don't develop our storytelling skills

So if that many children are telling stories — and telling them well — why are so many of us so bad at it later in life? As I see it, we don't carry storytelling with us into our professional lives, unless we actually work in a story-reliant industry such as journalism.

Ottawa-based communications expert Barry McLoughlin says many of us don't exercise the storytelling muscle enough, so it atrophies. And somewhere along the line, it becomes more difficult to talk about emotions in public. To be a good storyteller, you need to put yourself on the line.

"With the oral storytelling tradition, you're telling an anecdote, you're revealing something of yourself," says McLoughlin. "Revealing yourself is highly uncomfortable. It's off script. It means taking a risk."

The other reason for diminished story telling, according to McLoughlin, is technology: "Oral storytelling is a lost art that has been superseded by the screen. Now it's the visual tradition. Now it's show me."
More important than ever

But show me doesn't guarantee we're getting information that helps us actually make sense of the world.

"We need someone to tell us a story to make sense of it all. There's so many competing claims out there. The recession for example; the economy is up, it's down," says McLoughlin. "We have information overload. What we want is knowledge."

The finest stories combine information with colourful images. That's the best way to ensure that people remember our message.

It's rare to see in person a former U.S. president known for his compelling speaking style. Several years ago, I had the fortune of seeing Bill Clinton when he was in Winnipeg. One of his points was that giving poorer countries more economic help encourages peace and prosperity. He wove a tale about a Ghanaian woman who ran after him on the airport tarmac to give him a shirt made possible through the Africa trade bill. It was one of many stories filled with both vivid images and relevant statistics.

About 1,600 people sat in the theatre that night, but you could have heard a pin drop. And last week in Toronto, he wooed audiences once again.

A good, focused story can relay information so much more effectively and memorably than dry statistics and gobbledygook. We need to drop the paradigms and consultative processes, the passive constructions, the subjunctive clauses. When we tell a story, we're more conversational. Our message is clearer. More interesting. More emotional. More powerful.

I say tell stories and tell them often, even if it means getting yourself an imaginary friend. In the meantime, I'm going to work on a summer version of On the Slopes."

Until next time!


Selling Health Care & an Election

Welcome back...
Well the 'death panels' are now a thing of the past (whew!) as President Obama sought to reassure the American people Wednesday night, that 'change' is not scary. Did it work? That depends on who he is targeting with his message.

First, he had to shore up the Democrats' base - which has been splitting at the seams of late over the 'public option'. I interpreted his message as "a public option if necessary but not necessarily a public option." Okay that will help.

Secondly, he tried to swing the independent vote by reassuring them that if they like their health insurance plan, then they can keep it - no problemo! Then he promised that he would not run a deficit - not even a penny! Ever! Wow! And he won't raise taxes to do it. Double wow! And half the $900 billion cost will come from cutting waste and mismanagement in medicaid. Triple wow! Incidentally, nearly all politicians claim that they can do that, but that's the first time I ever heard that there was that much waste. If all that doesn't get the independents' vote then nothing will.

Thirdly, he sought to reassure seniors who had been frightened by scare tactics about 'death panels' managed by bureaucrats to decide whether grandma or grandad will get treatment or not. Take that Sarah Palin!

As expected he connected emotionally with the Senators and Congressmen in the room by sharing a letter that Sen. Ted Kennedy had written him, but only delivered to him by Vicky Kennedy after his death.

So was it an effective speech? In a word, yes! He hit the mark and he did it with that combination of cool and passionate that very few can do. He continually positioned himself as the moderate between the 'extremes' of the left and right. [Canada's single payer system being on the left, and the big bad mean health insurance companies and their fellow ideologues of the status quo on the right.]

However, it was far from being a perfect speech. He seemed to go out of his way in places to be partisan when a number of lawmakers were seeking the spirit of bipartisanship. So in my view, some of that was superfluous to his central message - that the status quo is no longer acceptable and he is determined to get the job done.

With regard to Canada's health care system, it is not perfect of course. In fact, many Canadians have a lot of frustration with aspects of it. However, one of the few things that unites Canadians is criticism of it from another country. A former Prime Minister (one Jean Chretien)famously said, 'Canada has the best mediocre health care system in the world." Another time he said, "It's not a Cadillac..it's a Chevrolet." [That was of course before GM was taken over by the government, but I digress...]

In terms of the battle for media coverage, the President's speech was quickly taken off the front page and replaced by the 'you lie' call-out from South Carolina's Rep. Joe Wilson (R).

It gave the President a chance to sound both conciliatory and Presidential the next day, but it did divert the water-cooler talk the next day. The Republican leadership wisely moved quickly to make him apologize and distance themselves from him. But the Republican brand took a hit last night. As you can see here, Mr. Obama took full advantage of the opportunity it presented him, to call for a civil debate. Hey take the gifts when they come your way, right?

Meanwhile in Canada...the election call gets closer and closer...

Prime Minister Harper gave Michael Ignatieff a golden opportunity to gain some political traction when this video was handed to the Liberals, and then to the media, by a student at a Tory gathering [closed to the media]. The talk of a 'majority' had been avoided scrupulously in previous elections, but it will now have to be front and centre. So the PM ought to take these eggs and make an omelette! Selling more uncertainty has probably lived out its usefulness on the political landscape anyway.

Gentle American readers, in Canada it's usually politically damaging to suggest that (gasp) you might want or need a majority government. Even if the country has had the instability of three elections in four years due to the instability of minority governments...

The rule there of course is that 'there's no such thing as off the record' and the earlier that lesson is reinforced for the Conservatives the better for their chances in the seemingly inevitable election to be called within a few weeks. [PREDICTION]

In the scheme of things, it's probably not too significant, except that it will perhaps embolden Mr. Ignatieff even further towards the point of no return!

Finally, Remembering 9/11 Eight Years Later

September 11, 2009 marks the 8th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy and hopefully we mark it with thoughts and prayers for the victims and their families. You have not been forgotten. I vividly remember where I was on 9/11. Laura and I were about to do a seminar for about a dozen senior judges from the Federal Courts across the country. We were stunned by the television pictures and, even though we didn't want to stop watching, I suggested that we begin our seminar and then later we would come back to it to see what happened. That took every ounce of effort on everyone's part, but it was instinctively trying to find some semblance of sanity when you knew suddenly that the world had gone completely mad.

A few days later, Ambassador Paul Cellucci and Prime Minister Chretien, along with 100,000 Canadians with tears in their eyes went to Parliament Hill to express their deepest sorrow for the victims and for the solidarity that Canada felt for the United States in its time of shock and devastation. It was a profoundly powerful experience.

So how do you put to words what that day meant? Here are the lyrics to the Alan Jackson song, Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning) that have always got to me when I think of that day. How about you?

"Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)" Words and music by Alan Jackson

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day
Out in the yard with your wife and children
Working on some stage in LA
Did you stand there in shock at the site of
That black smoke rising against that blue sky
Did you shout out in anger
In fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry

Did you weep for the children
Who lost their dear loved ones
And pray for the ones who don't know
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below

Did you burst out in pride
For the red white and blue
The heroes who died just doing what they do
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself to what really matters

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell you
The difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us
And the greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day
Teaching a class full of innocent children
Driving down some cold interstate
Did you feel guilty cause you're a survivor
In a crowded room did you feel alone
Did you call up your mother and tell her you love her
Did you dust off that bible at home
Did you open your eyes and hope it never happened
Close your eyes and not go to sleep
Did you notice the sunset the first time in ages
Speak with some stranger on the street
Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow
Go out and buy you a gun
Did you turn off that violent old movie you're watching
And turn on "I Love Lucy" reruns
Did you go to a church and hold hands with some stranger
Stand in line and give your own blood
Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family
Thank God you had somebody to love

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell you
The difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us
And the greatest is love

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell you
The difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us
And the greatest is love

The greatest is love
The greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?

Let's pause and remember, and keep a little perspective. Life is to be cherished.


Comments and Predictions

Welcome back
Well it was a beautifully done funeral for Ted Kennedy. A time for remembrances, some laughs and some tears. I shed a tear when Teddy Junior spoke of his struggle to get up the driveway in the winter with his artificial leg and his father's encouragement. Of course, I'm pretty emotional about father-son relationships, as they resonate with so much with me.

Unlike some critics, I thought President Obama's eulogy was just right. Some commentators and columnists felt he should have turned it into a Health Care Reform call to arms. Give me a break! Bad taste, and totally counter to the bipartisan theme that had been an integral undercurrent of the ceremonies.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has set Jan. 19th at the date of the special election to fill Sen. Kennedy's seat, with the primaries on Dec. 8th. The Legislature will no doubt accede to the late Senator's request for an interim appointment. [Interestingly, back in 2004 the Democrat-controlled Legislature took the power away from the Governor's office to deny Gov. Mitt Romney the opportunity to fill it, if John Kerry had won the Presidency.] What goes around comes around, right?

If Joe Kennedy announces, he'll be tough to beat. However, he didn't prove to be a particularly effective Congressman, but he may have matured and will no doubt have a different perspective on the opportunity that the Senate would present him to continue his uncle's legacy. Although, based on what I saw, Teddy Jr. would be a better candidate. I'm just sayin'.....

Canadian Election Countdown

I hate it when I'm right (and so un-used to it..) but as I predicted in my June blog, Canada is heading for a federal election that nobody (except certain politicians) really want. Michael Ignatieff set the groundwork in June by drawing another line in the sand for a no-confidence motion at the end of September. Politically, he can't draw another line later on without looking Stephane Dion-ish. His credibility would suffer irreparable harm.

Look for Prime Minister Harper to introduce a Ways and Means motion that may well be defeated once the House reconvenes in mid-September. In that way he will try to control the election call.

But is this a good idea for the Liberals?

In my view, no it isn't. The Harper government wants the campaign to be about economic issues - not social issues or the environment. When people are worried about their jobs, they tend to look to a leader who appears strong and fairly tough. With the Liberals call for billions more on Employment Insurance and more program spending, it will be hard to make the case credibly that he would manage the deficit better. Besides the political zeitgeist in Canada and the United States has shifted in the past few months from "who can spend more, fast enough, to kick-start the economy?" to "who has the plan to get us out of this debt we're piling up?"

That may explain why Mr. Ignatieff has pulled the plug on one of his own demands, to work on reforming the Employment Insurance program. The less association with that, the better. He needs to find a platform and a message that resonates with the voter. It's definitely possible, but he has a very short time for Canadians to get to know him while at the same time setting out his platform.

Until next time....


Ted Kennedy: An Appreciation

Welcome back!

A very sad day with the news of the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy. Much has already been written and we will be seeing so much more in the days ahead. President Obama said it best:
"Even though we knew this day was coming, we awaited it with no small amount of dread. His extraordinary life on this earth has come to an end. The extraordinary good that he did lives on."

So I just want to add a few thoughts of my own. On a personal level, he was truly larger than life. One of those rare people who lit up a room just by entering it. He put his personal warmth and charm to work on Senators across the aisle for the issues that he believed in. I remember seeing him a few times at the Kennedy School and was always struck by his interest in other people. If he faked that smiled then he was a better actor than many in Hollywood. He literally lit up when he met people.

Back when I was a student at the Kennedy School, my good friend Joe and I were walking toward the school on JFK Street and doing what we would call "dueling Kennedys" impressions. I had the strangest feeling and turned around to see Ted himself walking a few feet behind us with one of his aides. I won't say I was embarrassed or anything, but my face turned so red several cars screeched to a stop! It's hard to say if he heard us or realized what we were doing but what are the odds?!

A number of years later, Laura and I were at a Harvard event and the Senator was entering a building off Harvard Yard. The media were there and there was a small crowd, but the atmosphere was for some inexplicable reason, very tight. No one was saying anything, and his face looked taut. Laura called out, "hey Ted, over here." He turned around and saw her and lit up with a big smile and a wave, and then the reporters and the crowd began calling out to him. He was now in his element and he was literally beaming as he relaxed visibly.

He was certainly not a perfect person, and indeed, his flaws threatened for years to over-ride his accomplishments. As the youngest in the family, his talents were over-shadowed by his high-achieving brothers and sisters, and so he knew he had so much to prove. In fact, he served longer in the Senate than any of his three brothers lived. So what stands out was his steadfast determination to make his life have meaning, and to make a difference for the less-fortunate.

On a political level no one was more partisan and vocal in his beliefs, yet he was renowned for his bipartisanship. That's how he was able to accomplish more legislatively than almost any other Senator in modern times.

His unsuccessful bid for the Presidency was marred by a disastrous interview that he agreed to do with Roger Mudd on CBS. As you will see, he couldn't seem to answer directly the question, 'why are you running for President?' What many didn't realize, however, was the interview was pre-taped prior to his announcement and he was clearly uncomfortable admitting he was running. He had been doubling President Carter's poll numbers prior to this broadcast, and they began to slip noticeably once it aired. Take a look:

With all the heat and anger surrounding the health care reform legislation, it's a perfect opportunity for Senators and Congressmen to display some of that bi-partisanship. Perhaps, given the timing of his passing, it could be a last gift from the Senator.

Until next time....


Hockey Star Faces PR Challenge

Welcome back to the dog days of August. Often it's a time when otherwise mundane stories can escalate into front-page national stories, causing pain and notoriety - whether deserved or not. For Ottawa Senators fans, the handling of star forward Dany Heatley fits into this category of news event. Word had leaked out back in June that Dany was unhappy with the way coach Cory Clousten had been treating him and told Senators management that he wished to be traded (only one year into a six year, $40 million plus contract. Outrage immediately followed - casting Dany as a spoiled, ungrateful brat turning his back on Ottawa fans. [Whoever said politics is mean? Sports fans can show no mercy at all.]

Dany waited all summer, refusing to say anything, and then only days before beginning hockey camp with the Canadian Olympic team, he holds a conference call/news conference.
Did he meet the test? Clearly not. What went wrong? I was interviewed on that and here is the resulting Ottawa Citizen story:

Upcoming Media Hit....

Check out CBC radio Monday morning (August 24th) for a discussion with moi and two Conservative politicos on the fortunes of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party with regard to a possible election.


Until next time....



'The Woz' Shares His Stories

On Monday at 8:30 a.m. I will be on CBC Radio's 'The Current' for the third time in as many weeks - this time to explore Canada's Conservative Party and Prime Minister Stephen Harper's brand and positioning on the electoral landscape. Hope you can tune in: http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/

On Wednesday, Laura and I, along with several hundred others attended an OCRI luncheon event featuring Steve 'the Woz" Wozniak, who, along with Steve Jobs, founded Apple. A technology guru who is much admired, shared with the audience his vision and his creative history.

What is immediate apparent is his ability to tell stories as a vehicle to convey his vision and values and to connect with the audience.

"Be Honest With the World"

His big theme is "be honest with the world.' It's important to him to have authentic relationships with people he meets. He began by recounting his recent experience with the reality series,'Dancing with the Stars'. At first this seemed like an outlandishly out-of-character move for someone of his credibility. But as he told his story, it became clear that his appearance on the show was part of his approach to life.

On the series, he worked incredibly hard and did his best. To him, that was what it was all about. To do something that was outside his comfort zone to the best of his abilities. Afterward, he said he hand-wrote 27 one-or-two-page notes to each of his fellow contestants, host and producers (which he believes has far greater meaning than emailing them!)

He described himself as a shy child, and mused that his pursuit of disruptive technologies was perhaps a way to some some attention in the world.

Wozniak's 'What If' Key to Innovation

What I found revealing was his use of the "what if?" technique to develop the solutions and innovations that led to Apple and other creative products. One of his first inventions was 'Dial a Joke'. As a student in San Francisco, he spent more on renting the answering machine than his apartment rent. He recalled how the demand was so high that he found himself pretending at times that it was a taped joke, when actually he did some of them live! He said it helped him come out of his shell.

The Power of 'Lucky Accidents'

He also created a pong-like game for a home television (he described as a 'lucky accident' that he'd first seen Pong in a bowling alley).

Before Apple, even though he had no university degree, HP hired him to design a scientific calculator - which he did.

In case anyone might think he would be jealous of his former partner, Steve Jobs, he seemed to be very proud of his abilities and his relationship with his better known Apple co-founder. He mentioned that Jobs always goes to the top level people. He related how Jobs got Atari to go in on the pong game.

Another time, early on, Jobs gave him a 'must-hit' deadline of 4 days to come up with a game. And doing without sleep, he did it.

Woz went on to describe his creation of Apple II as a "Eureka moment".

He told a great anecdote of Apple being invited to an early technology conference in Las Vegas. Only Jobs and two others were going, but Wozniak was dying to go. so he said, what if I can create a floppy-disk drive to go with the Apple? He took on the challenge and created it in two weeks! And as he finished it the day before, he got to go to Vegas. He said, "it's surprising what can motivate engineers!"

The Magic of 'Disruptive Technologies'

Now Chief Scientist of Fusion-io,[http://www.fusionio.com] he is attracted by the disruptive technology involved in Fusion i.o's plug-in hardware memory with 10 times the storage capacity of existing solutions, while consuming far less energy.

What can you say about a guy who gives up five years of his career(post-Apple) to finish university and teach grade five? Incidentally, he believes that his real role as an educator is not to learn the material before the students - necessarily - but to get the kids excited about learning in the first place! [I wish a number of the educators I have met actually shared that belief!]

Finally, Steve Wozniak as a public speaker has learned the power of story to reach an audience and to motivate them.

Here it is here:

It's been a bad year for CBS News Legends...R.I.P. Don Hewitt

The creator of 60 Minutes, Don Hewitt has passed away from pancreatic cancer. He had long described his work as being a 'story-teller' which I think is very apt, given our theme in this post.

Until next time....


Selling Health Care Reform Obama-Style

Welcome back
Well how did you like the opening episode of Mad Men, Season 3? As usual Matt Weiner had an incredible eye for not only the look and feel of the early 60s [how would I know right?] but he can say more with no dialogue than any other show on television.

As promised I was up early Monday morning to be on the CBC Radio Show, The Current, along with Liberal MP Martha Hall Findlay and ex-liberal MP Carolyn Parish. We were exploring why Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and his party are still trailing Stephen Harper and the Conservatives by 2% in the polls.

Check it out to see how we did:


The Selling of Health Care Reform

As with all of you I've been watching how the health care reform legislation is being
'debated' in town halls by Senators, Congressmen and the President himself. Without arguing the actual issue, here are five factors which are working against Mr. Obama:

1. The political zeitgeist has shifted in the past six months - from 'quick throw all the money you can at our problems now and it will help kick-start the economy' to 'hey, who's going to pay for all this?" That's a very different question which an extra trillion dollars added onto the debt doesn't seem to address.[I mentioned this in the above interview.]

2. The key principle of persuasion is 'sell the problem before you sell the solution." It sounds like 70% of the American public are not convinced they have a problem with their health care - at least not enough to embrace the sweep of the proposed changes.

3. In public discourse, heat always cancels out 'light'. Mr. Obama is spending as much time clarifying the distortions and allegations as he is promoting the benefits of change to those who already have insurance. Talk radio and cable news love these angry, heated exchanges - amplifying the noise level so that clear messages aren't getting through.

4. Be careful about changing horses in mid-stream. The Obama Administration is starting to waffle on 'the public option' - signaling that he's ready to throw in the towel on government insurance and replacing it with 'co-operatives'. Hhmm...this could serve to divide supporters and embolden the critics, who now figure, "if we keep hammering away, maybe he'll drop the whole thing."

5. Town halls are the worst of the available vehicles to discuss 'risk' issues
in which emotions are high and facts are cloudy. Other forms of public consultations - such as facilitated meetings, kiosks set up at information nights etc. are more preferable, but the President can't tell Senators how to consult their own people.

6. The well-financed forces are pushing back hard with extensive television advertising. Only now are we seeing the Administration and its supporters fighting back. Is it all too late?

7. From all accounts, it did not develop as a bi-partisan initiative, so there is no vested stakes to support it by Republicans or independents. As well, rather than proceed on a piece-meal basis, he served up the largest change he could possible deliver - risking his political capital in a must-win issue. Change is almost always accepted on a gradual basis, rather than an all-at-once change of these proportions.

The result is, that it's no longer about health care; it's now a heated debate about foundational values, such as 'freedom', 'government control of our lives'. If President Obama is going to regain control of the issue, he is going to have to cool out the rhetoric and calmly focus on how everyday Americans will benefit from this reform initiative.

Hey, whaddya say - maybe President Obama needs to chill in Chilmark? Then he can come back and see how he can move it forward.

If you've seen any of those wild town hall meetings and wondered how you would handle it, here's a great piece by John Baldoni on how to speak to an unruly crowd. Check it out:


Until next time!

P.S. With this posting we say good-bye to our executive assistant, Jessica Jolliffe, who is joining the federal government. We will miss her in her career journey but we wish her good fortune!


Branding the Liberal Party

First smog day of the year! Yay! Summer has finally arrived! I celebrated by playing golf- for the first time in over three weeks. although sweating to death, it made the cold beer all the more incredible after...

Best movie of the year so far?

'Julie and Julia' hands down. Funny, ingeniously constructed storyline, terrific script and direction by Nora Ephron and Meryl Streep is a delight.

I am once again going on CBC Radio's 'The Current' to talk about branding political parties - in this program it will be the Liberal Party. Monday, August 17 @ 8:30 EST

Last Monday I and my fellow panelists talked about re-branding the NDP and the following Monday (August 24th) we will look at the Conservatives. All are at the same time, same day;same place.


Best Buy PR Fiasco

Welcome back
I know it's only been a few days since my last posting, but that is something I am determined to change - particularly when there's a story that resonates with some of the themes of this blog.

One of those themes is 'customer focus'. Faithful readers will know that I have taken a shot at Best Buy in the past for not responding properly to their mistakes. In my case, it was purchasing a DVD box set, which was on the shelves, but when I tried to pay for it, they told me it wasn't supposed to be put on the shelves yet. No effort at recognizing their error etc.

Well along comes a beautiful case of Best Buy not quite getting what their brand is or should be. They accidentally post on their website a 52" HD flat panel TV for the ridiculously low price of $9.95. And lo and behold, a number of people actually believe what they read on the website, and slap down the money on their credit cards.

What does Best Buy do? Read it and weep....


So let's say they sold 100 HD televisions through their website at their 'mistaken' price of $9.95. With the value of $1700 per set, that would be a mistake of $170,000 right? What Best Buy fails to recognize is that mistakes can be turned around instantly into a positive action by the company.

To be fair to Best Buy, they are not much different from most companies in similar circumstances. So let's hope they learn the following lessons for the future:

Lessons from the Best Buy PR Fiasco

1. Look at a 'mistake' as an 'opportunity'; an opportunity to strengthen the company's brand. In other words, 'we stand behind our prices' even if a mistake is made, we will always err on your side. What do they do instead? They make it even worse by, in effect, stating that their prices aren't necessarily what they say they are - even after they process it on your credit card!

2. The cost that the accountants clearly running the company don't seem to get, is the one that you can't see immediately. It is the cost of negative customer perception on the brand of your company. The negative publicity will be in the millions of dollars - all in the effort to save a few hundred thousand dollars. [Actually accountants should recognize that too!]

3. Where was the CEO in all of this? Nowhere to be found. Why bother? It's just bad news and we try to insulate our CEO from those things right? Wrong! The CEO should have been front and center - apologizing for the error and presenting the 52" flat-panel screens to the customers who bought them in good faith.

Until next time, remember that without competition, do not expect 'customer focus' from any company.


The Court of Public Opinion

Media interview update
I had the pleasure of being on CBC's 'The Current' this morning discussing re-branding of political parties - in this case the question was: Should the NDP change their name to the 'Democratic' Party?
See what you think of the discussion:

Racing update!
By now you may have heard that the heavily-favored 'Muscle Hill' won the Hambletonian race yesterday in East Rutherford NJ! Congratulations to brother-in-law trainer (and media trainer!) Greg Peck who, as it turned out had an unbelievably successful day - winning not only the most prestigious race in the harness racing world, but the Peter Houghton Memorial race earlier in the day with 'Holiday Road'. Congratulations Greg!

Hillary's 'Rage in Kenya'
check out how not to handle a question, when the Secretary of State takes offense at the question in a town hall meeting in Kenya:

Welcome back!
Check out the Hambletonian race this afternoon at 4:00 EST - it's the ultimate race in the world of harness racing. As you will see in this article in today's New York Times, my brother-in-law Greg Peck, is the trainer for Muscle Hill, the favorite in the race. Greg graciously credits yours truly for giving him his break in the media training business, and makes an interesting comparison between reading the body language of horses and executives. Check it out on http:www.nytimes.com 'Teaching is Full-Time Job for Trainer of Top Trotter'by Bill Finley. Don't forget to tune in this afternoon on NBC Sports at 3:30 when Greg will be interviewed.

Tune into CBC Radio One on Monday, August 10th

Speaking of media interviews, I will be on CBC Radio One's The Current on Monday morning at 8:30 a.m. EST, talking about 'branding' political parties - particularly the NDP which is considering re-naming itself the 'Democratic' Party.

Winning in Court vs. Winning in the Court of Public Opinion

For those who have been following this blog and the Canadian media, you know by now that my client, Mayor Larry O'Brien of Ottawa, was found 'not guilty' on two counts of influence peddling regarding the 2006 Mayor's Race in Ottawa. The Hon. Justice Douglas Cunningham rendered a verdict that was so unequivocal, it can only be seen as a complete vindication.

What I found interesting as always, was the media coverage and comportment by reporters. The 'scrum' at the courthouse steps was the largest, apparently, in the history of the court. As one right in the middle of it, it was loud, and jam-packed, but generally well-behaved.

The Mayor, after maintaining a stoic silence throughout the two and a half month trial, finally spoke, giving his statement, which was heart-felt and without a script and spoke of the burden that one's family has to endure when hit with a barrage of over 43 front-page stories, fed by innuendo, half-truths and leaked documents.

Observations on Handling Media During a Trial

From my experience as Mayor O'Brien's media consultant during the trial, I would conclude with the following observations:

1. If you want to fight back, be prepared for a long-term, at-times brutal battle - not just in court, but in the media - trying to determine what actually happened. If you don't have the stomach for it, don't do it. But as Mr. O'Brien said, "if you're right, you fight."

2. Even though you may not like all that the media report, treat reporters, producers and editors with respect. You usually get back the treatment you deserve. I found the media coverage of the trial itself very fair and balanced. Leading up to the trial, that was not always the case, but once it got underway, reporters were highly professional in their coverage. We gave interviews to all the media that asked,immediately following the trial. Only one network correspondent acted a bit like a goon. He didn't ask for an interview, and instead satisfied himself by following the Mayor and yours truly down the lane, screaming at the top of his considerable lungs. So guess what? His was the only network that didn't get an interview. Maybe he thinks that's good journalism.

3. If you're the media consultant, make it your business to read what they write and comment, and give them your comments in a respectful way. I did that regularly - when I felt they got something wrong, or had a strange (in my view) slant on testimony. Be prepared for them to label that as 'spin' but that's the price you pay for fighting for balanced coverage.

4. Don't fight your battles in the media while the trial is underway. Although this was not a jury trial, the last thing the judge wants to read or hear is your client expounding on evidence as the trial is underway. So, for the most part, 'less is more'.

5. Finally, the court of public opinion will ultimately decide the fate of politicians. But it sure does feel good to win in court as well!

Until next time....I hope summer is (finally) being good to you!