Announcing the 2010 McLoughlin Annual Awards

Welcome back!
This is the last post of the year and the time to announce the 2010 McLoughlin Annual Awards - to recognize truly extraordinary performance beyond the call of duty.
First to what's been going on in my world. I just survived the most challenging seminar of the year - to my son Liam's Grade 12 writing class. It turned out fine - at least Liam said "you didn't suck" so that's high praise in our family! We're all getting ready for Christmas - in which we aren't going anywhere and the greatest gift will be that we aren't programmed to do anything! What a concept! To wake up in the morning and the toughest question you face is, 'what do you feel like doing today?' I love it. For me, here's my personal list, that I call:
It Wouldn't Be Christmas Without....
1. Charlie Brown's Christmas.....the tradition, the tone, the droll sense of humor....it still stands up after all these years. Even our kids watch it.
2. It's a Wonderful Life...all these years later it still hits the mark for all the family.
3. Plum pudding and fruit cake....sorry I'm still a sucker for both of them.
4. Midnight Mass.... although we usually go to an earlier service. There is nothing as special as that.
5. Opening presents on Christmas morning. It brings back so many memories. Every family has different rituals. Ours is the same as when I was a kid. You got to open one present on Christmas Eve and couldn't open any of the others until everyone was down. Then you take turns. It still works for kids....it's called 'delayed gratification'. What a concept!
And Now....the 2010 McLoughlin Awards..... for Extraordinary Performance Beyond the Pale
1. The ' by the seat of your pants' award - for surviving two votes of confidence in the Italian Legislature in spite of pay-off scandals, underaged women, allegations of drugs and a divorce from hell goes to..... the one and only Silvio Berlusconi who appears to follow the adage of politics, "if you're going to be bad, be a complete disaster! So far, so good!
2. The 'getting hit from both sides ' award goes to.... Barack Obama...who is accused of both inflicting his own agenda on the American public at the same time as he is accused of too much compromise with Republicans. Maybe he'll figure out which one of those accusations he wants to plead guilty to?
3. The 'I know it's hard to believe but I'm more popular than ever' award goes to...Sarah Palin....who defies all conventional wisdom by quitting the governorship when the greatest criticism of her was that she has no experience. Who needed to be taken seriously but  chose to do a reality show! Whose malapropisms on her tweets go viral...but she survives it all. Will it get her to the top? No, but she could make it one of those races where you can't take your eyes off her just in case you miss the latest howler!
4. The 'leaking my ego all over the media' award goes to Wikileak's Julian Assange....whose name and face have dominated the news in recent weeks. Somehow he gives us the impression that it's what he's wanted all along.
5. The 'you don't have to love me, but I hope you really won't like my opponent' award goes to Stephen Harper, who, no matter what happens, seems to edge up in the polls against Michael Ignatieff's Liberals. Go figure!
6. The 'Gulf will clean itself' award goes to the one and only Tony Hayward. Unfortunately for BP, that story still isn't over as the Obama Administration has just launched a lawsuit against them.
7. The 'cry me a river' award goes to John Boehner who cries when he's happy, cries when he's sad and cries when he sticks it to the Obama Administration. And he never once streaks that orange make-up?!
8. The  'I may have missed my flight but I became a viral star instead ' award goes to the don't touch my junk traveler, John Tyner.
9. The 'best impression of a journalist' award goes to 'This Hour Has 22 Minutes' for its terrific take-off A Very Chantal Christmas.
10. The 'sticking it to left-wing pinkos riding bicycles' award is presented unanimously to Hockey Night in Canada's Don Cherry when he 'inaugurated' new Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Somewhere there's a bordello missing a curtain!

I want to wish each and every one of my loyal readers Merry Christmas!!!!

Until Next Year......


The Al Qaeda Pizza Guy was in our living room!

Welcome back!
I'm back from a week of golf in Naples Florida and rarin' to go. There's lots to discuss in the world of media, but here are a few morsels to chew on as we get ready for the Christmas season......

Harkat shows media GPS tracker device

The Al Qaeda Pizza Guy - soon to be a minor motion picture....

First of all, the matter of the ruling by Judge Simon Noel of the Federal Court yesterday in which he deemed that Mohammed Harkat was indeed "a member of bin Laden's network, has engaged in terrorism and remains a danger to Canadians." My little story in this matter is that Mr. Harkat was our pizza delivery guy a number of years ago. Perhaps this could be the opening  scene in a screenplay?

Pizza Delivery Scenario - Repeated Numerous Times

Chevy Chase as Barry
Johnny Depp as Harkat
 Starring in.....'Al Qaeda Pizza Guy' ..... coming to a multiplex near you!!!!
Int. Front Hall - McLoughlin Home - Night

The door bell rings.
Barry : "I'll get it!"
BARRY, 40ish, strikingly good-looking, peeks through the front window.
Barry: "Who ordered pizza?"
No child answers, as usual. He opens the door and is confronted by an amiable, very presentable MOHAMMED HARKAT, 40ish, putative Al Qaeda pizza man.
Barry fumbles in his pockets for cash. As usual, they are empty.
Barry: "How much? $21.50? Really? Sorry I'll have to go get it.  Okay, please step in."
Barry leaves to go upstairs and is gone for a minute or two.
He returns to find pizza man right inside the house, peeking into the living room down the hall.
Al Qaeda pizza man: "Nice house".
Barry: "Thank you. Here's $25.00. Keep the change."
Al Qaeda pizza man: "Thank you sir. See you again."
[Producer's note: This only becomes cause for suspicion years later when we learn through the media that Mr. Harkat's wife, Sophie, says he couldn't speak English, which explains some of his contradictions and um..explanations to security agents interviewing him.]

What if I told you that the same scenario was repeated regularly with our friends in the diplomatic community? It turns out they were from the highest levels of target countries, shall we say. Which meant, in the easiest way possible, he was able to have access to their living rooms too!!!

The real hero in this story is Mr. Harkat's wife Sophie who should be hired by a major public relations firm to provide the kind of strategies that she was able to put together to keep his plight in the news through rallies, posters, media stories and political support for his release.

British Columbia NDP Go Mad......Liberals Rejoice

The ' Grasp Defeat from the Jaws of Victory' Award goes to..... the NDP Party of British Columbia!

BC NDP's Carole James Steps Down
After years in the political wilderness facing the leaderless B.C. Liberal government who have crashed and burned on their imposition of the wildly unpopular HST tax were setting the stage for the next election. Facing a revolt by 13 caucus members frustrated by the tight control and the business-friendly policies of Leader Carole James, Carole fought back but eventually resigned her leadership. Carole is a solid centrist who knew what the NDP needed to regain the trust of British Columbians. Although certainly understandable, one can't help but think that if she had stayed the course, those unhappy campers would have nowhere to go and would have had to fish or cut bait.

The outcome will be a dual set of leadership races for the NDP and Liberals, resulting in a new leader for each, and quite possibly a resurrection opportunity for the Liberals. It kind of reminds me of the old Russian proverb: 'what's the difference between genius and stupidity? Genius has its limits."

'Top Judges Giving Up Silence to Embrace the People's Court'
An article in yesterday's Globe and Mail by Kirk Makin, in which I am quoted, explores the subject of the importance of appropriate engagement with the media by the judiciary. As someone who trains judges from time to time, it's worth taking a look at, in my view, if only to understand why judges should care about the media.

Saying Farewell and Thank you to Kate Murphy

For the past four years we, at McLoughlin Media, have been very fortunate to have had Kate Murphy as our Executive Assistant and media relations assistant. Her ability to multi-task and to handle almost everything that Laura and I have given her to do is legendary. Alas, talent like hers can not stay hidden long, and she has accepted an offer by the Department of National Defence to go to work for them in their strategic communications office. She has a terrific career path ahead of herself and the Government is fortunate to have her, as she has energy, brains and talent to burn. And, she is a terrific person to work with - a 'can-do' attitude and a sense of humor that makes it fun. Good luck and thank you Kate!

Welcoming Sarah Gardner

While we will miss Kate greatly, we are very proud and pleased to announce that Sarah Gardner, who has loads of political, media and corporate experience for her young age, will be taking over the position starting next week. Her contact email is sarah@mcloughlinmedia.com. So don't be shy about contacting her starting on Monday.

Until next time.....


Another year older and.....

Welcome back!
I write this from a beautiful town with a name that resonates around the world....Naples.....Florida, that is. Three friends of mine twisted my arm and invited me to our second annual golf week. Technically, that's a misnomer, as we had our first trip just this past April. So, in actuality this is the second semi-annual tour. While my golf game is a continuing challenge, it has proven to be just as much fun as the first one. This time, we are celebrating my birthday - which we did just this evening with a great dinner and, as usual, stories, lies and laughs that make friendships such a rich fabric to one's life.

All of us are parents and we got to talking about how one's life is a combination of such elements that combine hard work, luck and opportunities taken and missed. So I will share a few thoughts on the subject at the end of this posting, so if you want to click off before that, you can do so without missing some of the - shall we say - 'substantive' post.

An Election Looms in Canada
With the results of the recent by-elections in Canada in which the Conservatives won two out of the three (one they held and one they took from the Liberals), in combination with rising poll numbers for Stephen Harper's Tories, point to a Spring 2011 election. Why? Because politics and momentum are almost everything in politics. The public perception of Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff are very weak, and can only improve over time - especially as he lays out a more solid policy framework - which helps to define him after allowing himself to be defined by the Conservatives in the early years.

There are a few stumbling blocks on the road to such an election in a minority government scenario. One of the major ones being the legislation that the government put in place to have fixed elections (something I have always felt was an artificial construct in a Parliamentary system that will often end up being more honoured in the breach - especially when a national Parliament is increasingly a minority situation. However, the easiest way to deal with it is to put in place a budget which would challenge the Opposition's ability to accept it. Given that the Liberals clearly don't relish an election anytime soon, such a Budget would have to be cleverly crafted to avoid looking too cute by half, or to violate the principle of the fixed election law.

One thing for all election hawks in the Conservative Party to keep in mind, however, is the volatility of the electorate. Given a strong message, and a campaign to match, it could be an even draw with the Liberals, opening up a number of post-election scenarios - as happened after the recent British election when the Conservatives joined up with the Liberal-Democrats to form government.

A Year Away From the Iowa Caucuses
The post-midterm elections positioning is underway as the Republicans and Democrats spar over everything from government debt to saving social security etc. etc. It's painfully clear that there is no 'common ground' and, while the public say they want bipartisanship, that message is absolutely not reaching the politicians in Washington.

So what does this mean for the coming 'pre-positioning' year in American politics? On the Republican side, Sarah Palin will obviously have to make up her mind - to give up the easy money, fame and television shows for the daily slog of running for President under a huge magnifying glass focused on her flaws and family. It may become almost inevitable. The momentum is clearly building and she has to realize that the bubble she is in won't last forever. So the betting is that she may well go for it. Her latest comments - "we gotta stand with our North Korean allies" notwithstanding.

Mitt Romney is working hard to build his brand and base in order to sustain a strong race. The first thing people think of when his name comes up, unfortunately, is his Mormon religion. One would hope that such a slight against a candidate belongs to yesterday (shades of JFK). The fact that he has already run a national campaign and been a successful governor in a liberal state should go some way to having offset that stigma. His real challenge now is to try to attract wind from Tea Party sails without being swamped overboard by them. The thing about Romney is that no matter what he tries to do, he just can't seem to connect with voters in an emotional way with his core values emerging. So, his appeal is limited by definition but he will make a strong campaign for the Republican nomination.

President Obama has a huge challenge in this year - facing a Republican controlled Congress - and a still weak economic recovery. He has to be hoping for two things - a Sarah Palin Republican nominee and, for safe measure, a third party candidate, such as Michael Bloomberg, to divide the vote. [Ross Perot's candidacy in 1992 ensured a Bill Clinton victory over George Bush]. Notice when the President was asked by Barbara Walters what he thought of Sarah Palin he said that he didn't spend any time thinking about her.  A safe answer and may even be true.....for now. But one can tell he clearly relishes the prospect.

Some Birthday Musings [The part that you can feel free to skip]
It's only a day on the calendar, but as one goes along in life, a birthday is a time to reflect on where one has gone - hopefully with some insights for our kids and anyone else who really cares. So here goes:
1. Work harder than anyone else.
2. Recognize opportunities when they come along. If they don't, create your own.
3. Although you can't always tell where certain paths lead, have faith that somewhere down the road those paths will intersect and give you a unique journey. [I have always been a great believer in serendipity - something I inherit from my father.]
4. Be thankful for every day you have. Each day really is a gift; so try not to waste even one.
5. Keep in a learning mode. It keeps your brain young and your life interesting.
6. Figure out what you love to do and try to construct a career that enables you to get paid for what you love.
7. Be good to people on the way up. You will absolutely meet them on the way down - or when they're on the way up.
8. Every time you're tempted to say something negative about somebody, bite your tongue. You won't regret it.
9. Remember that we're all more than the sum of our parts - physically, mentally and emotionally. We are infused with a spirit - we just need to search for it and nurture it. That spirit will help you overcome almost anything that life throws in your way.
10. Stay humble. It may come in very handy someday.
11. Find a kindred spirit in life to enjoy the journey. [I have been so blessed in that regard.]
12. Finally, if you're going to have musings, always have an even dozen. It has such symmetry.

Until next time......


Remembering JFK

Monday, Nov. 22nd, 2010

Welcome back!

With all the work, it's a bit longer a delay than I would normally like since my last post. Although perhaps a welcome respite for some of you?  I try not to follow the political rule of Ottawa and Washington... " if you don't have anything nice to say.....stand closer to the microphone!"

Much is happening in our political and media worlds at home and abroad. First, some quick hit reactions on what's going on:

1. Although already awash in media over-kill, I am genuinely surprised and pleased to see how well Prince William and his 'commoner' fiancee, Kate Middleton handled the media swarming as they made their announcement. What really struck me was their seemingly effortless news conference with flashes exploding in a blinding assault. Their television interview afterwards was done with such ease and thoughtfulness that one can't help but wish this young couple well, and a happier time than William's parents had. The fact that it will be a great boost to Britain's economic fortunes at this impossibly difficult time is huge. [If they would honeymoon in Ireland, they could spread the wealth a little further....]

2. While on the British monarchy, but I was really impressed also by Prince Charles' documentary on NBC, Harmony. He is clearly passionate and knowledgeable about the need for a balanced approach to development and the environment, he did so in an intriguing and thoughtful way. The fact that NBC ran it in primetime on Friday nights was clearly the negotiated counter to agreeing to a one hour interview/profile the hour before with Brian Williams on NBC.

However, there was a Classic interview mistake he made which triggered media over-reaction in the British press. He was asked...get ready....a speculative question: Brian Williams: "Does the Duchess of Cornwall become the Queen of England if and when you assume the throne?" What did he do? Everybody altogether now....He answered it! Prince Charles: "That could be." Ready class, what should he have done in answer to that question? Absolutely right, he should have said, "I am not going to speculate on that." Or even better he could have borrowed a line from that brilliant British mini-series, House of Cards, Ian Richardson's character, Francis Urquhart says to a reporter (to whom he really wanted to get the message out there, but disown it cleverly): "You might very well think that. I couldn't possibly comment." Sometimes, life should imitate art!

By the way, if anyone still thinks that Camilla will remain 'The Princess Consort' once he becomes King, please check yourself in to one of those places where self-delusion is treated - you know where Charlie Sheen should go?

3. As a student who attended university in the 70s, and then again in the 80s, I am continually mystified at the ongoing erosion of freedom of speech on our campuses of higher education. How  did we get from the vision of university as the 'marketplace of ideas' to one of 'the marketplace of pre-approved ideas'? Who are at the forefront of these movements? Take a look at this latest outrage experienced by the Globe and Mail's Christie Blatchford

Why, it's the 'student unions'. By the way, I would love to see an exposé on what these student unions spend and how they spend it.  Carleton University, my alma mater is demanding that they turn over their books to the university before they get one more dollar of their 'entitlements'. Good for Carleton!

Speaking of Carleton, however, they have had a long-running battle with the 'student union' who has crafted a 'constitution' that it claims allows them to decertify a pro-life group as a university club, and will only let them back in if they back the student union's 'pro-choice' stance. This is the same student union, mind you, that a few years ago chose to cancel the cystic fibrosis Shinerama campaign because they alleged that it only benefits white males. After the predictable outrage, they reinstated it.

Regardless of one's views on the issue, students and alumni/ae should remind the little totalitarians of group think that the old Soviet Union had a constitution too, but it didn't stop the Kremlin from imprisoning millions in the Gulag for violating it. To quote Voltaire (who is credited with the quote even if he didn't say it), "I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it". Imagine if that came back into fashion on our campuses? Might it be a harbinger of a brighter future for our society?

4. Check out my latest article in the Ottawa Citizen - having a chuckle over the announcement by Ottawa's incoming Mayor-elect Jim Watson, that rather than having the taxpayer pay for the inauguration catering costs, he has asked Tim Horton's [Canada's number one donut chain] to cater the event. I couldn't help it but it does open up untold opportunities for public-private sector partnerships: It's Not a City, it's a Brand!

Remembering JFK 

Finally, today marks the (can you believe it?) 47th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination. Can it really be that long ago? I remember like yesterday the principal of our Toronto school, Spenvalley Drive Public School, Mr. Kiesinger, coming into our classroom just at 2:40 p.m. [Eastern time] and asking us if we wanted to hear the news on the PA system? Well, this had never happened before - so of course we were all eager to hear! "This just in from Dallas Texas. John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States is dead."

Although we were only in Grade 7, the news was shocking and devastating in a way that I had never experienced before. I had trouble processing the thought. Images raced through my mind. We had just seen that picture of him in the Oval Office with John Jr. peeking out from the door in his desk! His triumphant tour of my homeland, Ireland in June! His riveting 'Ich bin ein Berliner' speech at the Brandenburg Gate. It was in this very classroom that we had ducked under our desks to protect us from a nuclear bomb when he faced down Kruschev over Cuba. I recalled that I had blurted out something about Kruschev to my classmates as if he could possibly have anything to do with it. [Although that was before the world had heard of Oliver Stone, but I digress.] He had stood up for civil rights. This just can't be true!

In many ways, JFK's legacy has only grown in the nearly five decades since his death, but it is as palpable as it was before our principal turned on the radio that crisp November day. We were sent home early and it was the first and only time I saw my mother watching television, crying, in the daytime. But I was a cool kid. I was 12 years old - too old to cry!  So I quietly picked up my Toronto Telegram canvas bag and slipped out to deliver the newspapers, along with my brother, Stephen. On the cover of every Tely we delivered was a picture of JFK in Fort Worth Texas the day before, looking for all the world like a leader with his whole life ahead of him.  The 'cool big boy' didn't get too far before he cried.
Here's how TV covered the shocking news

So here are a few quotes of John F. Kennedy, an imperfect man, but an inspiration to a generation:

"No one has been barred on account of his race from fighting or dying for America, there are no white or colored signs on the foxholes or graveyards of battle." John F. Kennedy

"We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people." John F. Kennedy

Until next time...


What we remember....

Welcome back!
We had a bit of fun in last week's posting, as I didn't feel like weighing in with instant analysis done by everyone else. There is no question that the tectonic plates in the political world are shifting to the right. In almost every demographic the Democrats fell back significantly and in nearly historic proportions. There is little question that the electorate is fed up with politicians who they feel don't listen to them; don't respond to their priorities - jobs and the economy right now trump everything. The economic meltdown shook the confidence of the American people. The bail-outs of the Wall Street firms and the bonuses of their executives enraged them.

Can Barack Obama recover in the next 18 months? Based on those numbers, you'd have to say 'no'. However, one of the most potent tools a politician has is the quality of his opponents. So, if the Republicans can show focus and discipline, and avoid doing and saying outlandish things, they have a real chance, with a strong candidate, to make the 2012 election a true revolution. Following his 1994 drubbing, Bill Clinton was blessed by the Newt Gingrich-led Republican's virtual shutting down of the U.S. government, throwing them offside with the American public. Clinton began to look, well, Presidential, and turned the tables on Gingrich. One Republican Congressman, however, has just mused about doing that very thing. Ah...the importance of remembering the past, right?

What we Remember

Remembering our Veterans
The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month marks the most emotionally powerful two minutes of the year as Canadians in every community and in every school and place of business remember our fallen soldiers in the two World Wars, Korea and Afghanistan - as well as the peacekeeping troops.
As some may recall from last year's post, I have a soft spot for our Veterans (my dad was an R.A.F. veteran in the war) but as a parent one can't help but think about the reality that so many of them were as young as 18 or 19 with their whole lives ahead of them. Their sacrifices were almost always far from home in other people's countries.

A fabulous singer whom I'm proud to say I know- John McDermott - does such a phenomenal job with The Green Fields of France that I thought I'd post it again. If that doesn't bring a tear to your eye, and pause to consider what's really important in life, then what would?

Following through in Afghanistan
By the way, I'm pleased to see that Defence Minister Peter MacKay and the Government of Canada is reconsidering the complete withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan in 2011 to leave 600 to 1000 troops in a strictly training role with the Afghan army in Kabul. That, I believe, is the appropriate way to ensure that the sacrifices made by the 152 soldiers and their families will not be for nothing and can help ensure meaningful peace and protection of the civil society rebuilding Afghanistan. It's clear they would get Opposition support for it.

Conan O'Brien Re-Emerges 
As with a lot of people I'm happy that Conan O'Brien is back on the air - well basic cable anyway. The key for him will be not to compare himself to David Letterman or Jay Leno. Rather his reference point is Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. [Stewart has already been edging out both Letterman and Leno of late.] Starting at 11 p.m. on TBS will be an added bonus as he gets a jump-start on everyone else. [Although CTV is delaying his show until 1:00 as they are already committed to.....The Daily Show and the Colbert Report.] He has already proven that he knows how to use the twitter-verse to create a community around him - something that neither of the traditional show hosts have been able to accomplish.
However, it might serve TBS's PR people to sort out that confounded thing called Daylight Savings Time. Monday night they sent out his opening monologue a full hour before he ended up delivering it! 
Although Conan's Cold Opening was classic.

Until next time......


The Day After

Welcome back!

The President's "Shellacking"
Well all you political junkies (including myself) must be a little bleary-eyed today after staying up late watching the 'Rebuke to Obama' as a number of media headlines have framed it.
Everyone has their political views on the good, the bad and the ugly of the campaigns - note the 's' in that word - but I like to focus on the communications aspects.
And because politics and show biz began to merge years ago, I thought I would do it in the form of:

 'The Campaign 2010 Awards'
1. The John Connolly Award for "most money spent in the pursuit of a political office to no avail" goes to...Meg Whitman for spending upwards of $190 million of her own money to come up short in the California Governor's race against the victorious Jerry Brown [53% to 42%]. The lesson here being that even one thread that is successfully pulled can be your undoing and no amount of money can overcome it. Her hiring, dismissal and handling of an 'undocumented' housekeeper left her on the defense, alienating Latino voters and throwing her campaign off its game plan at a critical time.

2. The 'who says getting your name on the ballot is important?' Award goes to Alaska write-in candidate Lisa Murkowski who looks safe to win the Alaska Senate seat against the Sarah Palin Tea Party candidate Joe Miller once the write-in ballots are opened and read. However with a 41% to 34% lead it means that: a) people in Alaska paid attention b) knew how to spell her name and c) took the time to go to the polls and cast their vote. Am I wrong, or is Alaska a model for all of us to be engaged citizens? Just asking.

Paladino (R) Beats Himself
3. The 'Be careful what you email, joke about, and who you threaten' Award goes to Tea Party-backed New York Republican Gubernatorial candidate, Joe Paladino, the upstate businessman who could write a textbook on how not to comport oneself as a candidate, and who was wiped clean by Andrew Cuomo, son of the former three-term Governor, Mario Cuomo, whose famous dictum was "campaign in poetry, govern in prose". Wasn't much poetry in Andrew's campaign but at least he didn't make himself the issue - his opponent did all the damage that needed to be done.

4. The 'who says it's over for career politicians and resume enhancing?' Award goes to Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal who won a late round against WWE Owner Linda McMahon, the Tea-Party backed candidate whose (possibly too) hard-hitting commercials attacking Blumenthal for lying seemed to turn voters off.. [ He repeatedly claimed that he had served as a Marine in Vietnam when actually he was in the reserves stateside]  As well, exit polls indicated that they didn't like her, and they thought wrestling was too violent! Positioning herself as an outsider and Blumenthal as a career politician weren't enough to cover her own resume problems - laying off workers, dodging taxes, killing legislation on steroid use etc. that plagued her, thus preventing her from controlling the message in the campaign. [Note to Connecticut voters - wrestling is not real!]

I'm not a witch. I am you.
5. The 'don't use your opponent's 'bait' words to defend yourself on TV commercials' Award goes to...the one and only Christine O'Donnell in her Delaware Senate race. "I'm not a witch. I am you" will go down in the annals of political ads as the worst commercial ever in a campaign.

#h*! My Mayor Says...New CBC Pilot?

#h*! My Mayor Says 

Meanwhile, the election of Rodney Dangerfield look-alike Rob Ford as the next Mayor of Toronto rocked the pundits, media and the downtown Toronto urban sophisticates like nothing in recent history. I couldn't help poke some fun at it, in this satirical article, published in the Ottawa Citizen a few days ago.

Until next time!


7 Rules for Winning Campaigns

Welcome back!
It's been a crazily busy week but it's happening at a great time of year - the Fall. Golden leaves, crisp air, Major League Baseball Championships, and the sine qua non of life.....elections! I just came back from a trip to a truly hidden gem in America....Michigan!! Specifically, a town called Traverse City. Small, liveable, quintessential American Main Street, great restaurants, an opera house and a totally renovated movie house - paid for by one Michael Moore. [Regardless of what one thinks of his films, he knows how to recapture the glory years of cinemas from the looks of it.]

Give Cousin Eddie a Permanent Canadian Christmas!

Canada is a much sought-after haven for refugee claimants and the Harper government introduced this week its planned fix for dealing with the scourge of human smuggling. Too late, it seems, to deal with Hollywood refugees Randy and Evi Quaid who arrived in Vancouver on the run from California police and - after being arrested by police in Canada - promptly appeared before an IRB (Immigration and Refugee Board) judge claiming refugee status. So as an act of gratitude for his iconic role as Cousin Eddie in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, I suggest we give Randy and Evi complimentary refugee status. Heck, it's just as credible as some of the stories the IRB hears:)

BP still doesn't get it.
New CEO Bob Dudley, by all accounts a very sensible man, appears not to get the power of communications in the handling of a crisis. He still believes that the media and rivals did BP in on the Gulf Oil spill! the simple response to that is that BP wounded itself with its mishandling of the spill response, public expectations, contradictory messages, poor Congressional testimony etc. The media and rivals, smelling blood, moved in for the kill. One would hope that the new CEO would have learned this. Check this item out.

Change is in the Air - in Ontario and across the United States
With voters trooping to the polls across Ontario today, politicians are going all out to get their voters to the polls. With low voter turnout, many races will depend on the GOTV [Get-Out-The-Vote]apparatus. Robo-calls over the weekend inundated voters from Mayors to Councillors to School Board Trustees.

All polling indicates that maverick Councillor Rob Ford over former Ontario Cabinet Minister George Smitherman - in a shocking upset - will win the Toronto Mayor's race and that veteran politician Jim Watson will win the Ottawa Mayor's race over incumbent Mayor Larry O'Brien. We'll save post-debate analysis for the next blog posting but see below for 7 Rules for Winning Campaigns.

All the media coverage would have one convinced that the Democrats are going to have their heads handed to them on Election Day. No doubt that is true. Anger, resentment, frustration and fear are all potent mixes for big change. Not all Democrats are in trouble - look at what's happening in California, with Jerry Brown surging ahead of Meg Whitman. Incumbents are particularly vulnerable and any candidate who smacks of accepting the status quo is in big trouble. When 'change' is on the menu, the status quo is toast.

For many voters the ballot question in times like this is often, 'who speaks for me'?  The Tea Party activists are roiling the waters very effectively, but have they peaked too soon? They were surging in the primary campaigns in states like Delaware, but when it comes to the main race, every day is the dawn of a new error. Delaware Republican Senate Candidate Christine O'Donnell's I am not a witch. I'm you commercial being Exhibit A of political incompetence.

The problem with disdaining professionalism in political campaigns is that every little thread of an error is pulled by the organization that is professionally run. No one said life is unfair, but the earlier that candidates realize that the better. Professional doesn't mean selling out, it means doing it right. If it means distorting your positions to satisfy focus groups and pollsters, then it has crossed a line. However, if a candidate is well trained and ready to undergo lightning-fast aerial bombardments and below the water-line torpedo attacks [to my sensitive readers, pardon the war-like imagery, but when you are in the middle of such a campaign, that is exactly what it feels like].

All of this to say, here are...

7 Rules for Winning Campaigns

1. Understand your voter universe - who are potentially reachable by you and your campaign? Can they be motivated to move to you and based on what issues and messages? Being ignorant about that is unforgiveable and will be punished on election day.
2. Motivate your base, but don't be a slave to them. Your base is critical to your momentum. Sometimes, however, your base may be poisonous in your ability to grow beyond them. Understand them and respect them, and if you must take positions which are different from them, then explain yourself clearly and directly to them.
3. Reach your voters numerous times through traditional and social media. The recent victor in the Calgary mayor's race - who made national news as the first Muslim mayor of a big city - was able to mix the two brilliantly.
4. Never interrupt a hanging. [Notice the different imagery?] When your opponent is busy with self-inflicted damage, step back and don't create other news.
5. Have a clear message and drive it relentlessly. In the twittered, information-overloaded universe, it is extremely difficult to drive one message home so don't scatter your messages. Make sure the message is understood, succinct and matters deeply to your voter universe. Frame the message effectively - don't message on the defense [see Christine O'Donnell video above].
6. Manage perceptions well. The voters rarely get to actually know a candidate. They form their impressions through the media - traditional and social media. So what is the perception you want them to have of you? Down to earth...HOAG (helluva guy/gal)...straight-shooter....on my side. Lecturing people about what's good for them never has worked and never will. The voter has to relate to the candidate but doesn't want to be told what to do.
7. Be extremely well prepared. Know the issues. Get training in media, speeches, door-to-door, debates. A candidate will be tested every hour of every day. Trying to learn all that in the middle of a campaign is very difficult [although not impossible :)] You are asking the voters to put trust in you, so you have to define yourself before your opponents do. This dual definition has to start early and then continually throughout the campaign. Remember you must define yourself and your opponent.

So those are just some thoughts that one may ponder as we get ready for Election Night coverage.

Until next time.....


The Heroes' Journey

Welcome back!
Amid all the negative news around the world, it is so uplifting to experience the miraculous events at the mine site in Chile as the Los 33 miners are safely evacuated after 69 days in a dark tomb half a mile underground.

Crisis Management Tips from the Rescue of Los 33

1. Keep the team together - the miners were pulled together as a team working for the same goals, with no one person more important than the other.This will be essential in the days to come as they face the media. [Another reason why media training of the miners was a good idea IMHO].
2. Assign specific tasks - each miner was given a responsibility - a medic became the doctor, another was responsible for the transfer of the packages up and down the shaft, a chaplain, the foreman in charge, etc. The miners organized themselves into three groups in different parts of the mine and operated like shifts to proved 24/7 contact.
3. Manage their expectations - they were told that their rescue may take until Christmas. Much discussion had taken place as to whether or not to tell the miners that. In the end, they felt that being honest with them was the best policy to create trust.
4. Prepare Plans A, B and C - rather than put all their eggs in one basket. [Although why they didn't just shove golf balls down there and hope for the best is beyond me :)]
5. Anticipate and organize. Underground and above ground, they drew upon top resources and got everyone working together in the best planned rescue operation ever.
6. Keep the miners physically and mentally active. They not only needed to stay in shape for the physical challenges to come (such as fitting inside a 28"wide capsule) but also to be mentally alert in order to withstand the ordeal and be better prepared for the world when they were rescued.
7. Make communications a priority. It was the key to the rescue operation and to morale. Being able to communicate with their families and supplies have been delivered two-ways through the boreholes in special tubes nicknamed 'palomas' or 'doves'. Video updates from the miners raised the morale of families and the Chilean people - which was also essential to the successful management of the emergency.

Los 33 - Heroes' Journey

Our televisions and computer screens are filled with a story that - if someone had pitched it as a movie - would be laughed off as ridiculous. That got me to thinking what is it about this event that has so captured all of the world in their incredible journey?

First, it has all the necessary elements of drama. I have been studying in recent years, Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey the template of which is often used for movie screenplays. Here are some of those steps in that journey and how the miners' story has followed its core elements.

Step 1. The Call to Adventure - the point in the story when the characters learn that their lives are going to change. When the mine collapsed the miners' world absolutely changed - instantly and forever.

Step 2 - Refusal of the Call. Often when the call is given, the future hero refuses to heed it. In this case, they had no option. But on an emotional or psychological level they may have had trouble genuinely believing that their could be a journey out of their nightmare. The first seventeen days - in which they were out of contact and presumed dead, it would have been completely understandable if they had fallen into despair.

Step 3 -  Supernatural Aid - once the hero has committed to the quest, consciously or unconsciously, his or her guide and magical helper appears, or becomes known. From what we can see on our television screens, it was not just the engineering or science that they men relied upon, it was the spiritual, mental and emotional resources that they had to draw upon.  When contact was made a tiny shaft of hope was sparked.

Step 4 - The Crossing of the First Threshold - this is the point where the person actually crosses into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of his or her world and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where the rules and limits are not known. When they began to communicate with the outside world, they became aware of the almost unfathomable journey that they were about to embark upon.

Step 5 - The Belly of the Whale - represents the final separation from the hero's known world and self. It is sometimes described as the person's lowest point, but it is actually the point when the person is between or transitioning between worlds and selves. In the case of the miners, the separation has been made and is being fully recognized between the old self and the potential for a new world/self. It is often symbolized by something dark, unknown and frightening [is this a screenplay or what?]. By entering this stage, the person shows their willingness to undergo a metamorphosis, to die to himself. [We are starting to learn of the miners' renewed commitments to family, and to make their lives truly meaningful, rather than taking them for granted.]

There are twelve more steps on the Hero's Journey. But the last four steps are worth noting here:

Step 9 - Rescue from Without - in Chile's case a throughly professional team approach from the rescuers brought them home.

Step 10 - The Crossing of the Return Threshold - the trick in returning is to retain the wisdom gained on the quest, to integrate that wisdom into a human life, and then maybe figure out how to share the wisdom with the rest of the world. This is usually extremely difficult.

Step 11 - Master of the Two Worlds - for a human hero, it may mean achieving a balance between the material and spiritual. The person has become comfortable and competent in both the inner and outer worlds.

Step 12 - Freedom to Live - mastery leads to freedom from the fear of death, which in turn is the freedom to live. This is sometimes referred to as living in the moment, neither anticipating the future nor regretting the past.

Of course the stories of the miner with a wife and girlfriend only fuels further interest in the story. But let's not lose sight of the hero's journey and what it truly means about the human spirit and the power that all of us have to transform our lives. We don't need a mine collapse to make such a transformation, but it often takes something cataclysmic to do it.

With all the talk about movie deals and sponsorships, little wonder that the 'Los 33' story will be coming to a movie theater near you!

Until next time....


When we make 'inartful' comments

'Welcome back!
Well it looks like we are finally getting some of that beautiful Fall weather we have been so missing in these parts. How about where you live? All I have seen in the media - besides political muggings - is floods, hurricanes and the occasional tornado!

I have been busy as always, but managed to squeeze in a round of golf last week, and am hoping to get another round in this weekend.

I also managed to do a few interviews during the past week - one was my comments on David Johnston, Canada's new Governor General and on Stephen Harper, Michael Ignatieff and Jack Layton: Barry on CTV's Power Play

'Inartful' Comments

Last week, CNN's Rick Sanchez, the (now former) host of Rick's List made a few CTCs [Career Terminating Comments] about Comedy Central's Jon Stewart which his bosses at CNN thought were so incendiary that they fired him in record time. [Even faster than their hiring of that other paragon of virtue Eliot Spitzer...but I digress.] His comments speak for themselves and you can judge for yourself if they were worthy of the firing offence: Rick Sanchez melts down

In my view his comments were stupid - and as he himself called them 'inartful' - they weren't quite up to the  standard that one would hear on Fox News or by talk radio hosts across the fruited plain. It might have been better to pair him up with Jon Stewart and watch him be annihilated live on national television. At least Rick faced the music and apologized to Stewart. Jon Stewart Takes Rick Apart

So here is a rule for making 'inartful comments:

1. Never attack a satirist especially if a) he is intelligent and witty and b) has his own show.

So until next time...be careful about who is the target of your 'inartful' comments!


Tips for Avoiding Celebrities

Welcome back!
Autumn has finally arrived - my favorite time of the year! Maybe it has to do with the crisp weather (a bit crisper than I would ideally want so far); the trees changing colors (which my two teenaged sons are looking forward to raking....not!), and the ramping up of highly partisan vicious politics, which takes no prisoners. 

Speaking of the tone of our politics today, it brings to mind one of my favorite lines: "If you don't have anything nice to say, make sure you speak clearly into the microphone." 

Every once in a while we are handed a juicy story which just begs for a little jab. Check out my op-ed piece for the Ottawa Citizen today: Tips for avoiding celebrities

Until next time.... enjoy the season!


Eight tips for every politician

Welcome back!
Well politics is in the air almost everywhere. Whether voting for mayor, city councillor, Congressman, Senator, Governor or Premier, there are some key communications concepts that every politician asking for your vote should keep firmly in mind.

Eight Tips that Every Politician Should Keep in Mind
1. Know what your message is. People have 'been there and done that' with blather. In one sentence, where do you stand on each of your key issues?
2. What do you stand for? In other words what is your positioning on the political landscape? For example, do you represent 'change vs. more of the same?' This should be wrapped into your 'doorstep pitch' or your positioning statement. If you can't say it in 30 seconds then you can't grab and hold the attention of the voter.
3. Always ask for their vote. Don't assume anything. Whether door-knocking, tweeting, at an all-candidates debate or at a speech, ask for their support, help, funds and VOTE.
4. Politics is about people. So don't hide behind technology. Get out and meet people. Be visible - even if you can't be there, make sure your surrogates are. I was in Palo Alto a few weeks ago, and Jerry Brown's team had a table at a street fair - signing up voters, selling campaign paraphernalia. Jerry wasn't around but that was okay. Meg Whitman didn't have a table there. Why not?
5. Make all your enemies deliberate. The above named Jerry Brown put his foot in it the other day - accusing Meg Whitman supporter Bill Clinton of lying about his record of cutting taxes. [Accusing Clinton of lying not only alienates Clinton supporters needlessly, but it's redundant!] Take a look at the video and read the critique by Time Magazine's blogger below it:  Jerry Brown's gaffe
6. Everything you say and do will be captured and multiplied in the media. Just ask Ottawa's Mayor Larry O'Brien who right in the middle of his election campaign had to deal with this story: Mayor O'Brien caught on cellphone while driving
7. It isn't about you: it's about the voter. Speak from the voters' perspective - not your own. It's a lot better to find out where your voters are going, and jump out in front of the line than trying to create your own line. [Just ask former B.C. Premier Bill Vander Zalm who has re-emerged from oblivion to lead the anti-HST tax campaign in British Columbia]
8. Try not to come across as a pure partisan. Most people don't wrap themselves tightly in a party banner. They get that you may represent a political party, but in the end you have to resonate with them.

So watch carefully to see if the politicians asking for your vote are paying attention to any of the above. And remember, ask them questions, demand answers and get out to vote. It's a privilege that we should all hold dear.
Until next time!


Back in the saddle again....

Welcome back!
I hope you had a great summer! I decided to take the summer off from blogging just to see if the world would improve while I was gone. Guess what? It hasn't! Coincidence? I think not!
The summer is a great time to reflect on one's life, one's community and one's world. Fortunately....I didn't do that.... Instead I can say that I did learn a few things, and in this posting I will share them with you, my faithful readers.
Things I learned from summer vacation
1. Some people not only have no shame but will always try to inflict themselves upon us. Case in point: Parker-Spitzer
2. Who says actions speak louder than words? Sometimes you can go far by doing nothing. Case in point: The Republicans are on track to win a minimum of 40 House seats this November. Go figure.
3. All leaders get too much credit when the economy does well (Clinton, Chretien) and shoulder most of the blame when it goes off the rails (Mulroney, George W. Bush, Obama). In the end, leaders just have to do what they think is right without the illusion that it's going to get them any votes.
4. Some people will believe anything. I mean ANYTHING. I don't care what you say that wasn't Paris Hilton's purse. I know it was mostly her stuff in the purse but still it wasn't her cocaine!
5. Airlines can track your luggage within seconds on their computers. They just can't guarantee you're going to get it on the same flight as you. [thank you Delta]
6. California is a beautiful state with great people, cities, technologies and natural resources - yet how come it's so bankrupt?
7. Flying from Charlottetown to San Francisco isn't nearly as bad as it sounds. Honest! [thank you Air Canada]
8. I would love to live in Palo Alto, teach at Stanford, and have dinners in San Francisco. [all in the same day]
9. There is no one I know who spends more on wireless infrastructure in his home without actually getting any signal than me! [thank you Nova Networks]
10. When your hydro and gas companies owe you thousands of dollars due to overpayments, they will not rush to give it back to you. But in reverse? Well that's another story and I'll see if someone can get back to you.
Oh...here's one more...
11. If you have a mental meltdown, try not to do it in the middle of a campaign debate. Check this out:
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer Melt-down  Maybe it was an illegal alien distracting her off camera?

Until next time....to paraphrase Bono and U2, we'll all go crazy if we don't go crazy tonight!



A summer like no other....

Welcome back!

I spent a beautiful weekend in sunny Prince Edward Island where they are still excited about the visit last week of Reege and Kelly. Seems they couldn't say enough wonderful things about 'The Gentle Island'. I've got to say the seafood was fantastic! [By the way, I squeezed in a golf game in before I went to the Island, and managed to score a 90!] I didn't say I SHOT a 90......

What can you say about a summer in which most of the airtime is taken up by stars behaving badly. No, wait! It's always taken up by that! With the 'tabloidization' of mainstream media in full swing, what do we expect? 

So thankfully we have the streaming audio clips from Mel Gibson in a rage. [Don't bet on him managing an Alec Baldwin recovery. After all, Alec just screamed at his daughter and called her names.] If Mel only did that to his ex, that would be entirely recoverable. However, he used racial epithets and one thing Hollywood won't put up with is anything that smacks of racism. 

Lindsay Lohan? Sad. Enough said.

Lord Black has Left the Big House.....
Let's turn now to more interesting turns of events. Conrad Black is free, with still legal actions and millions of dollars in legal fees ahead of him. The schadenfreude about him is somewhat sickening, don't you think? Although Martha Stewart went through that and recovered, it will be interesting to see if Lord Black can recover. I tend to think he will. He'll get a book deal and be on the lecture circuit real fast as he has big bills to pay and it looks like he didn't have the $2 million bail to put up, so a friend had to do it. However, humility can go a long way in recovery. I truly wish him well and I hope that he is able to turn some of his prodigious talents to prison reform, as it is desperately needed - on both sides of the border.

The RCMP closes Files on Helena Geurgis and Rahim Jaffer 
That, of course, was entirely predictable and we're not even sure what the allegations are. Of course the Conservatives don't want her back and they immediately made that clear. 
Although I did get a kick out of this comment from the NDP's Pat Martin:
“It appears that the Prime Minister overreacted based on the flimsiest of evidence,” NDP MP Pat Martin said. Say, isn't that Pat's modus operandi???? 

Mainstream Media Change the Obama Label
The mainstream media [MSM] are changing their label on President Obama, have you noticed? They're now introducing him on the news as "the increasing unpopular President". Ouch!

Then there's always Sarah Palin....
.... to round out a strange week.....Sarah 'refudiates'  reports about the Tea Party...defends  it in her blog. Some things never change right? Well we're off for some relaxation time (with some work in the middle of it all for three days). First to stratford, then to Southwestern Ontario, then on to Martha's Vineyard. Definitely some theatre, then some golf, some reading and relaxation. How about you?

Have a good summer and stay safe! We'll catch up in later in August. Maybe it won't be so crazy by then??? Nah...of course it will!

Until next time...


Summertime and the living is uh...easy?

Welcome back!
It's been longer than usual between postings but life has been crazily busy - with trips to Vancouver, Philadelphia, Niagara-on-the-Lake, seminars and yes...a few rounds of glorious golf thrown!!! Queen Elizabeth has just completed her tour of Canada and we had an opportunity to see her up close at the unveiling of a fantastic statue of Oscar Peterson at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. You know, she's a pretty amazing lady - along with Prince Philip. Hard to believe that they have spent 60 years doing what they do, and make it look like they haven't done it all a million times before. Now that's an accomplishment!

Much has been happening in the world, with communications mishaps heading the list.

BP Gets its Act Together....Finally
After 85 days and 184 million gallons of oil leaked into the Gulf, along with 572 miles of Gulf Coast shoreline oiled, BP has finally capped the well. It is a temporary fix, but it's sure a relief while they await the final drilling of the relief wells. They finally have a credible spokesperson - the COO of BP, Doug Suttles, who has successfully stepped in for Tony Hayward, the CEO - the man with a knack for stepping in every cow pie in the meadow. Suttles managed expectations on the announcement very well by cautioning that it's "a great sight, but not a cause for celebration." At least he didn't add, "I just want my life back"!
BP COO manages expectations

G20 Riots and the Police
Now that the smoke has cleared and the accusations of police brutality (combined with allegations of police under-reaction on the first day and over-reaction on the second), a certain perspective is required.
The police seemed to be unaware of the anarchist tactics known as 'Black Bloc' which has been a key part of the destruction at the Seattle WTO meeting in 1999, Vancouver Olympics.
Black Bloc Tactics at the G20

The Black Bloc were all masked and dressed in black - after which they shed and melt into the crowds of legitimate protestors - are bent on real destruction, yet the police stood by and let them do their rampaging, burning police cars and smashing store windows. Why? From what I've seen, that is the police modus operandi. They adopted that tactic back in 2006 when President Bush visited Ottawa. Does it work? Uh, no actually! Clearly the Toronto cops realized it and responded to the huge public outcry on Saturday by rounding up law-abiding protestors and journalists on Sunday. I realize those were tough tactics but considering what had occurred on Saturday, it was somewhat understandable.

Then a few days later we discovered that Premier Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario government had secretly introduced Regulation 223 that enabled the police to confront citizens near the security perimeter. It turns out that Chief Bill Blair and his force were confused about the specific meaning of the obscurely written regulation! What is one to think? You've got to hand it to the Chief, though, he admitted it in a straight-forward way and let the chips fall where they may. It was awkward to admit but it was the right thing to do.

The final capper on the whole G20 is the comment from Dalton McGuinty that he doesn't want any more G20 leaders meeting in Toronto due to the 'psychological scarring' of the populace:
Dalton McGuinty waves the white flag
If I were one of those Black Bloc anarchists, I would be be cheering wildly in victory!

Barack Obama and Wall Street
After massive public anger over Washington's bail out of financial institutions in 2008, President Obama has tried to position himself and his Administration as part of the solution and not part of the problem the passage yesterday of the Financial Reform Bill by the Senate (with only three Republican votes - including Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts) giving the President an opportunity to turn the corner on public anger. The still-to-be written regulations will ultimately determine if the cure is worse than the disease. The betting has to be that the public will get behind more regulations as a solution. In the meantime, how he communicates the vision and benefits of that legislation will be critical to his Administration's recovery in public opinion in the months leading up to the mid-term elections.

And finally....
Looking forward to playing a round this afternoon, then watching the British Open 'on the telly' this weekend - while visiting beautiful P.E.I. Almost heaven? You betcha!


Earth-shaking news

Welcome back!!
Having just survived the 5.0 magnitude earthquake here in Ottawa....it gives new meaning to the phrase 'earth-shaking news'.

First some random thoughts.....

Spitzer lands on CNN

1. CNN's announcement that disgraced New York Governor Eliott Spitzer will be co-anchoring the 8 pm Campbell Brown slot with the Pulitzer prize-winning conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, reinforces the downward spiral that these cable talk programs have been on for many years. The other disgraced Governor, Rod Blagojevich, at least had the dignity (if I can use that word with a straight face) to end up on an entertainment show - Celebrity Apprentice. Although Fox News' hiring of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin might be a more apt comparison to the Spitzer gig, in the end it's all about ratings. Campbell Brown had the good grace to admit that she just couldn't deliver the ratings required for such a prime-time slot.

Supreme Court throws out charges against Conrad Black 

2. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in Conrad Black's favor, ruling that the appeals court had treated him unfairly. Watch for the ultimate dropping by the District Court of the three mail fraud charges (the 'honest services' charges, and for him to be released, as he has already served 27 months - longer than the obstruction of justice charges would have warranted. Regardless of the vituperative anger that has been aimed at Mr. Black by the usual suspects, in my view he has served his sentence with dignity and forbearance, making constructive use of his time and maintaining a stoic view that ultimately justice would prevail.

The BP saga goes on...and on....and on 

3. As BP and their beleaguered CEO Tony Hayward continue to squirm under the media spotlight, it looks like the PR debacle continues unabated (never mind the oil in the Gulf). When word came out that BP was about to announce a shuffle involving Mr. Hayward, I immediately thought, "okay BP gets it and is going to remove Mr. Hayward as his brand has been completely destroyed." But no.......instead they named Bob Dudley will be taking over day-to-day operations of the spill management. That's a partial solution at best. As we then saw, Mr. Hayward's weekend participation in a yacht race drew another round of grief that BP could have done without. Even Rahm Emanuel got into the act saying, "Tony Hayward is not going to have a second career in PR consulting, after a long line of PR gaffes..."
Gotta love the under-statement!

Generals behaving badly....
Perhaps it's the craziness of Afghanistan that led to this but, Canadians and Americans have witnessed some disasters which have befallen their respective military commanders in Afghanistan - off the field of battle, but just as lethal to their careers.
The Canadian General is Gen. Dan Menard, who was unceremoniously relieved of command for allegedly inappropriate relations with someone who reports to him in Kandahar. Even without a charge being laid or a chance to defend himself, he was out of there so fast it was shocking to behold.

With news that ISAF Commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal has been relieved of command, you gotta wonder what's in the water over there in Afghanistan?! [Actually about a trillion dollars worth of minerals, as it turns out....but besides that!] Take a look at the Rolling Stone article that was Gen. McChrystal's undoing: Rolling Stone Article on Gen. McChrystal

Anyway President Obama moved quickly to change the channel and installed General Patraeus immediately. In the end, it was the only decision he could have made, as the issue had quickly become the principle of civilian command. Why did Gen. McChrystal and his aides say these things in the presence of a reporter? In a word, hubris. Surrounding himself with acolytes and developing a world view that he knew what needed to be done, and that he knew better than his civilian masters, this was inevitable.

Lessons for all in that one!

As the world leaders - and protestors - descend on Toronto for the G8 and G20, there's never a dull moment!

Until next time....


Take a deep breath and appear normal

Welcome back
We must be getting near summer...the crazy season is already underway. The oil is still in the Gulf...Parliament is even more insane than usual....but hey we've got FIFA soccer (or football as they say across the pond).
You gotta laugh, right? It's hard to believe that there's anything funny about the oil nightmare but this comes pretty close: Great BP parody
As President Obama fights harder and harder to make BP own the spill - financially - he knows that politically it doesn't have to make sense in order to be damaging. Hence his four visits to the Gulf and his televised speech from the Oval Office tonight. He has a lot riding on this.

G20 Oil Spill?

There's got to be a lot of concern at Toronto's G20 headquarters about a possible 'oil spill' [real or 'just for fun'] in that 'lake' they are constructing in the media centre. Can you imagine?! They'll have to frisk every reporter going in for any lighter fluid or WD 40. Wouldn't it just be just too tempting for some journalist to be sitting in a Muskoka chair, next to the 'lake' and doing a 'throw' to their camera reporting live while the water burns in the background? If Rick Mercer, or one of Jon Stewart's or Stephen Colbert's 'reporters' are allowed in, it'll be a done deal, mark my words.

So what about the $1 billion security bill for the G8 and G20? My gut reaction is that, if nothing goes wrong (fingers crossed) it will continue to be labelled as a 'waste'. If something does happen, then demands will be made that it clearly wasn't enough! A lot of people forget that while the G8 leaders were meeting in Gleneagles, the London subway bombing took place. Coincidence? I think not. So we all have a stake in getting this right.

The government could be doing a better job of telling Canadians what the money is being spent on, that's for sure. There is, however, only one thing worse than spending too much money on security...and that is not spending enough!!

Bloody Sunday Inquiry Report
After 12 years and $300 million, the Report of the Inquiry, led by Lord Saville, into the 1972 'Bloody Sunday' massacre in Northern Ireland has been finally released. It was great to see the reaction of Prime Minister Cameron, who nailed it beautifully by saying, "what happened on Bloody Sunday (when 13 were killed and 13 were injured) was unjustified and unjustifiable.....you do not defend the British Army by justifying the unjustifiable." Well said! As I was born about 14 miles from that site in Londonderry, I have a particular interest in it. I view it as putting in place one of the essential pieces of resolving "the troubles". Without justice, peace has little meaning. Congratulations Lord Saville and all who worked hard to achieve this difficult, but necessary, reckoning with the past.

Here it is. It makes fascinating reading: Bloody Sunday Inquiry Report

Or if you don't have time, then read the lyrics to U2's Sunday Bloody Sunday or watch this video of U2 singing their song. Check out how they looked back then: U2's Sunday Bloody Sunday

Attention all Podcasters and Content Creators

I will be speaking this Friday night, June 18th at the Podcasters Across Borders Conference at the Fourth Stage of the National Arts Centre at 7:30 p.m. They've got a great lineup for their conference this weekend. Check it out here: http://www.podcastersacrossborders.com/

Until next time.....take a deep breath and appear normal.


BP Crisis Communications Disaster

Welcome back!
Could it get any worse for BP in its efforts to get in the driver's seat of the crisis in the Gulf? On Thursday I did a series of interviews on CBC Radio stations in the drive time slot from one end of the country to the other. Take a listen to this one on CBC Radio's All in a Day 91.5 FM with host Alan Neal to get my take on how BP's crisis communications efforts are working out [it starts at 7.00 minutes into the podcast, following an interview with Taylor and Peyton, two wonderful young girls with a mission to help the wildlife in the Gulf nightmare]

BP's 'Failure to Staunch'...and to communicate
1. BP failed to manage expectations - of the media and the public. The goal is to under-promise and over-deliver; not the other way around. They raised so many expectations throughout that they lost credibility by the final Top Kill or was that Top Hat?
2. They failed to manage perceptions - of caring and competence. They didn't communicate that they were listening or caring. At one point early on when people in the affected Gulf communities complained that they weren't getting answers to their questions from BP, a senior executive was quoted as saying, "I've been too busy to worry about communications." Ouch!

3. "I would like my life back." A comment such as that from the CEO Tony Hayward, was tone deaf when the families of eleven oil rig workers will never have their lives back. It triggered anger and ridicule. He did the right thing and quickly apologized for it, but it lingers on in (media) public memory.
4. While the public suggestion line sounds like a good idea on the surface, after 43 days it sounded more like desperation.
5. Engage the fishing industry and local communities more. While it's true they have to be trained as volunteers, putting them to work mitigating the damage gives people a constructive role.

The 'Spilling Fields' (with apologies to Jon Stewart) 
We have done numerous seminars over many years for the United States Coast Guard on major spills and emergencies, so I know that it's not easy - and in this case with unprecedented difficulties due to the mile deep site of the 'leak' it's testing everyone to the maximum. Former Commandant of the Coast Guard and National Incident Coordinator Admiral Thad Allen has done a solid job in communications on behalf of the Coast Guard; however in all of the multi-party 'Unified Command' training which we conducted, a key principle is that the communications effectiveness of the Responsible Party is essential to have effective communications on behalf of the whole team.

Notice how the President has clearly positioned his Administration against BP - with not-so-veiled threats of criminal prosecution only the latest salvo. Here he is on Larry King Live last night trying to position himself as in charge, while holding BP's feet to the uh...spill:

If BP doesn't plug it very quickly, watch for Mr. Hayward's head to roll, and possibly a 'change in command' at the top of the Crisis Management team. Nobody ever said it was fair, but that's the reality of trying to manage the worst environmental disaster of its kind in American history.

Let's hope BP not only plugs the leak, but plug the gap in their communications too!

Until next time.....


Sarah Ferguson...what now?

Welcome back everyone!
Ironically on the very weekend that Canada celebrates the anachronistic Victoria Day weekend, what should cross our shores but a fresh scandal involving a member of the Royal Family, the one and only Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson. Take a look at this from the British tabloid, News of the World and the 'cash-for-access' sting they did on her, in which she promises 500,000 British pounds in return for access to her ex-husband, Prince Andrew:

So what does she do in response to the first report of the sting? Why, she denies it! Always a great strategy right? Clearly she responded without getting advice from a communications professional (unless it's the same one advising BP?) She eventually fesses up with a somewhat adequate statement (although note how her PR adviser throws Sarah under the bus). Note the passive verbs ("this has happened") and generic nouns ("the situation") in describing her actions:
Okay so what can Sarah do now?
1. Disappear from view. A minimum of six months to a year. Every appearance will just keep it before the public. She will be hounded for a few weeks, but eventually the tabloids and paparazzi will grow tired of staking her out.
2. Go to Haiti or some other devastated place and truly do charitable work. No media interviews.
3. When she re-emerges, stay totally humble. No excuses, no prevarications. Period.
4. Once she returns get a job. Sarah is a creative, intelligent person, with real talent for writing children's books (our boys loved the "Budgie the Helicopter" series).
5. Get  a serious financial adviser. One who is not attracted to her toes.



The shifting public winds

Welcome back!

I've been fairly busy since my last post. A drive through the bucolic countryside south of London sticks in my mind as an oasis of calm. [Ontario, that is. No volcanic ash near that London......]

The world fell into a recession 18 months ago and while there have been strong signs of recovery in the markets and in many sectors of the economy, employment has lagged the recovery. But something more profound has changed, and that is the public attitude to 'business as usual'. The question is, have the politicians fully understood the implications of this huge shift in attitude? It seems as if the public are ahead of the politicians and even the media when it comes to what they will find acceptable and unacceptable.

Let's take a look at recent events north and south of the 49th parallel as well as across the pond in Europe.

The Winds of Change Sweep Britain
The winds of change (laced with the aforementioned volcanic ash no doubt) were blowing strong against the Brown Government, and though he fought back valiantly - if at time ineptly - clearly the jig was up. For about five days, however, the Prime Minister was like Wylie Coyote...hanging over the edge with his legs churning, not quite believing that the ground had moved out from under him. Fortunately Lib-Dem Leader Nick Clegg came to his senses and ceased his flirtation with Brown, and went where common sense and the seismic shift of the public compelled him to go...to David Cameron's Tories.

Yes Cameron's and Clegg's first joint news conference got uncomfortable momentarily, but that's the nature of all coalitions, right?

They handled it well didn't they? Here's hoping their coalition works out. Canada knows all about minority governments. Coalitions? A more exquisite form of torture would be hard to contemplate.

The Winds of Change Sweep America
The Gulf oil spill provides an insightful look into the soul of America in a time of collapsing public trust in corporations and institutions. The sight of the CEOs' finger-pointing testimony was an embarrassment to the art of finger-pointing [which, of course, is the natural domain of politicians.]

What a lost opportunity to show the public that they get it. That they take responsibility. That their values are in synch with the American public. Instead they sank to the schoolyard where it's always 'the other guy's fault'! Who trained these execs anyway? Of course it gave President Obama a golden opportunity to regain lost ground on the offshore drilling file:

Republicans and Democrats each think they have the direction of the shifting winds figured out. Are they blowing left or right? North or south? The answer? Neither. They are blowing away from politics as usual, scoring cheap points, and the usual 'bread and circuses' thrown their way.

Looking at last night's primary results indicate that the 'outsiders' are pushing aside the traditional 'establishment' figures. The Tea Party-backed Rand Paul won the Republican Senate primary against the Dick Cheney & Mitch McConnell - backed Trey Greyson in Kentucky, while 80 year old ex-Republican Sen. Arlen Specter lost to two-term Rep. Joe Sestak in the Pennsylvania Democrat primary. How much of that was due to the 'turncoat' issue and how much was due to the tidal wave against 'politics as usual' might be argued in that case. However, 'change' is the powerful political brand at this time.

Last week in the West Virginia primary, 14 term Democratic Rep. Allan  Mollahan was the first incumbent Democrat to lose his re-election bid, with many observers saying that his support for the Health Care Reform package was the primary culprit. Perhaps, but with the anti-incumbent mood of the electorate, there may not be too many 'safe' seats out there. However, what is clear is that the Tea Partiers are riding high right now, but they better be prepared to have some solutions to the issues they are championing. That's the thing about the theme of 'change'. Since the global meltdown, the public is holding off on trusting anyone.

The Winds of Change Sweep Canada.
The Harper government has gone through what might otherwise have been an 'annus horribilus'...the Afghan detainee file...the Helena Guergis-Rahim Jaffer soap opera.....issues which don't quite meet the test of 'major issues that I care about deeply'. Regarding that by-now-tired story, the ideal situation to wrap that up is for the RCMP to announce that they are not proceeding with a criminal investigation of Ms. Guergis as there appears to be no basis for it. End of the drama.

The latest issue which has the potential to de-rail Parliament itself is the fight over allowing the Auditor General to audit their books. After seeing what those disasters did to Nova Scotia, as well as the U.K. politicians, it's perhaps understandable that the MPs and Senators don't want to go there. Although, unlike in the U.K. there are probably no taxpayer-subsidized moats to worry about, no doubt there are a few awkward things like flat-panel TVs and portable generators that they may have to worry about.

Beyond Parliament Hill, the public has become engaged on this issue and it makes the politicians look like they have something to hide. So they better jump before they're pushed!

There is hope, however....
For the best example of  how to address big issues in a win-win way, look no further than the deal that was just struck between Greenpeace and the forestry industry. They have agreed on an alliance to protect the boreal forests of Northern Canada (comprising 35% of Canada's land mass), while enabling the industry to continue logging in clearly designated areas. [This felt particularly good as we have worked with the Forestry industry on these and other sustainable forestry issues.] Now why can't other issues be resolved like this?

By turning the attention to strengthening the Canadian and Global economies (the Harper Government's attack on the  Global Bank Tax idea in the G20 is an excellent example) Prime Minister Harper is gradually strengthening his 'strong leader' image in the 'leadership' polls- in spite of all the negativity. By the way, if it's reflected in higher numbers in the polls, after the G8 and G20 meetings in Canada in June, look to an early election.

To quote Jack Nicholson's Harry Sanford character in 'Something's Gotta Give',  "I have never lied to you. I have always told you some version of the truth." To which Diane Keaton's Erica Barry replies, "the truth doesn't have versions, okay?"

Somebody better tell that to politicians and institutions everywhere....before the winds of change blow them permanently off course from the public!

Until next time........