2013 Communications Disasters

Welcome back!
It's that time of year when we pay tribute to the Communications Disasters of 2013.  The purpose is to recognize the people and the organizations who defied the odds, went beyond the merely expected and tarnished their brands. But hey, at least you can say..... they did it their way!
1. Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse.....it does!
 Paula Deen The cooking guru from Savannah, Georgia who managed to take an allegation of racist comments and single-handedly used it to destroy her own empire.  At first, she ducked the Today Show to respond to the accusations by citing 'exhaustion'. Then when she finally appeared several days later, the damage had already been done. She was branded a 'racist' and took a pounding in all media - especially online. She lost her credibility and watched her brand become badly tarnished. She either received very bad crisis communications counsel, or she didn't listen to it.
2. Lululemon's customers just want him wrapped in his (over) stretched leotards and thrown to the wolves. 
Lululemon founder and Chair Chip Wilson. Responding to questions on Bloomberg TV's Street Smart program, Wilson clearly was blaming women of a certain weight for causing the pilling problems about which customers had begun to complain. But the final straw was this so-called 'apology' on his website:
“I’m sad, I’m really sad, I’m sad for the repercussions of my actions, I’m sad for the people of Lululemon who I care so much about, that have really had to face the brunt of my actions.” This is an apology?! The focus of his apology should have been to his customers and to women, whom he had clearly insulted.
3. The one good thing is ... smoking crack can never again be seen as 'cool'....
Rob Ford was the clear winner of the "Disaster of the Year" Award. The long-running, slow-motion, disaster featured crack-smoking, drunken binges, insulting comments about his wife, attacks on the Police Chief, video surveillance of the Mayor exchanging packages with known criminals, stolen video of the Mayor allegedly smoking crack, massive denials and then reversals, bowling over a fellow City Councillor, allegations of groping, and a threatened lawsuit earned in a TV interview with newly minted host, Conrad Black, in which he implied that a Toronto Star reporter who had been taking photos of his backyard fence was a pedophile. Of course, becoming the number one fodder for jokes on Letterman, Leno, Kimmel and Fallon turned him into an international celebrity. Watch this clip of Rob and Doug Ford clearly enjoying the video of Jon Stewart on the first (and only) episode of Ford Nation on the Sun News Network. Defiant at all times, even while stripped of many of his powers, he seems determined to stand for re-election. However, at year's end, just when you thought he doesn't have a prayer for re-election...what does he do? He oversaw the Christmas time hydro ("it's not an emergency") blackout in Toronto to mixed reviews. For Mayor Ford, perhaps there is a Santa after all?
4. Nothing like a 'spending scandal' to boil taxpayers' blood, right?
Nigel Wright        Sen. Mike Duffy
The original story about three or four Senators, who were alleged to have claimed expenses to which they were not entitled, morphed into a full-blown crisis of credibility for the Harper Government with the revelation of the $90,000 paid personally by the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff, Nigel Wright, to Senator Mike Duffy. Throw in revelations that the Conservative Party Fund paid for Sen. Duffy's legal bills and there you have it - a full-blown crisis that knocked out of the headlines the government's accomplishments, including the EU Free Trade Deal. With possible criminal charges and no end in sight for the crisis, the Harper Government needs a Plan B if they're going to emerge fully from it.
5. I promise you that you can keep your own health plan if you want. Well not keep it exactly, but visit it, you know..just sign up on the internet...d'oh!
A mere 12 months after his election victory in which 'Obama-care'
played a major role, the failed launch of the internet program triggered enormous public outrage. It didn't help that it took the Administration a couple of months to get hold of the situation and put it (mostly) back on track. All of this came on the heels of a recovering economy that the President would clearly have wanted to be lead the news. That's gotta hurt.
6. At least you have to give him 'E' for Effort! 
The Lac Mégantic Train Derailment and the bizarre news conference four days later held by MMA Chairman Ed Burquardt will be a classic 'how not to' for years to come. 

Paying Tribute and Looking Ahead
So, as we look ahead to 2014, one has to hope that those in positions of responsibility will learn from these disasters. Nah! That's not going to happen. Remember why crisis communications is an on-going business....apparently some people have to learn the same lessons over and over again!

A few disasters were exceptionally well handled - the Boston marathon bombing was well handled even as the city spent several days with the bombers on the loose. The Mayor, the police and community leaders did a terrific job of pulling the city together in a united way. That is one of the hallmarks of effective crisis communications. When the Red Sox won the World Series later that year, it brought it all together in such an emotional and positive way.

The Alberta flood was a nightmare that was well handled by Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi in cooperation with Prime Minister Harper and Premier Alison Redford. The Mayor's ability to pull those communities together at a time of emotional chaos was a critical factor in the response to those crises.

The qualities of true leaders
So let's remember, finally, the two leaders who seemed to have understood what it means to be a leader:
First, Pope Francis (Time's Man of the Year) whose simple style and powerfully inclusive messages have served to change the climate, the tone and the priorities of the Church in a few short months. As a result, he has created the opportunity to be a truly transformational leader throughout the world.
The passing of Nelson Mandela in December has reminded the world of his incredible journey that has inspired the world. I just saw Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, and was inspired all over again by what a true leader - even though he was an admittedly flawed human being - can do in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds. The genuine worldwide sorrow at his passing underscores what he meant to the entire world.
Happy New Year!
On behalf of Laura and the entire McLoughlin Media company and family, we want to wish all of our clients, friends and suppliers a Happy, healthy and 'no crisis' New Year!


Why I remember JFK

November 22, 1963. To my generation, it was a terrible watershed in our lives. Those of us alive remember where we were and how we heard of the assassination of JFK. Could it really be 50 years ago? Why are we still talking about it all these decades later? Here are my memories and why his life - not just his death - matters to me.
I was a newspaper delivery boy along with my brother Stephen in Toronto (more precisely North York) in the autumn of 1963. Our family were classic Irish immigrants - two portraits on the wall in our home - one of Pope John XXIII and the other, John F. Kennedy. On that day, I was in Mr. Wenzel's Grade 7 class joking around, as usual, when the Principal, Mr. Kiesinger, popped his head in the door at 2:38 and said, "I thought you might want to hear this". Within a moment, on the PA system came the announcer, "John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States is dead." We were stunned. The word 'assassination' entered our vocabulary. Some of the girls cried. I blurted out something about Kruschev, but deep down I was devastated.
We were dismissed from school early, and when I arrived at home, my mother was in tears watching the television. From that moment on our entire family was glued to the television for the next three days - including the surreal scene from the Dallas jail of Oswald's killing by Jack Ruby.
Most of the media coverage and commentary understandably focuses on his assassination - understandably. The plot scenarios get rolled out - some more fantastical with each passing year. I have read most of the books, but I do no find them ultimately persuasive. I believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin. Yes there are unanswered questions and tantalizing threads, and I remain open minded, but so far, they are not credible.
I was always more interested in reading about his life and his Presidency. We have learned that he was a flawed man in his private life, but he changed America, and the world. With panache, style and wit, he represented a fresh, appealing view of what was possible as individuals, and ultimately as citizens of the world.
He was a man who was constantly learning and evolving. His views and his stance on civil rights, nuclear disarmament and Vietnam had changed dramatically. In the fascinating book: JFK's Last Hundred Days: 'The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President',  author Thurston Clarke paints a picture of a man who had gone through the profoundly personal tragedy of the loss of his stillborn son, Patrick; his evolution from a cautious politician to a confident national and world leader are convincingly laid out by Clarke in his book. I had the opportunity to meet him at an event at the Canadian War Museum and the book is a must-read for Kennedy-ophiles.
Given my enduring fascination by JFK - and equally his brother, Bobby - it seemed inevitable that I would end up at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard (now known as the Harvard Kennedy School). Nicknamed 'Camelot High', the Kennedy School turned out to be an even greater experience than I had imagined. One of our profs, the late Richard Neustadt, was a Kennedy aide, and a well known expert on Presidential power. He shared with us wonderful anecdotes of JFK. "He was the smartest man I ever knew", said Neustadt.
While there, I attended a 20th anniversary panel discussion of the Cuban Missile Crisis and had the opportunity to see McGeorge Bundy and others who were right there during this crisis. They shared their recollections of how Kennedy refused to listen to the advice to unleash nuclear weapons on Cuba and instead - with the help of his brother - find a negotiated solution. The world really was teetering on the edge of nuclear war. Kennedy, with the ability to stay cool and skeptical, was able to weigh carefully the advice of the military leaders anxious to have him press the button.
Jackie Kennedy
For a good number of years, Laura and I would bring the kids to Martha's Vineyard for our summer vacation. Usually once or twice a summer we would run into Jackie - walking along the streets of Vineyard Haven. A pleasant smile and a nod would be exchanged. She was able to live her life largely left alone and as long as one respected that, everyone was cool with it. One time in particular sticks in my mind about her. We were at a native American moccasin store at Gay Head (now called Aquinnah). In came Jackie with what we guessed were her grand-nieces - shopping for moccasins. What was great about that was her complete naturalness as she helped the girls try on the moccasins and we ended up trading back and forth various sizes. It was great to experience what she was like - completely unaffected - and we never reacted as if we knew who she was. It all went wonderfully - until a few tourists showed up - with cameras, and they started filming her from the doorway. She quickly wrapped up her business and slipped out to her blue Ford Explorer (parked next to our car, as it turned out) and drove off.
It struck me at times like that how determined she seemed to be to live a 'normal' life and she succeeded in doing so as much as possible.
JFK 'I'm an idealist without illusions'
Will there ever be another JFK? Our world has become so much more cynical since that November day. Our political life has turned crass and mean. Yet, to balance this off, I have the privilege of interviewing young people applying to Harvard each year, and it's a wonderful experience in that it reminds me that there still are idealistic youth who want to change the world.
So on this 50th anniversary, I think of what the late Sen. Pat Moynihan (D-NY) said to columnist Mary McGrory as they were on the tarmac at Andrews Air Force base watching President Kennedy's casket being lowered to the ground. Mary said to him in anguish, "Pat do you think we'll ever laugh again?" Moynihan replied, "Mary, we'll laugh again. But we'll never be young again."
Let's spare a moment today to think of JFK - for what he accomplished and where our world would be today if he had lived.


Is there any chance for Rob Ford?

Welcome back!
Who is the happiest person in Canada right now? Why, that might well be Stephen Harper, who just a week or so ago was mired in the 'Senate scandal' and now sees a media universe dominated with far greater outrage and media fixation....the Rob Ford Follies. Laura and I spent a lot of time in Toronto last week, and the mood is not one of fun and games...it's a profound sadness that has taken hold over the soap opera. It's only as one goes farther afield across Canada and the United States does a certain giddiness take hold...leading to Saturday Night Live, the Daily Show and Letterman's Top Ten. It's not something that Toronto needs - as a city, it needs to be taken seriously. In this post, we will take a look to see if there really is any chance for Rob Ford at this late date?

Coming soon to Sun News Network. I would be amazed if some creative reality TV producers haven't already inquired about the possibility of a series starring the Ford family. Given the international fame already generated by the daily feats of PR blunders by Mayor Rob and Brother Doug, it's entirely likely that they could rival Duck Dynasty or the Kardashians for viewers.
Just when you think there's been nothing new to comment on regarding the Mayor, here comes another outrage to feast upon.
I have been doing my share of media interviews - although not with any sense of glee - but to try to understand how intelligent people can violate every rule of ethical and effective crisis management - let alone common sense. Earlier in my career I had coached the late Doug Ford Sr. when he was a member of the provincial government. I found him to be a common sense, self-made, smart man who could sense political BS from a mile away. Ironically, it was those qualities of his father that made Rob Ford so appealing to the electorate back in 2010 when he ran for Toronto's mayoralty. It's exactly what seems to have left him over the past year or so. I have worked for a number of Mayors who have found themselves in trouble - some through no fault of their own - but the one common denominator that was needed to help them, was their recognition that something profound had to change in their conduct and messages. In Rob Ford's case, his political instincts seem to have left him; his ear for the 'Ford Nation' seems to have turned to tin. All the exposure on CNN's Anderson Cooper and Fox News is not going to help him. And now the only question remaining in his career is...
Is there any chance for Rob Ford?
Well, the odds are against him, but he has a slim chance. 
Many point to the comeback king of crack-smoking mayors, Washington DC's Marion Barry whose FBI sting video of his arrest while caught in mid-puff, earned him a prison sentence. His infamous comment about the woman in the video, "the bitch set me up," put him in a deeper hole of public esteem. Nevertheless, only a few short years later he was re-elected Mayor, and, in fact, still serves on City Council. Now that's not an exact comparison; and Ford has not even been charged - and likely will never be - for his admission. However, Barry didn't lie - and as his supporters endlessly repeated - "he did his time". Mayor Ford chose not to tell the truth nor did he serve any penalty. However, Ford Nation is deeply loyal and, so far, have proven (amazingly so) to the Mayor. That support can dissipate and fracture. Ultimately, when people get tired of a circus, they don't want to go back. That is the ultimate danger to Rob Ford's future - that people just get tired of it. He needs to change the channel, but he appears to be in a deep rut, and doesn't want to get out of it.
Everybody loves a redemption story, but there's been no redemption here.
His refusal to take a medical leave of absence and clean up his act has been one of the greatest failures of judgment in the entire sad spectacle. What he has failed to understand is that the public is enormously forgiving (Bill Clinton, Marion Barry, Gov. Mark Sanford etc. etc.) so long as you eat humble pie and take your punishment. If he had taken a leave for treatment last May or June when the story of the crack video first surfaced, he had a window of opportunity to get cleaned up. However, as the Toronto police surveillance tapes have shown, he seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time this summer engaged in suspicious activity with at least one known criminal (even though he seemed to know he was being followed by the cops). That is a complete failure of common sense, no matter how the die-hard Ford Nation tries to paint it. 
Stop blaming the media for his troubles.
Sure, the Toronto Star has been a thorn in his side. But they turned out to be right about the crack video (the existence of which the Mayor had long denied - until confirmed by Chief Blair). The Mayor treats most of the media as the enemy - which appeals to his base - but is not going to help him in any possible recovery scenario. 
Tell the truth first - not eventually. The Mayor doesn't seem to understand that people will forgive everything except lies. So tell the truth immediately - not when all other options have been exhausted.
What is one thing he could do - even now - to give him a chance for re-election? 
Make a dignified statement admitting fully his mistakes, apologize to the Toronto Chief of Police, Bill Blair (for the demand that he resign), apologize to his Executive Committee whom he has alienated, apologize to the people of Toronto for putting them through this spectacle, and then take whatever time it takes - one to two months at the least - to get treatment. Come back sober, fresh, determined and genuinely focused on the taxpayer. And....he would have a chance (a slim one, but a chance, nonetheless). Without it, the circus will continue, and long before election day next October, the Ford Nation will have fractured, and, it will be an ignominious defeat worthy of Anthony Weiner.
Sad, sorry, and ....it didn't have to be.

Until next time.......


What should the PM do?

Welcome back to the Senate "House of Horrors'. Just in time for Hallowe'en, the issue of the expenses 'scandal' has exploded into a media-frenzy which has captured the attention of the public like nothing else in recent years - thanks to the fumbled attempt to suspend the three Senators without pay. The three Senators have made impassioned  pleas for 'due process' and they seem to have succeeded in getting Canadians to put a hold on the suspension.

Following the latest 'wrinkles' revealed by Sen. Mike Duffy and his lawyer, Donald Bayne, and the release of emails revealing a second cheque being paid to Duffy by the Conservative Party to cover his legal fees, the issue has spun out of control. Sen. Pamela Wallin got some traction in her speech with her call for 'due process'. [The High School Confidential part starring Sen. Marjorie LeBreton and Sen. Carolyn Stewart-Olsen triggered more snickers than impact.] In her second appearance, she dropped that and honed in on the 'due process' issue to maximum effect. Sen. Patrick Brazeau revealed that he was offered a chance to reduce his punishment if he were to apologize. Interestingly enough, it served to open the door to a potential compromise. All of this at a very awkward and frustrating time for the Prime Minister and the Party on the eve of their Calgary Conference later this week.
So what should the Prime Minister do?
1. "If you've broken the eggs, you should make an omelette." Anthony Eden had it right, at least on that line. The Prime Minister should let it be known that he would embrace the Liberal amendment to hold off on the suspension and proceed immediately to a special Senate committee to hold hearings on it. In turn, Sen. Carrignan, the Conservative leader in the Senate could amend it to limit the time for the committee to meet and to vote based on the evidence before them. The three Senators would be invited to appear - as would Nigel Wright and others - to provide testimony, and answer questions. Yes, they should be allowed to have legal counsel, given the current RCMP investigation and the legal consequences. Then the Committee could vote its recommendations to the Senate as a whole on what, if any, should be the consequences for the Senators.
2. Won't this make the Tories look bad? There are no pure options. Yes, the Twitterverse would be filled with people saying that - but it's not likely that they're Tory voters anyway. Besides, now that new 'evidence' and allegations have emerged, it's worth clearing the air, and not letting it fester any further. It would provide a clear opportunity for the Prime Minister to say that he has listened to Canadians and has changed his mind. It's about restoring the issue that helped the Conservatives get into power - accountability. They need to look for the opportunity in this crisis, or as Homer Simpson put it, a 'crisi-tunity'.

3.  The PM should hold a news conference and clear the air about what he knew and when he knew it. Personally, I'm confident that he has nothing to
hide and can handle any questions from the Parliamentary Press Gallery that he is thrown. It would give him a chance to take care of, for example, his comments that he 'dismissed' Nigel Wright - rather than 'reluctantly' accepted his resignation. It may not be worth a hill of beans, but it's important to clear up the apparent contradiction. Also, watching him perform in the House this week (when he didn't hand it off to his Parliamentary Secretary), he was strong, clear and cool.
His sound bite of the week will probably be used again: "You're darn right I told him he should repay his expenses." The PM needs to do what he does best. Non-combative, strong, but 'more in sadness than with anger'.
4. Is the damage to the PM fatal? Given past history, and depending on whether or not there are any further damaging 'revelations', it is probably not permanently damaging. Despite all the heat developing around the issue, there still is no proof that the PM knew - either about the $90,000 Nigel Wright cheque or the $13,500 Party cheque to Sen. Duffy's lawyers. It's bruising, yes. And that's why it needs to be aired in public and then put to rest.
5. The PM needs to get back to his agenda - the economy...and fast. With news that the government is well ahead of its 2015 balanced budget commitment, combined with the huge EU free trade deal, this balloon has to be 'popped' and he needs the focus to return to his strong suit, the economy.
The Obama Administration's Struggles
Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is trying to recover from fumbles on two fronts - one domestic - the disastrous rollout of 'Obamacare'' and the other -  the revelations of spying on Allies - including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the Spanish and French governments. The key is to move quickly, and this, they did. The President held a news conference and used it as an opportunity to eat crow on the website roll-out and vow to get to the bottom of it.

The international 'bugging' embarrassment was handled by White House spokesman Jay Carney - who parsed his words carefully (allowing others to deliberately read into the remarks the silent admission that they had indeed bugged the Chancellor's telephone calls). Carney was also called upon to admit that - contrary to the President's previous assurances - some Americans would indeed lose their existing health insurance.
The decision to get out there and communicate is essential to credibility. Although they could have moved on a peremptory basis, instead of just reacting to the stories, nevertheless when the Administration did move, they were able to begin the process of regaining credibility.
Finally, the social media world was gripped with the battle of wits between the BBC's acerbic Jeremy Paxman and bad boy comedian Russell Brand. Paxman should have spent some time checking out some previous efforts by Brand to turn the tables on his interlocutors, as he did recently on MSNBC's Morning Joe. No matter what you think of his arguments, Brand seems to get a special joy out of throwing expectations to the wind and saying whatever he wants. I guess Katy Perry lost her fascination with it, but hey, it works!
Until next time....I'm going to focus on the rest of the World Series. Go Red Sox!


Will suspending Senators work?

The day after the impressive ceremony the Speech from the Throne, the Conservative Leader in the Senate, Senator Claude Carignan, announced, unceremoniously, his intention to introduce a motion suspending the three controversial Senators - Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau from the Senate. On top of that he said that they should be suspended without pay for 'using their privileges to abuse their power' and 'gross misconduct'. Sen. Carignan called them 'very severe sanctions'. That's for sure!
 It is clear that the Harper Government wants this issue to recede and does not want to have them sitting in 'the other place' during this session of Parliament.  Is it the right thing to do? We will leave it to legal, Parliamentary and other experts to pronounce on it from their perspectives. However, looking at it through a comnunications lens, let's see if it's going to get the government back in control of the agenda.
First, what options did the government have in the management of the issue? Given the messiness of the Duffy case - with the now infamous $90,000 cheque from Nigel Wright and the restrictions on public communications as a result of the ongoing RCMP investigations - the government has by now run out of options. Suspension is seen as the only viable step. The reason is simple. It stopped just being a Senate issue months ago. Now it's an issue for the Harper government.
Second, will it be perceived as fair? Already, talk radio is filled with voices saying that it's not fair. Senator Wallin has gone so far as to threaten legal action if the Senate goes ahead. Many claim that it is trying them without giving them a chance to defend themselves. Almost all institutions have provisions to suspend employees and officials for serious allegations of misconduct - financial or otherwise. The Senators have had months to present evidence in their cases and so far have not been able to dent public opinion running heavily against their expenditures and claims.  Sen. Mac Harb proved that resigning took him out of the spotlight. When the other three did not follow him, the spotlight focused even more heavily on them - and by extension - the Prime Minister and the brand of the government was obviously being damaged.
Should Senator Wallin be treated the same as Duffy and Brazeau? In an ideal world, perhaps not. She is repaying $100,000 and has strongly pushed back that she has followed the rules. There certainly appears not to be a 'smoking gun' in her case. Unfortunately for her, though, she is getting lumped into the 'soap opera' elements surrounding Senators Duffy and Brazeau.
Why not suspend them with pay? By banning them from access to their office, staff or resources of the Senate, it would be a huge penalty in and of itself. By cutting off their salaries and benefits, it appears to be over-kill. If they were fired, they would probably receive one year salary and benefits. For really angry Canadians, they'd say 'tough'. But for the middle ground who want to see fairness in process, they would probably be more inclined to support 'suspended with pay'.
So, what should happen in the Senate vote? In my view, once the motion has been tabled, an amendment should be proposed and seconded that would remove ' without pay' from the motion to suspend. [Ideally, the original motion should drop that provision.] In that way, it would be strong action, but not cross the line into unfairness - either in fact or in public perception.
Will it enable the Harper government to 'turn the channel' on the issue? The Throne Speech didn't change the channel (even as it vowed to unbundle them!)  The EU trade deal was important to the economic credibility of the government, but it can't match the Senate issues for audience interest, so it won't change the channel. The Senate suspension won't change it, but will give credibility to the Senate itself for taking action -- and by extension the government.

So going forward, what will it all mean? The first few days of Question Period - with the return of the Prime Minister - will be the roughest. If he can respond calmly and credibly, and then  turn the focus to the series of legislative initiatives and announcements previewed in the Throne Speech, he may be able to move the dial back in his government's direction. How Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau handle their attacks on the government will be critical to their ability to pin the government down on the issue. If they get over-heated or over-the-top in their attacks, it would be a gift to the Prime Minister, whose experience and ability to handle such attacks is formidable.
Until next time.....


5 Political Lessons from Blackberry

Welcome back!
Here we are with one of the most beautiful autumns in memory (at least for most parts of North America); with major league baseball playoffs filling our screens, all the football and hockey you could want, everything seems perfect. And yet...... Congress can't pass a budget bill, the U.S. debt ceiling deadline is days away...the iconic Canadian technology company, Blackberry, has collapsed, Ontario's government giving away $1 billion in penalties for canceling the gas plant contracts, and the ongoing saga of Senator Mike Duffy and his expenses. Is there anything that connects the dots in all these events?
Blackberry's Lessons for Politicians
At a time when one of Blackberry's rivals - Apple - has just knocked Coca Cola out of the slot for the No. 1 brand in the world (with Google no. 2).  That's gotta hurt - when you consider that Blackberry once 'owned' the smartphone world. On a personal note, as a longtime Blackberry customer, as with millions of others, I genuinely agonized over the new, but less-than-thrilling - Z10 before I decided to go 'over the side' to the Samsung Galaxy 4. The Globe and Mail ran a great piece recently that tells the story of what went wrong: Inside the Fall of Blackberry
However, in my view, many of those lessons are transferable to the world of politics:
5 Political Lessons from the Blackberry Debacle
1. Not listening to customers (voters)
The smartphone marketplace was changing dramatically and Blackberry appeared not to listen to their changing desires. Instead, they became overly reliant on their legacy products, while delaying the entry of a brand new operating system.  This week's Nova Scotia provincial election saw the incumbent NDP government, led by Darrell Dexter, dumped to third place behind the victorious Stephen McNeill-led Liberals (and losing his seat in the process). The Dexter government clearly disconnected with the voters - raising harmonized sales taxes and creating a massive deficit clearly led to the voters' disenchantment. The volatility of voters means that they will now usually give you only one chance to make good on your promises before they give governments the chop (B.C. Premier Christy Clark, who found life after certain death only by the questionable campaign of the Adrian Dix-led NDP.)  So all political parties better be truly listening - and delivering. Remember the eight words that get governments re-elected: "We did what we said we would do."
2. Loss of focus
While Blackberry wasted time delaying - and finally releasing - their Tablet (that tanked instantly in contrast to the game-changing iPad), they took their eye off the ball. The creative forces within the company were split - with some developing the Tablet and the others the new phone. The result was a loss of communication and coherent leadership. When a political party divides itself (Tea Party Republicans vs. mainstream Republicans, they tend to plunge in the polls (witness the fact that 62% of Americans blame the Republicans for the budget debacle).
Senator Mike Duffy's ongoing saga appears to only get worse with each new 'revelation'- causing a continued de-focus for the Harper government, who clearly want it all to just go away. If Senator Duffy remains in the Senate, it will continue as a de-focusing exercise for the Government as the House of Commons reconvenes next week.
3. Failure to adapt (while disappointing your base) The Republican Tea Party base has been temporarily satisfied in the budget battle. But even they will be disappointed when the inevitable compromises are made (stand by for that). Stephen Harper's Conservative government works hard at satisfying the party's base, (witness the battle over competition in the telecommunications sector), yet they need to bridge over and regain the support to the middle ground. For months now they have trailed Justin Trudeau and are only slightly ahead of Tom Mulcair and the NDP. (Look for the Throne Speech to hit the themes to reach 'families' and the 'middle class' as they try to regain traction with the voter).
4. Ignoring or discounting your competition Blackberry under-estimated the Apple brand promise and the resurgence of the less-expensive-but-very-cool Samsung product line. As the Republicans have been slamming Obama at every opportunity, after a while they sound like yesterday's news. People want to know what you're constructively going to do. Competition for voters is as much up in the air as in the business world. Loyalty to a particular company - or political party - has mostly gone by the wayside.
5. Failure to protect your brand
Your brand is your promise to your customer. Blackberry failed to deliver - and to deliver on time. They missed the window of opportunity. The brand of a political leader will usually diminish over time, so it's important to be innovative, to refreshen the brand and to keep moving forward. Stephen Harper is clearly facing that challenge - as is Barack Obama.
Then there's the sad legacy of the McGuinty Government in Ontario incurring over $1 billion in costs for the cancellation of the gas plants in order to save two or three ridings in the last provincial election. It's  an example of a complete failure to protect the brand of Dalton McGuinty and the Liberal Party. Even though it seemed to work as a short-term tactical (albeit a highly cynical move, one might reasonably deduce), it put paid to his declining brand and as more evidence emerges of the true cost and the political calculations around it, even his departure may not be enough to save the Kathleen Wynn-led Liberal government. The Premier apologized profusely but where's the action to somehow make up for it? When it gets that bad, apologies are not enough. Sometimes, though, one is saved by the quality of one's enemies (Clinton's 1995-96 government showdown with Newt Gingrich); (Harper vs. Stephane Dion in 2006); B.C. Premier Christy Clark vs. the NDP's Adrian Dix earlier this year). You just can't count on it happening.
So to sum it up, politicians - as well as companies - are gradually waking up to the reality that your brand is everything - understand it, refresh it, build it with tangible accomplishments - but ignore it at your peril.
Favorite Video of the Week
There's something about upending the conventional friendly news anchor-reporter banter that is particularly enjoyable to watch. In this clip, a local news anchor rakes a reporter over the coals for his lack of reporting skills: check this out and enjoy!
Until next time....


It's never too late to do the right thing

Welcome back!
So much has gone on in the past two weeks since my last blog post - from the nightmare of Syria to the ongoing soap opera of some Canadian Senators to the terrible tragedy at the U.S. Navy Yard in Washington DC, the news has been troubling to say the least.
Costa Concordia - Righting the Ship
One cause for celebration amidst these depressing scenarios is the raising of the Costa Concordia off the coast of Italy nearly two years after its sinking. A true feat of engineering and determination, the successful righting of the ship is a hopeful salve to an upsetting time.
Syria and the Obama Administration
Much has been written about the on-again, off-again threats against Syrian poison gas sites by President Obama and Sec. of State John Kerry; the mixed messages; the after-the-fact (sure-to-fail) attempt to garner Congressional support. The ultimate embarrassment was the emergence of Vladimir Putin as a 'peace-maker' in a negotiated deal between Russia and the U.S. to remove those weapons of mass destruction. What are some lessons out of this messy situation?

Five Key Lessons from Syria
1. The U.S. President was conflicted in his roles. His initial instinct was to strike hard and fast as Assad had clearly crossed the 'red line' that the President drew long ago. Once the President announced that he would strike militarily, he had painted himself into a corner. U.K's Prime Minister David Cameron found himself in the same dilemma when the House of Commons voted against him. That clearly had an impact on the President.
2. The process was not well managed. In the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy brought the nation together, shared with them what they had discovered (Russian missiles in Cuba), and put in place a blockade with a clear warning to the Russians. He didn't threaten - or strike - even though he was strongly advised to by his military advisers. He used back-channel communications between Bobby and  the Russian Ambassador to find a peaceful solution. In this case, the President and the Secretary of State seemed to be on different channels - and all of it live on CNN.
3. Don't ask what you know you won't get. The public is tired and cynical - and Congress is no mood to risk political capital on this issue - the only thing to unite both parties. Even though the U.N. inspectors have now confirmed that Assad did indeed use poison gas on innocent people, the public still cannot be galvanized into action. After Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, they just don't want to go there anymore.
4. The Value of Delay. While waiting for Congress to get its act together, John Kerry blurts out a response at a news conference that changes the entire direction of the issue. This opened the door for Putin to step in and offering to intercede with Assad. With that delay came the path to a peaceful solution. [Although how to punish Assad still remains a source of deep discord between Obama and Putin.]

5. Can Obama 'Right the Ship'? Yes, so long as he learns the lessons out of this situation, Americans may thank him from keeping them out of direct military involvement. He has proven time and again his ability to recover and he only has a year left before the mid-terms to demonstrate his bona fides internationally. After all, he won the Nobel Peace Prize shortly after being elected. Who knows, maybe he could win it again?
How to End the Senate 'Scandals'
The Canadian people have clearly made their minds up about the four Senators at the centre of the 'scandal' involving expense claims and housing allowances. They have become so turned off that the majority want to end the Senate altogether. [Personally, I think that would be an over-reaction and a real shame. A reformed Senate could be a major step forward in bringing more accountability and a more vigorous democracy in Canada. But that's a subject for another day.]
In this post, we are looking at the issue of the spending scandals and what it will take to end the reality series that threatens to be renewed for another season. So far, Sen. Mac Harb has paid back the money and resigned. Notice how quickly he is out of the limelight? What should Senators Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau do?
How to End the Senate 'Scandal'?
First, Senators Duffy, Brazeau and Wallin need to do the right thing....and resign. Without a resignation, they will continue to draw heat - not only onto themselves, but more importantly, the entire Senate, let alone the Harper government. They have violated the rules, and Canadians expect that there should be consequences. Just paying back the money doesn't do it. Notice how Sen. Mac Harb has already disappeared off the radar screen since his resignation?
Secondly, the Senators need to apologize fully and unreservedly for their actions. No excuses, no blame, no attacks. Without it, the outrage only continues.
Thirdly, the Harper government needs to move forward on a refreshed agenda. They need to demonstrate that they are not captives of the issue. That will be difficult, as the Opposition is already demonstrating with yesterday's 'Twitter Question Period' that they intend to keep adding heat. Stephen Harper is out there doing what Prime Ministers can do - namely, make news. His performance at the G20 was strong, and on issues such as Child Protection and Syria (while staying out of it, he has communicated his profound disgust for what the Syrian government has done. Canadians seem happy with his response so far.)

 Remember, even if things have not been well handled, it's never too late to do the right thing.

Until next time....


Managing Perceptions and Expectations

Managing Perceptions and Expectations
Welcome back...
Canadian Politicos 'Fess up to Smoking Dope
Canada seems transfixed by whether their political representatives have smoked dope, how much and when. Now that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has pronounced himself in favour of legalizing the sale of marijuana, it was inevitable that he would be asked about his own use of it. He surprised the public by his admission of having smoked it as recently as a few years ago - while sitting as an MP. The media immediately quizzed every politician they could - ranging from Premiers to Mayors [Rob Ford's admission to having smoked 'lots of pot' was not reassuring]. Prime Minister Harper replied at a news conference, "do I look like I've smoked marijuana?" Then he used the opportunity to attack Trudeau and the Liberals as promoting marijuana use while he is focused on the economy and jobs. That is the script formula for the next two years leading up to the election. Justin Trudeau is banking on his marijuana 'positioning' as part of his narrative attractive to youth and positioning his party as a clear alternative to the status quo. His target on this one is to pull away potential NDP Mulcair supporters, who is in favour of decriminalization - not legalization.  
Obama Rolls the Dice on Syria with Congress
Meanwhile the world awaits what will transpire in Syria. President Obama built up expectations that the U.S. would launch imminent military action against the Syrian government to "suffer consequences" for their use of sarin gas against hundreds of innocent civilians and children. However, President Obama pulled up short and threw the issue to Congress for approval on the heels of the British House of Commons' voting down Prime Minister David Cameron's intention to join the President. It also forced the only other world leader - France's François Hollande - to 'consult' with the French National Assembly as well. [Incidentally, you've got to hand it to France, in one deft move, President Hollande has secured a strong relationship with Obama. After all, he was right there with him from the outset. Those chips can be cashed in somewhere down the road when France is looking for support from the Obama Administration.]
The President feels he can win the support of the House and Senate and his concerted effort to secure the support of Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham appears to have paid off. The two Senators emerged from their White House meeting to urge their fellow Republicans to back the President. The big issue will be the Tea Party Republicans who see an opportunity to paint Obama as a weakened President by denying him the support he needs. At the same time, they can claim that they are acting consistently on their belief that America should stay out of such military actions. 
Perception of the President will Rise or Fall on the vote
The perception of the President as a strong, principled leader will rise or fall on the vote - particularly in the House - where the outcome is uncertain. If he loses the vote, his brand will take a strong hit. He has indicated that he may proceed regardless of the Congressional vote, but that would fly in the face of his strong stand in 2008 when candidate Obama told the Boston Globe, “the President does not have the power, under the constitution, to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” He did, however, take unilateral military action against Libya in 2011 but that cost him political support among Democrats. 
Therefore, he needs to gain Congressional backing this time to maintain his support among Democrats and to strengthen his hand - especially if the Syrian strike does not work out the way he would want. If he does gain Congressional support, he will be strengthened in the perception of him as a leader. Next time, though, he'll have to manage the expectations of the American public in a more strategic way. 
The Perception of Vladimir Putin
And what - if anything - will be said at the G20 in St. Petersburg about the Russian government's legislation concerning the anti-gay legislation passed by the Russian Duma? Probably nothing formally, but Prime Minister Harper's spokesperson, Andrew MacDougall, has said that the Prime Minister may bring up the issue with Putin on a one-on-one basis.  

Putin auditions for the Olympics Synchronized Swimming team
The carefully managed perception of  Vladimir Putin - President for Life of Russia is one of macho man staring down leopards and riding bareback. [Those photos bring to mind the Chinese government claiming that Chairman Mao swan the Yangtze River.] His pushing of the laws restricting the public from 'promoting' the gay lifestyle runs no risk for him domestically, but promises to create problems for the Sochi Olympics. Although the International Olympic Committee can reliably be expected to do nothing, the world's athletes seem determined to show their strong disagreement. More to come on that issue, as we get closer to the Olympics. 

Until next time.....


The Power of Perception

Welcome back!
Here we are right in the middle of those 'lazy hazy crazy days of summer'. Laura and I have been busy with trips to New York, Cape Breton and St. John's, Newfoundland - mixing seminars with a few days off in each wonderful location as we go.
And what a summer it has been! The heat and humidity have featured prominently so far. I, for one, will not complain - as I only have to think of January in Ottawa to remember what cold is like. I have even managed to squeeze in a few rounds of golf and am somewhat surprised that my game is not as bad as I had feared. Although Phil Mickelson has no worries there [his win at The Open was a must-see in our household.]
In this posting I want to examine the perceptions as we look at recent events - the Lac Megantic train derailment; the Royal birth and the new revelations about New York Mayoralty candidate Anthony Weiner.
Managing Perceptions
The Oxford Dictionary defines perception as: "the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses". It's not necessarily logical, but 'perception is reality' has a powerful impact in the public sphere.
After the nightmare of the Lac Mégantic train derailment and the angry aftermath of the George Zimmerman trial, the birth of Will and Kate's new son, certainly lifts the mood and gives everyone a much-needed happy distraction to all that bad news.
And, on top of that, it's another Brit who has come to the rescue as Paul McCartney offers up to 1000 tickets to the people of Lac Megantic for his Quebec City concert on the Plains of Abraham tonight [ironically the site of the British victory over French forces in 1759.] The first time Macca played there in 2008, a straggling group of protesters tried to make an issue out of it. For tonight's concert, there is not only no sign of protest, but the people of Quebec have clearly taken to McCartney as never before. Could it be partially due to a magnanimous offer from Sir Paul? It's an excellent example of managing perceptions- whether intended or not.
How Will and Kate Managed Perceptions 
You've got to hand it to Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge who have their own style and sense of what is appropriate. It was on full display today as they managed the media and public fascination with the birth of their first born. In the future King's debut on the front steps of St. Mary's Hospital, they were able to communicate some key messages in their photo-op.

1. Their style is so informal and down-to-earth. From their casual (blue) clothes and easy-going manner (under a firestorm of flash cameras and shouted questions) to the Prince strapping in his son into the car and then getting behind the wheel himself and driving off, they did it all so effortlessly and without affectation.
So thanks to the Brits for giving us ...The Open...Paul McCartney and the Royal birth - a respite from the bad news, disasters and problems surrounding us.

2. Their handling of the media scrum was low-key, upbeat and genuine in tone and message. Politicians could learn a few lessons from that alone.
3. Although we are all aware that there are Royal handlers lurking behind the scenes, the Royal couple give the impression that they are the ones deciding what they want to do and how they want to do it.
4. They appreciated what the entire matter meant to the people and they delivered it effortlessly. Diana's ring was notable on Kate's finger as she proudly held her new son. A 'tear-in-the-eye' moment that was telling but not over-played. Just the perfect touch from a young couple who seem to get what it's all about.
Although it would have been historic if a daughter had been born (thus becoming the first female to benefit from the new Laws of Succession to the throne) nevertheless a healthy child is always a cause for joy - Royals or not. We can only wish him a long, healthy and happy life.
The Lac Megantic Train - and Perception- Disaster
The Lac Megantic Quebec explosion -which killed fifty people in a horrific disaster - was also a classic perception disaster. After four days, the Chair of the MM&A Railway company - Edward Burkhardt showed up and proceeded to ad lib (in English) his way into hot water (first blaming the volunteer firemen and then hanging his engineer out to dry) and breeding even more resentment as he (unintentionally) smiled his way through a nightmare media encounter . Although the video of him laughing while talking to someone when he thought he was off-camera was also damaging to the perception of caring.
I admire him, at least, for having the guts - and yes, the temerity - to show up without handlers and public relations advisers to face the media and the angry residents. He was completely ill-advised in the way he went about it, however, and it has real consequences for the company down the road.
For all CEOs out there who may find themselves in a similar nightmare...please don't manage your communications this way. There are professionals - not intended as a commercial - who can help you do it right. You have to manage both the facts and the perception of you and your company's values. The atmosphere will be angry, noisy, accusatory and hostile, so you need to know your messages, deliver them convincingly, manage the media relations and the community relations. It's not a job for one man with little experience at communicating in such a nightmare.
My comments on that - and other communications issues - here on CFRA's Madeley in the Morning with  guest host Mark Sutcliffe.
Just when you thought it was safe to run for Mayor...along comes 'Carlos Danger'
Former Rep. Anthony Weiner, after humiliating himself and his wife, Huma Abedin, by tweeting photos of his private parts (and lying about it) has now been revealed to have continued to engage in lewd online 'chats' even after his resignation from Congress in 2011. Will this mean the end of his New York Mayoralty bid? Possibly. His decision to hold a joint news conference with his wife was the right one - in that he hoped to change public perception. He also realized that it was essential for the public to hear directly from Huma and not just to watch their standing awkwardly beside him. His public apology was vague in terms of the timeline involved in his indiscretions but did admit that they continued after his humiliating resignation from Congress.
That is very significant in terms of assessing his judgment and character. What kind of judgment does it imply that he continued to do these damaging and destructive things after his resignation? The public will forgive you once, but if it's true that he kept this sick uh...hobby...going after his resignation, then it's hard to see them giving him another pass on this. However, stranger things have happened - witness the recent election of disgraced former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford.
Huma to the Rescue
However, this key line from Huma Abedin's statement was critical to his survival chances: "We discussed all of this before Anthony decided to run for mayor, so really what I want to say is I love him, I have forgiven him, I believe in him, and as we have said from the beginning, we are moving forward." She learned well from her former boss, Bill Clinton - positioning it as an issue just between them. It's a slim chance, but it could be enough to hang on. The reality is that he has seven weeks left in the primary race to put distance to this, so it ain't over yet.
Which leaves us with the other formerly disgraced New York politico...Elliott Spitzer
Even New Yorkers who are otherwise very forgiving will have trouble with this. Former Gov. Elliott Spitzer - whose run for City Comptroller is looking very good - seems to understand that the bargain for forgiveness is no repetition - something that Bill Clinton had to learn the hard way. Noticeably absent from the public eye is Hilda Wall Spitzer, his long-suffering wife, while Huma has been active -recently raising $150,000 from friends of Hilary and campaigning alongside him. She will have to continue that, or it will be a sign that she hasn't really forgiven him. 
Perception is powerful in politics, in royalty, in entertainment and, yes, in responding to disasters.

Until next time....

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Common sense ain't that common

Welcome back!
1t's been a very long time indeed since my last blog posting - must be the pace of our lives - but of course I have not stopped thinking about writing a new post. Laura and I have travelled to New York, (twice), Vancouver, Toronto (many times), Peterborough, Boston (for my Kennedy School reunion - hard to believe it's been 30 years!) and all points in between. It seems that between the thought and the deed of actually writing the blog post, there is a huge chasm of.....procrastination! So, enough of that and let's get to it! 
The news is filled with 'scandals' involving Mayors (Michael Applebaum of Montreal faces 14 charges of corruption and Mafia dealings) and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's alleged crack-cocaine smoking). And as if that wasn't enough the continuing saga of Senators and their expenses and residence claims;  I commented on Global TV's 'The West Block' with Tom Clark on the crisis management of the issue by the Prime Minister's Office.  These 'scandals' certainly grab the media's attention. As with many news stories, their prominence may not match at all their importance in the scheme of things. Long-time readers will recognize this phenomenon as 'urgency trumps importance'.
Hyper-partisanship is here to stay
As we see in political culture everywhere, the era of hyper-partisanship is here to stay. First, the Harper government targeted newly chosen Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau with some tough ads, with the theme, "he's just not up to the job". Then Mr. Trudeau countered with an ad of his own. How did that go? Here is my appearance on CTV's PowerPlay with Don Martin in which I give my analysis of whether or not they worked?
Now the Harper government has turned its fire on Justin again with attacks on his charging charities for for his speeches (and at least one wants their money back). Mr. Trudeau has offered to talk with any of them that may have an issue over their payment to him - probably the only step he could have taken. Of course, there is nothing wrong with charging for one's speech - but it couldn't have come at a better time for the Harper government after weeks of attack on the Sen. Mike Duffy - Nigel Wright file. After all, the best defence is a good offence.
Taunting - and Pressuring - the Russian Bear
The leaders of the G8 nations are holding their meeting in Northern Ireland (and it was intriguing to see Stephen Harper take on Vladimir Putin, in no-uncertain terms over Putin's backing of 'thugs', that is,  the brutal Assad regime in Syria.) The Prime Minister seems to have grown very comfortable with these meetings and, - perhaps buoyed by his successful and historic speech to the British Parliament - was spurred to stand up to the former KGB spook and master of the bare-chested photo-op, Vladimir Putin. 
Now the Siberian tiger-hunting, President-for-life wouldn't be too used to this kind of treatment. See the painfully staged media interview in which the normally bare-chested alleged Super Bowl ring-stealer and his wife, Lyudmila, announced that they were divorcing. You've gotta ask, 'what took her so long?'

How not to handle allegations of spousal abuse
Speaking of abusive husbands, what to make of the shocking photos of British art collector and legendary ad exec Charles Saatchi with his hands around his wife, Nigella Lawson's throat at a swish Mayfair restaurant? The public reaction was powerful and immediate in the condemnation of Saatchi - as well as of the diners who seemed satisfied to take photos but not to intervene. His wife gathered up her dignity and promptly moved out. 
Saatchi in damage control mode
Saatchi scrambled to recover his badly damaged reputation, as follows:"About a week ago, we were sitting outside a restaurant having an intense debate about the children, and I held Nigella's neck repeatedly while attempting to emphasize my point," Saatchi, 70, said in the statement."There was no grip, it was a playful tiff. The pictures are horrific but give a far more drastic and violent impression of what took place. Nigella's tears were because we both hate arguing, not because she had been hurt," he continued.  
Saatchi cautioned for assault

Well, this didn't exactly sound humble, apologetic or anything even close. For such an experienced ad man, one would think he would know that this 'I did nothing wrong' approach is no way to deal with such a humiliating experience that he had triggered for his wife. Where was the apology to her? Sorry Mr. Saatchi, only a fool would believe that story line. It's the classic difference between advertising and public relations. Being skilled in one doesn't make someone skilled in the other.
Mr. Saatchi cautioned for assault by police
Then Mr. Saatchi - no doubt by now with a full-court press of advisors - showed up at a London police station to accept a caution for assault. That apparently unique British legal maneuver gave him the opportunity to cooperate with the police in their investigation and he was right to get himself to the police station in order to be cited with it. One can only empathize with Nigella Lawson and the pain and humiliation she is enduring. Several years ago, Laura and I had the opportunity to chat with her father, Sir Nigel Lawson, former British Chancellor under Margaret Thatcher, when he spoke in Ottawa. He expressed to us such pride and delight about her success as a chef, author and television host in her own right. One has the feeling that she will rise to the challenge of dealing with it - certainly better than her husband.
There's always 'common sense'
All of these issues - from politics to diplomacy to society - are 'cautions' that no matter how much money or political success, one can never replace common sense  which, after all, isn't so common. 

Until next time.....


The New Pope's Top 5 Priorities

Welcome back!
Pope Francis I
Habemus Papam! The election to the Papacy of a kind, compassionate Jesuit from Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. This is a remarkable outcome, and has the opportunity to signal a fresh start for the Church in a time of great crises - not just within the Church but in all parts of this world. Laura and I have had the privilege of working with many Bishops and Cardinals over the years, so I have a particular interest in this surprising - and in my view, refreshing - choice of the Cardinals.
What are the top 5 priorities facing Pope Francis I?
1. Modernize the Vatican bureaucracy and financial systems to bring streamlined decision-making, and transparency and accountability. Pope Francis' parents are Italian immigrants, but his South American perspective, combined with his Italian cultural background can only help bridge the gap necessary to create genuine change.
2. Reignite the 1. 2 billion faithful around the world. The fact that the fastest growing parts of the Church are from south of the equator, the election of a Cardinal from the Americas, is a huge step that many had thought would not happen in their lifetime.
3. Use all forms of communications to build a dialogue with the world. That means embracing broadcast interviews, social media and every opportunity to build mutual understanding. Expect to see him travel extensively throughout South America, Africa and across the globe. That will be critical to building the capital necessary to make transformative change.
4. Bring a fresh perspective to broad social issues - including building a constructive dialogue over 'moral' issues, the environment, the poor, refugees, as well as the issues over handling of sexual abuse cases around the world. As Pope John Paul II proved, it's remarkable what a fresh, energized Pontiff can do to move forward on a range of constructive issues.
5. His passion for social justice - read his angry criticism of 'hypocrites', as has been reported by the Associated Press:

"Like other Jesuit intellectuals, Bergoglio has focused on social outreach. Catholics are still buzzing over his speech last year accusing fellow church officials of hypocrisy for forgetting that Jesus Christ bathed lepers and ate with prostitutes.
"In our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don't baptize the children of single mothers because they weren't conceived in the sanctity of marriage," Bergoglio told his priests. "These are today's hypocrites. Those who clericalize the Church. Those who separate the people of God from salvation. And this poor girl who, rather than returning the child to sender, had the courage to carry it into the world, must wander from parish to parish so that it's baptized!"
Bergoglio compared this concept of Catholicism to the Pharisees of Christ's time: people who congratulate themselves while condemning others.
"Jesus teaches us another way: Go out. Go out and share your testimony, go out and interact with your brothers, go out and share, go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit," Bergoglio said."
With those words, come hope - not just for the Catholic Church, but for the whole world.

Until next time...