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  • feedwordpress 19:32:34 on 2017/08/29 Permalink
    Tags: fake news, , media communications, news, ,   

    Fake news is nothing new 

    If you’re like me, you probably hate political ads. There are the people who claim, if elected, they will solve all your problems. Others blame their opponents for the world’s ills. Then there are the special interest groups that raise tons of money to tell you why their message is the right one. Are these messages real or is fake?


    Many years ago, I ran for political office and had a front row seat to the process. I was fresh off a career as a television news reporter when a political party asked me to throw my hat in the ring. I had two things going for me:

    1. I had name recognition.
    2.The man who held the seat they wanted me to run for was in trouble for allegedly publicly pummeling his girlfriend.

    What I didn’t know is what I didn’t know. Elected officials would call me in the middle of the night to vent about their personal life. High ranking politicians said they couldn’t support me and urged me to change my position if it didn’t agree with the party. Then came my opponent.

    As the race neared an end, things were tight. So tight, that in a district favoring her party by 5 to 1 odds, pollsters thought I might win. So, days before the big vote, her campaign sent out a mailer to voters stating that unlike her, I had moved out of the district, was not really a long-time resident and didn’t fully understand the issues. Only, it was a lie or what today’s environment would label “fake news”. I did attend college a few hours away and then earned my stripes as a journalist in a couple of cities before coming home. I never moved out of the district. I never changed my residence and I continued to vote in the district.

    Ultimately, on election day, I lost by less than three percent in absentee ballots. While disappointed at the time, looking back, I’m glad I lost. While it was a great experience and I met a lot of fabulous people from both parties, I became better at what I do today because of the people I met and the skills I developed back then.

    Fake news isn’t new. When I was a television news reporter, campaigns used to plant spokespeople and naysayers at opponent’s events to get their point across. They would put out news releases that contained quotes without attribution. And then, like now, they would pay for air time to say what they wanted to say regardless of truth or fact.
    It’s not just politicians who spout fake news. According to recently released reports, in the 1960’s the sugar industry paid scientists to downplay the link between sugar and heart disease to promote saturated fat as the real culprit. Credible sources now suggest that five decades of research into nutrition and heart disease as well as many of today’s dietary recommendations, may have been shaped by the sugar industry to derail the real truth that sugar was the culprit.

    Like the childhood game, whisper down the lane, people would see something on the news and tell their friend who would tell their friend and so on. After it was repeated multiple times, some of the facts would be missing while others were exaggerated or flat out wrong. I recall spending days interviewing people at breaking news stories, only to hear some of my own neighbors share incorrect information about the story I covered. When I would correct them, explaining I had received information directly from the source, they would argue, insisting that what they heard was true.

    Campaigns to manipulate public opinion and advance personal agendas have always been commonplace, but today’s execution is unprecedented. Researchers from Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Research Project reported a “global inventory of organized social media manipulation”. The report found that social media propaganda was used in 29 countries to issue false news reports, attack journalists or support a government or political viewpoint. It goes on to say that in some cases, these efforts involved full-blown government bureaucracies of employees on fixed payrolls.

    Mainstream media has always had a soft spot for sensationalism and some might suggest that even respected journalists manipulate information. However, in years gone by, most people got information from newspapers, radio or the evening newscast and they were typically loyal to that news source.

    The difference between now and then is the reach of social media. Fake news is fast news. Social media platforms allow anyone with a phone to spread a lie around the world in seconds. In fact, research conducted by the Media Insight Project, a collaboration between the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, says that people who see an article from a trusted sharer, even if it’s written by an unknown media source, have much more trust in the information than people who see the same article that appears to come from a reputable media source.

    Today, because people get their news from other people, and are more likely to believe someone they trust, it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s fake. If someone prefers FOX over CNN, they will believe FOX and the opposite is also true. As my husband frequently comments, we all live in our own bubbles. That means each of us has our own version of reality. What we believe seems more real. What others believe could be fake.
    When we are quick to label someone else’s opinion or belief as fake, that’s the same as trying to shut them up. After all, if I insist you don’t know what you’re talking about and I am a trusted source, then I must be right, even if I’m not.

    Like a negative demeaning political ad that shouts at you knowing you can’t respond, labeling others as fake will only promote fake conversations instead of trying to understand others and solve real problems.

     
  • feedwordpress 02:02:19 on 2017/04/20 Permalink
    Tags: airlines, apology, Business reputation, , , media communications, , Op-Ed   

    Op-ed: What United Airlines should have done – What everyone is missing 

    A lot has been written about the recent United Airlines public relations disaster and most of the so-called Monday morning quarterbacks are correct in their assessments of what should have been done. After a video of 69-year-old Dr. David Dao being violently dragged from his seat went viral, I agree that United CEO Oscar Munoz waited far too long to apologize to the passenger and take responsibility for what happened.

    When he finally did speak publicly, it was about United when it should have been about passenger safety and making sure something like this doesn’t happen again.

    And even though Munoz stepped up to the plate and announced that all passengers who unfortunately witnessed the upsetting behavior of Chicago security on United Express Flight 3411 will get a refund, his public relations people have completely missed the boat on this one.

    If I was advising Mr. Munoz, I would have told him to get on one of his planes and apologize to Dr. Dao in person. Immediately. It would not have eased the turbulence, but it would have made re-entry a little less bumpy.

    Very public snafus are nothing new.  The speed at which they unfold in the digital age makes early response more critical than ever.

    However, early response alone can’t dig a company out of sinkhole. What you say first is equally important. In United’s first statement, Munoz said: “This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United.”  That makes it about United, not about the passengers.

    Perhaps he should have learned a lesson from former BP CEO Tony Hayward’s terrible handling of the Gulf coast oil spill in 2010. Yes, he apologized, but that was followed by “There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back.”

    Apologies, even when heartfelt, do not make everything okay, especially when the words you use signal that you are sorry for yourself.

    In times of crisis, people want leaders who take time to genuinely understand what it feels like to walk in the shoes of those affected by whatever happened. They want the truth, not some legalese version designed to protect the organization. They want to know how companies will fix things moving forward. Like an experienced pilot, trusted to navigate the stormy skies, people want leaders they can trust to make things right.

    When I was little and tried to apologize my way out of bad behavior, my mother used to tell me that “actions speak louder than words”. In this case, actions speak louder than PR, which stands for public relations. True PR however, is personal relations. A personal visit to Dr. Dao should have been a top priority.

     
  • feedwordpress 17:31:05 on 2017/04/11 Permalink
    Tags: , , media communications, , political, Politicians,   

    Leadership Lessons from Political Campaigns 

    As I exited Amtrak at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station and made my way to the escalator destined upward to the grand train lobby, the oddest thing happened. The moving staircase that was still packed with people heading down to the train platform suddenly changed directions and headed up. Like a scene from a bad You Tube clip, surprised passengers stumbled over their own feet trying to walk down the up staircase while spectators laughed out loud when suddenly, the irony of the situation struck me.

    How often do we step backward when trying to move forward? How frequently are our personal and professional goals thwarted with unanticipated hurdles that threaten to prevent us from accomplishing our goals? The lesson is not in the answers to these questions but rather how we learn to turn these mis-steps to our advantage. I believe some of the best examples can be found in political campaigns which can teach leaders’ volumes about communicating more effectively in today’s fast-paced attention challenged workplace.

    More than a decade ago, I ran for the Pennsylvania state house and lost in one of the closest state races in the Commonwealth’s history.  At the time, I was hard at work building my own business which included coaching and training members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. The state representative in my district had received a lot of negative press for allegedly smacking his girlfriend in public so opposing party leadership saw a good opportunity to reclaim the seat and thought tapping a former television reporter with name recognition was a great strategy. When I was first approached, I laughed out loud as the conversation went something like this.

    Leadership: “How would you like to run for PA House?’
    Me: “Not a chance.”
    Leadership: “Why not?”
    Me: “Should I tell you the truth or tell you what you want to hear?”
    Leadership: “Oh please, we want the truth.”
    Me: “For starters, I’ve interviewed hundreds of politicians and was never that impressed so no offense, but I have no real desire to be like any of you.”

    Then I signed up.

    Like any product, promise, service or idea, the key is to inspire and motivate so people believe in what you’re selling. As an example, politicians have to sell themselves every time they speak. Let’s say a candidate appears warm, friendly and sincere but when you meet them in person, they are scowling, not as happy as they appeared on TV, offer a droopy handshake and seem distracted as you speak to them. You would probably re-think your decision to vote for that person just as you would probably not be inclined to follow their lead in the workplace.

    While social networks were not as prominent when I ran for office, they were already forcing people to have conversations in order to motivate and empower others. That meant talking with listeners instead of at them as I had learned form a twenty year career in television news. When we interviewed people, they wanted to share their stories. When we edited it for broadcast, we wanted snippets of information that made our viewers and listeners feel what it must have been like to be at the scene of that story. That meant making information relevant to others.

    Step One: Keep the Conversation Real
    When I ran for office, urban sprawl was a hot issue and my opponent was a member of the township planning commission and a self-proclaimed topic expert. Every time we were both questioned about it, she talked from experience and was usually quoted. I was not. That’s when I realized I needed to keep the conversation real and speak people’s language so I changed my approach. The next time I was interviewed I said: “Traffic has gotten so bad out here in Montgomery County, that I could balance my checkbook on the way home from work.” Granted, you don’t need a college education to come up with that one, but it resonated with readers and every time I said it, I got quoted so of course, I said it all the time.

    Politicians understand the importance of using real life examples and storytelling to impact listeners but business communicators often lag behind fearing what’s appropriate in other settings is not appropriate in the workplace. Quite the opposite is true. In medicine, it’s the stories of sick patients that inspire researchers to search for cures. In war time, we cling to stories that offer hope about people who have overcome insurmountable odds. The stories of grief, hope and optimism that immediately followed the horrific events of September 11, 2001 are forever etched into our personal and national psyche. Stories are real and create rapport communicators need to share if they hope to drive the message home.

    Step Two: Be Accountable
    In my campaign office, we had a young woman in charge of our door to door walking campaign. It was up to her to determine what neighborhoods we canvassed and how many times we returned. There was a big map in the office with colored pins stuck on streets that illustrated where we had trudged. Shortly before the election, I noticed we missed an entire section of the district. When I questioned her, she became very defensive and claimed her strategy never included campaigning in this area. As it turned out, she made a mistake and was embarrassed to admit it. If she had taken responsibility, we could have changed course and potentially secured additional votes.

    When people are unaccountable, they often make excuses, blame others or play dumb which can create an atmosphere of mistrust. In campaigns as well as business, accepting responsibility and not being afraid to say you erred in judgment makes you real and can actually increase confidence in your ability to lead.

    Step Three: Have Heart
    My older son was only nine during my short lived political career but he taught me a lesson I will never forget. It was a very competitive race where many people said they would only vote their party regardless of personal beliefs. On election night, my son and husband were assigned to hand out literature at a polling place. Every time someone would walk in the door, he would run up to them, hand out my flyer and scream “vote for my mom”. On the way out of the voting booth, an older man grabbed my husband’s arm and said: “I’ve never voted for another party in my life until tonight and I did it because of your son.”

    Without knowing it, this nine year old instinctually knew that politicians can’t win races without good grassroots organizations, but more importantly, he cut through the politics and grabbed at their hearts.

     
  • feedwordpress 20:20:11 on 2016/12/09 Permalink
    Tags: , , customer service, customers, doing business, , internet, , media communications, , Xfinity   

    Make it easy to do business with you 

    It was in the crunch of early morning emails when I realized the internet wasn’t working. I immediately started trouble shooting. I rebooted my computer, turned the internet router off and then back on, and pushed a few unnamed blinking buttons on the box. Nothing worked, so I took the next measure. I texted my husband who was away on a business trip.

    Me:                    The internet isn’t working and I don’t know why.

    Husband:         Turn the power strip off, wait a minute and turn it back on.

    Me:                    What about the button that says WPS?

    Husband:         Don’t touch it.

    Me:                    Oops, I already did, now what?

    Husband:         I don’t know, call Xfinity.

    So I did and immediately got a recording saying they were aware of internet outages and were working on it. Then the voice advised me to log onto www.Xfinity.com to check for updates.

    Seriously? Did they really say that after acknowledging that the internet was down? I could probably log on from my phone or iPad, but not everyone has an additional device. If the internet is out, then why would you direct people to your website for additional information?

    Communicating robotically or thoughtlessly is almost as bad as not communicating at all. Part of your job as a service provider is to make life easy for your clients and customers. Given the wealth of competition and options, I would think you would strive for people to tell others how easy it is to do business with you.  When it’s not, it’s frustrating and sometimes, hard to keep your cool.

    As another example, earlier this year we were awarded a contract with a corporation that attempted to simplify complicated billing procedures by hiring a third party to process vendor invoices. However, this required completing multiple forms, submitting pages of documentation, completing numerous questionnaires and being bombarded by e-mails from a variety of different company departments. When we finally received approval to bill through their on-line-system, their system wouldn’t accept our invoices.

    It turns out the so-called simplified process required many more steps, approvals, signatures and actually made the invoice submission even more complicated than the original process. Unfortunately, the client, who clearly has more pressing tasks than navigating a new invoice approval system, had to spend months digging through the corporate maze to file additional work statements so she could continue to work with us and so we could get paid.

    In an effort to shed some light on the issue and help the third party become more customer friendly and efficient, I called and made a few suggestions. Instead of listening or trying to understand my frustration, they defensively rattled off a bunch of IT jargon as an explanation as to why a cumbersome system was necessary.

    If that’s not frustrating enough, when we were directed to re-submit the additional information through yet another new improved portal, the system rejected it again. Back to the phone, a young woman, clearly confused and bewildered, finally diagnosed the problem.

    “You can’t submit the exact amount you’re owed” she observed.

    Now it was my turn to be confused and bewildered so I asked why.

    “You have to round off numbers when you submit your invoice” she answered.

    I explained that when expenses are added to professional fees, numbers don’t always round off evenly. She said other vendors had also complained, but if we didn’t do things the way the system is set up, we’d have to call the client and have them start the entire process over.

    Why would a customer want to continue to do business with us or anyone if it’s complicated and time-consuming? It doesn’t matter that we’re victims of a cumbersome system. To the client, it’s just one big hassle. It’s like calling a customer service number and being asked for your account number three times by three different people after you’ve already punched the number into phone. Annoying. Frustrating. You want to hang up. To me, this says the company’s priorities are out of whack.

    According to a Customer Experience Board survey, meeting and exceeding customer expectations is not enough. The survey found minimal customer effort impacts customer loyalty more than anything else. So, if you want to make it easy to do business with customers or their customers, start by asking how you can make things easy for them?

    Technology is a good place to start. Just because you put an on line system in place to keep up with the times, doesn’t mean you’re making things easier for your customer. Like you, your customers are busy people. They value time. Complex multiple-step technology makes them work harder and robs them of important hours. So how do we make life easier for customers so they want to keep doing business with us?

    1. Pay attention. If numerous customers are complaining, listen. It doesn’t mean you need to throw out the rules and do everything they say. It does mean being flexible so you can make changes that make things better for your customers.
    1. No excuses. Instead of being defensive or making excuses, focus on fixing the trouble and being a problem solver.
    1. Sit in their seats. If the customer is clearly in pain, ask questions to better understand the issues and make them feel their opinion truly matters.
    1. Nix the biz speak. Instead of rattling off internal jargon to sound smart, help customers through the process. That means speaking their language, not yours.
    1. Replace “I” with “you”. When we continually use the word “I”, it’s about you. When we use the word “you”, it’s about them. Focus on the customers needs, not your own.

    Finally, communicating is not about talking. It’s about connecting. That means being empathetic to your customers concerns, even if you don’t have an immediate solution. Most of us simply want our feelings acknowledged. When someone makes a true effort to understand the customer, that customer feels valued. A valued customer is likely to hang in there with you because ultimately, they believe you will do what’s best for them.

     
  • feedwordpress 17:16:44 on 2016/11/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , , media communications, , , Questions and Answers, ,   

    Quick Tip #64: Handling Questions and Answers 

     

    All it takes is one challenger to sabotage the hard work you put into your presentation. These tips will help you handle your next Q and A with ease.

     
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