The assassination of Benazir Bhutto has dominated the news over the last few days and rightfully so. She was a remarkable woman who dedicated her life – and ultimately lost her life – to restoring democracy in Pakistan. As a news junkie, I have been watching footage around the clock since the assassination occurred. CNN has done a great job weaving new threads of news into the story as they become unearthed. As I type this, I am watching the grainy footage of Bhutto getting shot and collapsing into the sunroof of her vehicle. People around the world can get an overwhelming sense of how distraught and outraged many Pakistanis are over the assassination. The CNN video footage of men, women and children whaling, hitting themselves and falling to the ground makes it impossible for a viewer not to feel their pain and suffering.
However, there is an important thread to the story that CNN has missed – and that’s America’s reaction to the assassination. Everyone I have spoken to about the Bhutto assassination is deeply upset and consumed with tremendous empathy for the Pakistani people and Bhutto’s family. We feel this anguish because as human beings we empathize with their sense of loss of their hopes and dreams for a better world for themselves, as well as their children. Many of us have shed tears, not for the impact to America, but for the impact to the Pakistani families who saw Bhutto as the catalyst for a better life and future. Yet for all the footage CNN has run, the sentiment of the American people has not emerged. Even worse, the only footage representing America’s reaction to the situation are the insincere, photo opp pictures of Condoleezza Rice making an appearance at the Pakistani embassy and signing a condolence book. Or, the scramble of Presidential candidates to outdue one another with their knowledge of foreign affairs or connections to the Pakastani government. Is it any wonder why the rest of the world hates us? Rice’s gesture lacks true emotion and empathy. It’s this a-la-carte, iconic misrepresentation of Americans that has bred such hatred of our country and our people. Bush, Cheney, and Rice do not reflect and represent the vast majority of Americans. Yet as icons for our country they continue to misrepresent us all and they’re directly responsible for the inaccurate perception that exists.
CNN has added to this negative perception by not reporting on America’s human reaction but only focusing on the political reaction. It is one thing when WHDH in Boston misses America’s human element, but when CNN, the eyes/ears/voice of the world misses it, the negative impact to Americans is tragic and irreversible.
What are your thoughts?
High five to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s 23-year-old CEO. Earlier this week, Zuckerberg handled a hostile PR situation in a way that disarmed his critics and quickly stopped much of the media firestorm. How did this young babe in the woods navigate a media mine field that has brought down so many notable, seasoned execs before him? He told the truth, took responsibility for his actions and promised the company would stop the activity that caused the raucous. Imagine that. What a radical approach!
The net/net of the situation was that Beacon, Facebook’s new ad system, was perceived by most to violate members’ privacy.
“We’ve made a lot of mistakes building this feature,” acknowledged Zuckerberg, “but we’ve made even more with how we’ve handled them. We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it.”
In two lines Zuckerberg defused the situation. The sad thing is we rarely hear people or companies taking responsibility for their actions. Most hide behind lawyers, deny and/or point fingers in an attempt to redirect blame. Politicians are notorious for this behavior. Think Senator Larry Craig.
I admire Zuckerberg more for how he handled this challenging situation than I admire him for the $15 billion company he built from scratch. Why? Because his actions speak to his character as a human being – something I value exponentially more than business prowess.
Once people find out what I do for a living, I get asked the same question dozens of times a year: Isn’t all publicity good publicity? The answer is a resounding no. If you need more clarification I suggest you ask the following people, companies and/or organizations: The Catholic Church, George W. Bush, Britney Spears, Don Imus, O.J. Simpson, Whitney Houston, Michael Richards (Kramer), Michael Jackson, Sinead O’Connor, Paul Reubens (Pee-wee Herman), Tyco, Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia Communications, Arthur Andersen, Global Crossing, Qwest Communications, and Halliburton. I could keep typing for hours, but hopefully you get the point.
What was your favorite scandal?
“Me too” messaging is starting to reach epidemic levels. Companies across virtually every industry try to stake claims on the same overused, unoriginal attributes and it is getting ridiculous. You’ve heard it all: Best Service, Best People, Best Quality, Best Vision, Best Technology, Best Management Team, Best Price, Best Offering, Most Experienced, Most Trusted, Most Fun, blah, blah, blah. The thing that makes it so absurd is that no human being in B2B or B2C sees this messaging in marketing material (advertisement, press release, website, etc.) and actually chooses to act upon it. When was the last time you said, “Company X said they have the best service, so let’s go with them.” Ah…probably never. All of these claims need to be delivered through the brand experience in order for a company to earn its stripe.
The catalyst that started me on this diatribe was a Ford banner ad I just saw online. The message said, “Best Offers During Biggest Event of the Year.” Hmmmm…where have I heard that before? Probably from every other car company in every December campaign since the Model T was launched! Seriously, who is holding these people accountable for this stuff? There was probably a conference room at Ford filled with a dozen marketing people when this particular campaign was presented. Why didn’t anyone say, “Geeezz…I think we may have used this before.” Did the group of attendees jump up and applaud following the presentation and lament about how this is sure to drive traffic into dealerships? I just don’t get it.
I am cursed because I go through life with a marketing eye. Most human beings would see a sign on a building. I see a design element, logo decisions, color palettes, messaging, taglines, etc. Most of the time it is fun — although I’m sure I annoy my companions with my vocal analysis and inquisitive thoughts. I guess it could be worse. I often wonder what it would be like to be a psychiatrist at a dinner party and have the same curse. Do they psychoanalyze every person they have a conversation with? I am sure they walk away from me thinking, “What a nutbag!” I guess my curse isn’t so bad after all. What’s your curse?