I am not a Know-Nothing

Former US President Abraham Lincoln's statue is seen at Lincoln Memorial  in Washington

Former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln’s statue at the Lincoln Memorial is seen in Washington March 27, 2015. The 170-ton, 19-foot-high statue, formed from 28 blocks of Georgia marble, was sculpted by Daniel Chester French and carved by the Piccirilli brothers. The 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination at Ford’s Theatre in Washington is April 15, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron – RTR4WKMZ

I found this writing from President Abraham Lincoln quoted in an article on The Atlantic’s website very insightful. Applying it to today’s political climate produces interesting results:

I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain,” he (Lincoln) wrote in 1855, in a meditation that reverberates all the way to our current election. “How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.’ When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.’ When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty—to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.”



The secret to “Going Viral”

In a brillant post on the topic of writing copy that will go viral, Seth Godin captures lightning in a bottle. And it will change the world as a result.

There are so many people out there right at this very moment making a living by selling a service to an organization or a nonprofit to create content that will go viral for them. They claim to be “experts” in knowing what will be hot, trendy, and will catch on with the masses. But what they are selling is akin to snake oil. If these sales people, marketers, PR guys and gals, and advertisers where truthful with themselves, they would know that the secret to getting something to “go viral” is that there is no secret.

To paraphrase Godin: Don’t set out with the intention to create viral content. Instead create content that makes a real impact – an impact that must be shared.

Godin is talking about creating content that connects with a person’s passion and experiences. Designing and drafting content with these two things in mind is fundamental to the success of any communication. It is imperative to know the audience you are trying to connect with, but other than that, the framework for content creation should be as free as possible. Otherwise, you will fall into the trap of creating content that is expected to catch on, but instead sinks to the bottom of the interest pile like a lead balloon.

Always be mindful of your audience, and as Godin rightly points out, the rest will take care of itself.

Reflecting on America as the snow falls

In a recent editorial, a local radio talk show host writes about the inspirational nature of Washington D.C.

He says that “If you can ignore the politicians, Washington is a sacred place to Americans.”

He also says that there are buildings and monuments that, upon reflection, deeply touch his heart and those of many Americans.

But he also says that the best part of D.C. isn’t in the city, but just outside of it in Arlington.

The talk show host, a veteran, is speaking of the awe-inspiring nature of the burial grounds that are Arlington National Cemetery.

Having been there myself and having seen the sheer magnitude of the ultimate sacrifice made by so many men and women for this country, I tend to agree with the radio host. The cemetery is the best part of the city because of what it means to America.

And as the snow has fallen on the city in historic amounts, the radio host says he has thought about that cemetery and the guard stationed around the clock at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

When the elected leaders announced that the for the sake of safety the city would be shuttered, the guard at the tomb stayed on watch. No matter the bite of the cold, or how high of a snow pile amassed, the guard was there.

That is what this radio host says he has been thinking about as the media covers this weather event. He even called his Congressman to confirm that the guard was in fact on duty.

The sentry unceasingly watches over the dead in tribute for what they have sacrificed for all of us. To me, this is extremely symbolic of the founding ideals of this nation. It is a living testimonial in a city of monuments. It is, at its core, what America is all about.

So, as more news of the whopping snowfall D.C. is getting comes in, take a moment to reflect on the soldier that stands guard at the Tomb of the Unknown. That soldier marches for us all.

It’s not like they’re running your briefs up the flag pole

I had to do a double take when I read the recent story about U.S. residents fighting for the right to hang clothes on the clothesline. I can’t believe that in this day and age, where so many people are trying to “go green” that there are housing associations that would put the kibosh on people hanging their clothes up outside to dry.

I had no other option but to hang my clothes up on the clothesline to dry when I was in Spain as an exchange student. I’m just lucky that my host parents didn’t live in one of the communities where the “right to hang” is being persecuted.

It is simply ludicrous that there are oversight bodies with this much time on their hands. I have to point it out that no one’s property value will go down because a neighbor hangs their shirts out to dry. It’s a good thing all of these people on the housing committees didn’t live in the time before dryers were invented. 

I’m fully in support of fighting for your right to hang your clothes on the clothesline. It just makes sense. And, as one of the persecuted says:

If my husband has a right to have guns in the house, I have a right to hang laundry.

I guess the communication moral of the story is don’t mess with people’s guns, or their laundry.


Is this newsworthy?

The internet is not a newspaperIn a recent post Heather Whaling on the prTini blog asked “What’s News?
Since I started writing for the local newspaper over a decade ago, this has been a question that I’ve thought quite a bit about. Now, in my position as a nonprofit marketing coordinator, when I have to draft a news release I often have to sort through a barrage of flowery language to get to the core issues that could be considered real news.
Heather’s post intrigued me because she framed her question around the news of the day, or lack of it. Asking why Twitter got more “ink” than Gmail when both had service issues is an interesting way to bring the world of social media into the realm of the news gatekeeper.
I think it would be interesting to inquire of an assignment editor at CNN.com what the thought and decision process was leading up to the posting of the Twitter outage story.  Heather pinpoints the probable response–Twitter is new and exciting. Additionally, an outage effects a lot of people.  But to that point, so does a service outage of Gmail. The “new and exciting” thing is was will get the coverage, though, simply because it is new. You can’t have “News” without “New.”
Heather’s second example is the more interesting one, however. She asks how Sen. Ted Kennedy can posthumously become a bi-partisan mythical hero, when during his life he was the “poster child for ultra-liberal partisanship.”
She argues that his working with senators from the other side of the aisle while alive didn’t merit coverage, but when he died, that was the shining example of his public service career. It just doesn’t make sense.
However, looking at the context of the story, it does.
I think it was important for the news media to highlight the best qualities of Kennedy after he died. When someone of Kennedy’s stature dies, and for the reasons he died (brian cancer) the media can’t play up the controversy surrounding the individual. Instead, the news media has to search for the positive things to say. As the gatekeepers, they feel a responsibility to direct the course of the immediate conversation about how Kennedy will be crafted. They want to be the drivers.
With the growing influence of social media, however, the opportunity for news media gatekeepers to be the drivers on any story of interest’s immediate conversation  is quickly diminishing. That is why it is ever more important for any player in the mediasphere to find the news in a story and get it out there.
In other words, being newsworthy in the age of social media means being direct, interesting, and most importantly engaging.
Photo credit: mfopotos

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: What does it mean to you?

What does respect mean to you?

The other day, I was having a conversation with my organization’s webmaster about respect as it pertains to people out on the roadways. The conversation made me think about our culture and how respect manifests itself therein.

Over the past several years I believe there has been a severe erosion of respect in our culture. It has gotten to such a low point recently that I’m afraid we may never be able to build it back up.

Just a few examples that come to mind:

  • The lack of respect for the purity of sport as evidenced by the numerous athletes found guilty of crimes and also of taking steroids to enhance performance
  • The lack of respect for differing opinions in the health care debate
  • The lack of respect for other drivers, safety, and the rules of the road as evidenced by the ever increasing number of people talking on their cell phone or texting while driving.

As a parent of two young children, I believe I’m tasked with showing them the importance of using your manners and of living a respectful life. But with all of the bad examples out there (myself included sometimes) I think I’m fighting an uphill battle.

Additionally, for anyone that works in the communications industry, whether in PR, Marketing, Advertising, etc., the importance of respect is reflected in the success of the efforts made on behalf of your clients, your organization, or yourself.

For instance, if you are tasked with pitching a story to the assignment editor at a local TV station, you will tend to have better results if that person respects you as a professional and as a source of valuable information. Additionally, in communicating with the assignment editor, using language that is respectful and also being mindful of his or her time will go a long way toward the success of your pitch.

It used to be that the golden rule–treating others as you yourself would liked to be treated–was the standard. It’s common sense, really.

However, I think as more and more people continually treat others with less and less respect, thereby getting less and less respect in return, the golden rule is really just gold plating covering up an otherwise crass culture.

America’s promise is not found in polls

A Rasmussen poll released on July 29 reports:

Nearly one-out-of-two U.S. voters (49%) now say the nation’s best days are in the past, a five-point jump from last month and the highest level of pessimism on this question in a year.

Read full story here.

It’s not hard to see why so many Americans would believe that the nation’s best days are behind it. For instance, there are more than 500,000 new jobless claims a week. That’s a staggering number that really highlights the connection between people’s financial outlook and how they perceive the future of the country.

There is an oft used cliché that perception is reality. As more and more people perceive that the United States is entering dismal days, it will be that the days are, in fact dismal. People won’t believe that there is a way out of the perceived predicament the county is in, and will therefore begin to settle for what is, instead of what could be.

In an America where a man was elected president on a message of hope, all that the people of the country are beginning to see is lost opportunity, so say the polls. However, the America in polls like this doesn’t really exist. Instead, all around you can see and America full of hope and opportunity. It is a country where with enough personal effort, and yes, a little bit of luck, a person can be or do anything. The possibilities truly are endless.

There has always been a strong PR campaign to raise awareness of why the United States is the great place it is. Is that campaign waning or losing its influence?

That is hard for me to believe, because the America PR campaign machine has been churning ever since the first colonists came over. To entice more people to make the potentially life-threatening journey to the “New World” all sorts of stories were told. It’s like in the classic kid’s film An American Tail. On the boat to America, all of the mice are singing “There are no cats in America, and the streets are paved with cheese.” Well, there were cats, and the streets were more brick than cheddar. But, through effort the mice were able to overcome the adversity they faced and achieve their American dream.

That is the beauty of America. That is what the PR has been about and why a poll out the other day with almost 50 percent doubting America is of no consequence. The spirit of this nation always overcomes the darkest of days. It has done it before, and there is no reason to think that it won’t do it again, no matter what the polls say.