.... my 2 cents ....
musings on marketing, media, public relations....and life,
by David Reich
Reich Communications, Inc.
Reich Communications, Inc. is a boutique public relations agency in New York City offering full service in a variety of areas, with specializations in business-to-business; advertising, marketing and media firms; transportation safety; non-profits, and select consumer products and services.
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Most people I speak with agree that we haven’t ever seen such a divisive Presidential campaign as the one we’ve been enduring this year. Bush vs. Gore was rough, and I can vaguely remember Kennedy vs. Nixon – a scowling “crook” versus the Catholic who his opponents predicted would put the White House under the thumb of the Pope.
But I just don’t remember such personalized venom being thrown around like we’ve been seeing lately.
Part of it comes from the ease of putting our opinions out there for the world to see on social media. In the past, most of us would discuss politics with friends and people who pretty much saw things the same way we did. Face-to-face discussion made it difficult to get into personal name-calling, which you might do only at risk of either losing a friend or getting smacked in the face.
But much of it comes from the tenor of the candidates and, in particular, the Republican nominee. I’m not writing this to comment on the platforms or positions taken by either of the candidates, but rather as a hopefully impartial observation of the campaign. Right from the start of the first primary debates, Trump set a highly personal and insulting tone, full of personal name-calling (Little Marco, Low-Energy Jeb, Crooked Hillary) that set the bar historically low for others to follow.
To their credit, most of the other candidates didn’t stoop quite as low with personal insults and junior high school taunts. But it opened the floodgates for Trump’s followers to take the same tone of nastiness in their personal and online conversations.
I saw a post on Facebook a few days ago asking how many others have unfollowed or blocked online friends to try to avoid heated and potentially nasty confrontations. Most said they had blocked some friends. I’ve unfollowed a few people who disagree with me politically only because when I’ve tried to engage them in a civil discussion, they came back to me with insults. One woman who I know from riding the elevator at work cursed at me on my Facebook feed and then started making anti-Semitic comments.
In one week, finally, one group or the other will be happy while the other will be frustrated. Unlike during the tight Bush vs. Gore election, where the two sides seemed to have gotten past the partisanship, I fear this election will be different. The animosity between the two sides has been so strong and so highly personal and nasty that I fear it will not go away on November 9th or for a long time after.
My hope is that whoever wins next week, he or she will lead a concerted effort to rebuild the bridges. Perhaps a bi-partisan group should be appointed by the new President, with Congressional input, to publicly explore ways to heal the divide and restore civility to our political discussions.
And if the proceedings are covered on C-SPAN so we can all see and offer comment, maybe we can begin to come together again. Coming together doesn’t mean we all must think alike. Instead, it means we should be able to calmly and respectfully discuss what divides us as a nation and work together to find common ground.
Maybe it’s a pipe dream. But I do think it’s not healthy for us to continue the nastiness that only serves to widen the gap.
A study put out earlier this week by AAA, GHSA and NHTSA, authored by my friend Pam Fischer, former Governor's Highway Safety Rep for New Jersey, shows that teens are 1.6 times more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash than all other drivers. The total number of fatalities caused by teen drivers has dropped in the past ten years from 8,241 to 4,689 last year, but the 2015 figure represents a ten percent jump from the previous year.
The study -- and common sense -- attributes the numbers to factors that include speeding (1/3 of all teen fatal crashes), distraction from talking on a cellphone or to other passengers, and poor scanning of the road, which is mainly due to lack of experience. Other factors involve bad decisions, like choosing to drive impaired by alcohol or drugs, or choosing to text while driving.
On behalf of my client, The National Road Safety Foundation, I work year-round, not only during this designated teen driver safety week, to call attention to this problem and help engage teens to understand and communicate safe driving messages to their peers, their families and their communities. We do it through program materials they can use in their schools and in teens groups like SADD. We also do it through teen contests we sponsor like Drive2Life, which we just launched for the 7th year with Scholastic, and regional contests we do with the big auto shows in Chicago, Los Angeles and soon for the first time in Atlanta. And we're organizing the first DRV SAFE 4 PA teen/parent event in Philadelphia this week.
This week it's about teens, but really, we ALL need to think and pay attention when we get behind the wheel. As much as many parents believe their teens don't listen to us, the reality is they do... and they also pattern their behavior after what they see us do. So when we blow through a stop sign, speed or tailgate, or text as we drive, we must realize our kids are watching and learning from us that such bad driving behavior is ok.
We need to take responsibility -- all of us -- during National Teen Driver Safety Week and every week. Or it could be one of our friends or family who becomes part of next year's growing traffic crash statistics.
This is a my 2 cents post from Nov. 8th, 2012 -- nearly four years ago, after Super Storm Sandy hit the New York area. It focuses on a certain big-mouth celebrity and even back then he was using Twitter to send dumb jabs at people who dared to criticize him.
The more things change, the more they stay the same, it seems.
My friend Robin, a Brooklyn girl through and through, called me today from her home in L.A. to see how I had weathered the storm. Thank goodness, we had no damage and only suffered through the relative inconvenience of having no power for four days. Compared to what some in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and New Jersey lost, I'm one of the lucky ones.
Robin said she wonders why some New York and New Jersey-born celebs haven't stepped up to make major donations to help feed and shelter the 40,000 or so newly-homeless.
I reminded her that Springsteen, Bon Jovi and Billy Joel headlined the fundraiser on NBC. Others have, I'm sure, offered financial help, even if they haven't publicized it. And some, like Barbara Walters, George Stephanapolous and Diane Sawyer did publicize their donations -- which I feel diminishes the act of giving -- but they gave, nonetheless. (Perhaps ABC pushed the word out, so their stars would look good after NBC hosted the on-air fundraiser.)
But Robin reminded me that one prominent New Yorker -- who NEVER forgets to publicize anything he does -- was silent and invisible after our ordeal here. Where, she asked, was Donald Trump, who has made his riches from real estate in New York and also in Atlantic City. His wealth, in fact, came largely from his father, who owned many apartment buildings in Queens -- one of the harder-hit boroughs. We haven't heard a word about any money from Trump to help his fellow New Yorkers.
Instead, it seems, he's been busy touting his friendship with Mitt Romney and then, following the election, crying like a spoiled baby who didn't get his way. For a man who had been considering a run for the nation's top office, he has not acted Presidential or even like a responsible leader by making crazy statements like "the election is a sham and a travesty" or calling for "a revolution in this country."
He took his crazy tweets down after there was a public outrage, but still... he made these and other divisive statements publicly.
When NBC's Brian Williams called him out for this, he started name-calling and compared the ratings for his "Apprentice" show to Williams' newscast, saying, "Wouldn't you love to have my ratings?"
Trump would better serve his own reputation and his brand if he reached out to help the get the city that made him rich through the aftermath of the hurricane. I've heard from many people who would never choose to live in a building bearing his name, because he has done such damage to his name. To many, rather than representing luxury and elegance, Trump represents tackiness and hucksterism.
By the way, I do agree that the Electoral College system is antiquated and needs to be replaced by a simple popular vote. But calling for a revolution is not the way for a supposed leader to try to bring about change.
I’ll be heading down to Anaheim later today, to represent my client The National Road Safety Foundation at a conference. I’ve been to this group’s conference several times over the years, but this year it is likely to be overshadowed by an air of sadness.
The group is NASRO – the National Association of School Resource Officers. School resource officers – SROs – are police officers assigned to work in our schools. They’re not there for security or enforcement, but more as teachers and mentors and in many cases big brothers or father figures for the kids.
My client is involved because many of the SROs use the driver safety programs that we develop and distribute free of charge. And every year we honor an outstanding officer, as we’ll do again on Wednesday.
I’ve gotten to know many of the men and women who serve as SROs. I’ve sat in some of the seminars and training sessions, and I’ve heard many first-hand stories of what police officers are up against every time they put on their uniforms. One of the riskiest things they do, I’ve heard them say, is the seemingly routine traffic stop. Every time they approach a car they’ve stopped, they don’t know what will be awaiting them as the window rolls down.
The vast majority of police interactions with the public go smoothly, especially considering circumstances can often be tense or hostile. But sometimes things can go horribly wrong, as we’ve been hearing about in the news too frequently. We need to remember, though, that the vast majority of cops are good people trying to do their job serving and protecting us.
The terrible tragedy in Dallas is fraught with irony. Here were people protesting – peacefully – what they feel is an atmosphere prejudicial to people of color. Dallas police were on hand to protect those people and their freedom to express themselves. And one bad person turned the peace into a scene of targeted carnage, aimed specifically at those pledged to keep us safe.
I was impressed with comments made by the head of the NAACP, when he never uttered the phrase “police brutality.” Instead he said “police misconduct.” And he made it clear that the vast majority of law enforcement are good people doing their jobs well. The bad apples are just a few, just as the problems in neighborhoods of color are caused by a small number. We can’t taint an entire group of people based on the actions of a few.
Watching the news here in L.A. yesterday, I saw the L.A.P.D. chief trying to keep it together as he addressed a class of new officers at their graduation from the police academy. I also saw rapper Snoop Dogg come to City Hall to speak with the mayor and police chief, not in anger but in sympathy and support in hopes of opening a dialogue so both sides could better understand each other. To me, that’s a much more productive approach than marching in and angrily making demands and calling for heads to roll.
So as I head to the SRO conference later today, I go with a sense of sadness. But it’s also with a sense of hope. I know these men and women. I’ve seen how much they endure and yet still do whatever they can to be there when we need them.
But now, we all are right to feel sad and angry. The sadness won’t disappear, but the anger will eventually dissipate and hopefully a productive dialogue will replace it.
I suppose it should not be a surprise, but Trump's attacks on the media have gone over the top.
His attacks on the media and on individual reporters at a news conference earlier this week emphasize how unfit he is to be President.
Calling a reporter a ‘sleazebag’ because he pressed the candidate on his donations to veterans groups takes him to a new low.. if that's possible. The media are doing their job when they ask tough questions and continue to hammer when all they get are non-answers or tangential responses aimed at distracting from the initial line of questioning. They do it to all the candidates and others who are in office.
When asked by a reporter if this is how he would behave if he made it to the White House, he said yes. Earlier in his campaign, he said as President, he’d sue reporters and media who don’t report “fairly,” leaving the definition of “fair” to his own discretion.
Major Garrett, who reports for CBS News, said on CBS This Morning that for reporters who have been covering his campaign, this behavior is not a surprise. It's fairly normal for this candidate, he said.
This candidate is hardly the only politician who lashes out at the media when reporting doesn’t go exactly as they would want it. Sarah Palin, the candidate’s partner in grime and also a name-caller, refers to the media as the “lamestream media.”
This behavior in the White House would be totally unacceptable and against the idea of a fairly transparent government. I'm not saying every President, including our current one, has never blurred the truth or evaded some lines of questioning. But civility in government is crucial to maintaining dialogue that can lead to resolution of conflict and building of trust among leaders and the citizenry. Imagine name-calling and nastiness on the floor of the Senate and the House. We know some of them can’t stand each other, but they remain civil and engage in discussion which, before obstructionism, would lead to compromise and things getting done.
The presumptive Republican nominee demonstrates none of that civility. His thin skin causes him to attack -- often childishly -- anyone he feels has treated him ‘unfairly.’ As President – heaven forbid – would he spend precious time and attention on name-calling reporters who report the truth as they see it, or who ask the probing questions they are supposed to if they are doing their jobs?
As President, it seems like he’d ignore the Constitution’s very first Amendment – the one guaranteeing Freedom of the Press. That seems to be in step with his calls for action that would ignore other amendments like Freedom of Religion as well as Civil Rights laws passed 40 and 50 years ago.
I know the media will continue, as they should, asking tough questions and probing… not only of Trump, but of Clinton, Sanders and others in offices high and low.
Right from the early days of this nation, our founding fathers recognized the importance of a free press as a way to inform the public about what our elected leaders – people we pay with our tax dollars – are doing on our behalf. That’s the role of the media, even if some candidates don’t like it.
Re-usable rocket ships, space travel and, ultimately, colonizing Mars. Sounds like science fiction, but it's exactly what Elon Musk is doing through his SpaceX venture. He hopes to get to Mars -- not just for a visit, but to establish a permanent habitat for people. Part of it relies on recovering and re-using booster rockets, which now end up burning up or falling into the ocean.
Bloomberg News today writes about a side product of the rocket launches that have become a big hit online -- the live webcasts of the SpaceX launches. The webcasts serve to inform people about the various SpaceX missions, while exciting the business community and young engineers who might consider working at the company.
Our son Michael has been directing the webcasts, including the one for Friday evening's mission to launch a communications satellite, while recovering the booster rocket on a floating platform. The webcasts are hosted by young SpaceX engineers who, with infectious enthusiasm, explain what is happening and, in terms we non-engineers can comprehend, the science behind it.
In these days of short attention spans, the webcasts make a countdown informative and entertaining.
Congrats, Michael, for great work that the folks at Bloomberg recognized. I'm so proud of you.
To see the Bloomberg story, click here. And to watch the live webcast of Friday's mission, which is due to launch around 5 p.m. Eastern, go to www.spacex.com.
We've had lots of distractions lately, especially on the political scene. Those distractions have too often been hijacking the news cycle, putting the focus on nastiness, name-calling and misogyny by some would-be national leaders.
There's another type of distraction that's also pretty bad, and many of us are guilty of it.
It kills more than 3,000 people every year, and the number is going up as more of us have and use cellphones constantly and as automakers put more gadgets and technology onto our dashboards.
Teens are especially at risk, since they're less experienced drivers and they've also grown up with cells and texting, so it's part of their DNA. That's why my client The National Road Safety Foundation had me organize an event for them at The New York Auto Show. We're calling it Teen Driver Safety Day, and we expect a few hundred teens (and parents) when it happens tomorrow, April 1st. It also marks the start of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
I just taped an interview with WCBS Newsradio, the top all-news station here in New York. The station will be airing it throughout the morning tomorrow, having me talk about distraction and our Teen Driver Safety Day.
It's an important topic, and it's one we easily overlook as we get distracted with everything else in life. So... when you're behind the wheel, stay off the phone. Even hands-free can be a serious distraction.
I happened across a post on Facebook yesterday that asked "If you could visit a place in time, where would you go?"
An interesting idea, and the person said the 1950's. With the post was a link to a site that has an assortment of photos from various decades.
It was fun to look through the pix. Many had those beautiful cars of the time...attempting to look futuristic but now looking classic. There were pictures of people at the beach, people enjoying Coca-Cola in the classic Coke bottle, teen girls in gaudy sunglasses that were the style back then. Pictures of families having a roadside picnic. Old-fashioned buses. Gas stations where the attendant actually came out to pump your gas and wash the windshield. Shoveling out of a snowstorm. Quiet small-town streets lined with mom & pop stores and no shopping malls and Walmarts.
The 50's were a good time to be a kid. Not much to worry about.
Would I trade it for 2016?
It would be nice to go back for a visit so I could again see people in my family who are long gone. It would be so sweet to hear my grandfather, in his Russian/Yiddish accent, ask me if I'd like another bowl of his home-made split pea soup, so thick that the spoon would stand upright. It would be so nice to see my parents, as I saw them when I was young, dancing in the living room to Ella Fitzgerald or Frank Sinatra on the radio. Or playing a seemingly endless game of ringoleevio in the back yard of the apartment building with Ben and Mel and Tommy and Jimmy and Carol and my sister Shari. The family picnics on Sundays, literally surrounded by aunts, uncles and tons of cousins now either gone or moved to faraway places.
Lucky us, we had no worries.
Looking at the photos from the 1950's, though, I see a skewed version of reality. Only one out of 77 pictures showed a black person, and no Latinos or Asians at all. No Jews, either.
I enjoy the diversity of today. It makes life much more interesting on so many fronts. Today's technology enables us to be in touch constantly and instantly, pretty much anywhere in the world. We can get answers to just about anything just a few finger-touches away. And we can drive anywhere without having to stop for a map or to get directions. With jet travel a routine thing, it's no big deal to visit other coasts...of these United States or foreign shores.
Life is pretty good here in 2016.
We have our challenges, for sure. War and hatred, poverty, prejudice are still rampant. But we've come so far, accepting others for who they are and not hating or being suspicious because they don't look or love or pray like us.
One troubling thing today is the tone of our presidential campaigns. They are bringing out the worst in us, showing that there are many among us who would like to go back to the 1950's, but not for reasons I mentioned above. Instead, they'd like to take us back to a time where Jews, blacks, Asians and Latinos were marginalized, where America was lilly-white and people of color -- black or brown -- were kept "in their place," and we all pretty much had to think and act alike.
That's not a time I'd like to revisit, and I hope our leaders and future leaders don't try to take us back there.
An article on the Opinion pages of Monday's Wall Street Journal is headlined "We Need Better Presidential Debates."
I couldn't agree more.
The writers, head of debate organization Intelligence Squared U.S. and an ABC News correspondent, make the case for us to use the standards of the classic Oxford-style debate, where the debaters have more time. They say this format would expose candidates who only use carefully canned responses, and it would force them to be more knowledgeable on issues.
I think I know why the current short-response format is used. Very simply... it makes for better TV.
Longer responses, which should bring more depth to what is being said, can test viewers' attention spans. So the current format, with its loose and unenforced rules, becomes a great reality TV show rather than a forum to inform and persuade voters. The Republican debates drew big audiences not so much for what was being said as for the potential spectacle of seeing candidates, particularly Trump, name-call, mug and make outrageous statements designed to be perfect attention-stealing sound bites. What have we learned, other than this one's a loser and that one's low-energy?
The WSJ article suggests the debates begin with each candidate having a 7-minute opening statement. With the initial field of seven or eight candidates, the Republican debates would have spent nearly an hour just on opening statements -- a surefire recipe for tune-outs. The networks carrying the debates sell commercial time, so they need the huge audiences in order to get good ad rates.
So 7-minute opening statements will never fly on commercial TV.
But here's a solution -- air all the debates on C-SPAN and public TV, where audiences and ad rates don't matter.
The other way to improve the debates in the future is to set ground-rules and stick by them. Candidates should be told in advance that they will have a 15-second overtime limit. When the bell signals time is up, they must know that their microphone will be turned off exactly 15 seconds later -- mid-sentence or not. And the mic should not be turned on again until it is their turn to respond. This will prevent interruptions by whoever is the loudest or rudest.
Ground-rules for behavior should also be set and enforced. No personal name-calling -- it belittles the candidates and the process. Each candidate can get one "pass" for bad behavior, but after a warning by the moderator, if a candidate violates the rules of decency and decorum, he or she should have their mic shut off and be asked to leave the stage.
Maybe then the candidates will be able to stick to a real discussion of the issues at hand, rather than forcing us to endure stupidity like a candidate calling another a loser, ugly or fat, or a mamma's boy.
Candidates can do and say whatever they like in their stump speeches and various campaign appearances. But the debates are supposed to be a chance for we, the voters, to size up the candidates, see where they stand on issues, and get an idea of their depth of knowledge and how they handle the verbal and mental challenges of a proper debate discussion.