Tom Garrity

Archive for March, 2009|Monthly archive page

You’re Good Enough…

In Messaging, Uncategorized on March 18, 2009 at 1:57 pm
ssmalley“You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and, doggone it, people like you” – Stuart Smalley
Al Frankin’s spoof on the power of positive thinking is an all-time great moment for fans of Saturday Night Live. It was great parody.
Sometimes people take the issue of self empowerment to dangerous levels where one thinks he or she can will a specific outcome just by thinking positive thoughts. If this was the case, we’d all be financially secure and every city would have two major daily newspapers!
We know better.
However, for our nation’s leaders, being positive and real is a delicate balancing act.
Since his election, President Barack Obama was very negative on the economy. Since elected, he was very deliberate to say this was a problem he inherited (implying it was just the Past President and not current Congress). In the same breath, he was negative on the outlook for the United States economy. Shadowing his comments were real issues in the financial and automotive sectors. The stock market retreated to levels not seen since the late 1990’s.
Two weeks ago, the White House tone shifted. Real commentary on current financial issues was followed with a positive economic outlook. The message changed. No longer did we hear about the problems we’ve inherited, but the solutions that are being made available.
Last week, the focus was on “shovel ready” projects. This week the focus is on “small business.”
The President talks about his NCAA Final Four picks and schedules an appearance on Jay Leno, people feel better. The stock market starts to stabilize. The promise of “stimulus” dollars has yet to trickle out of the Beltway.
In this case, the power of positive thinking takes the form of “getting on with life.” It reshapes the focus from 10% of the workforce looking for employment and provides permission for the 90% of the employed permission to get back to work.
Yes America you are being “handled.” And that’s ok because “You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and, doggone it, people like you.”

Lessons from a Military Jet Crash

In Crisis Communication on March 9, 2009 at 1:55 pm
09crash_650A Marine pilot navigating his military jet on a routine training runs over the San Diego area encounters an issue forcing him to shut down one engine. 
Then, another engine shows low fuel. 
The route his air traffic controllers have chosen takes the jet fighter over a populated part of Southern California.
His aircraft nosing into the ground, the pilot waits until the last possible moment to eject. F/A-18 Hornet crashes into a neighborhood killing four people on the ground. All of the victims are related.
The lone survivor of the family offered forgiveness in the midst of an unthinkable grief.
The Marines promised a full inquiry. Cynical onlookers thought it would be a private investigation never to “fully” see the light of day.
However, as Peggy Noonan wrote in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, the Marines did an about face on past protocol and showed tremendous transparency in their promised follow-up:
They could not have been tougher, or more damning. The crash, said Maj. Gen. Randolph Alles, the assistant wing commander for the Third Marine Aircraft Wing, was “clearly avoidable,” the result of “a chain of wrong decisions.” Mechanics had known since July of a glitch in the jet’s fuel-transfer system; the Hornet should have been removed from service and fixed, and was not. The young pilot failed to read the safety checklist. He relied on guidance from Marines at Miramar who did not have complete knowledge or understanding of his situation. He should have been ordered to land at North Island. He took an unusual approach to Miramar, taking a long left loop instead of a shorter turn to the right, which ate up time and fuel. Twelve Marines were disciplined; four senior officers, including the squadron commander, were removed from duty. Their military careers are, essentially, over. The pilot is grounded while a board reviews his future.
In a crisis, there are always four audiences that need to be addressed: victims, employees, customers and the media. The level of compassion an organization shows to the victims will help to determine how successful they will be in weathering the storm of public opinion.
The Marines didn’t pull any punches. Their transparency showed compassion to victims in an immeasurable way.  Accidents will occur again. However, when it happens, the victims can point to a new level of openness that will help answer their plaguing question of “why?”

Popularity vs Credibility

In Reputation on March 8, 2009 at 1:52 pm
PopularityAs expected, an interesting discussion surfaced today on Meet The Press. The topic was the trouble the Obama administration continues to have trying to keep the recession from becoming a depression.
Once everyone agreed with the Obama talking points, that this was a problem inherited by the administration, real dialog (and rhetoric) started to take place.
A passing comment stating that this was an issue of popularity versus credibility caught my attention. 
The argument was based on President Obama’s great popularity among the people but lack of credibility that he had any experience to propose solutions for a tame economy let alone one that is in a death spiral.
Are the two, popularity and credibility, mutually exclusive? Yes and no.
Typically the two go hand in hand to help establish a brand. In the campaign, your credibility is supposed to build popularity. But, this election cycle, the sitting President lacked so much credibility and popularity that the typical ground rules went out with the mantra “anything is better than what we’ve got now.”
Who is popular: Britney Spears, Mickey Mouse, Tom Cruise.
Who is credible: Colin Powell, Albert Einstein, Walter Cronkite.
As you can see, it is difficult to have your foot successfully planted in both camps.
Presidentially, H.W. Bush was the most qualified person to hold the office, but he wasn’t the most popular.
Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were more popular than credible (ok, I can’t believe I just used both names in the same sentence).
President Obama is clearly popular. But we desperately need him to be credible. His administration’s latest approach of establishing short-term objectives and readdressing strategies based on the changing market will help him to establish a greater foothold in the credibility camp.
Given the choice of being either credible or popular which would you choose? Or, better yet, how do you want people to refer to you: I liked him/her; or, He/she was right.
So, is it possible to be both popular and credible? For a time, yes. But in the long run, you have to decide which is more important.