Strike Two for Senator Bunning?

Posted on March 1, 2010 by 2 Comments

Any pitcher in Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame should know the importance of hiding your signals.  So what was going through former MLB pitcher and current U.S. Senator Jim Bunning’s (R-Kentucky) mind when he flashed a certain middle finger signal to an ABC News producer? Was he calling for a high hard one? A curve ball? A change-up?  

Or perhaps it is just vivid evidence of what outgoing Senator Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) has called the lack of civility in the Senate of the United States.

Bunning’s “flipping of the bird” came amid his efforts to block passage of a $10 million bill to extend unemployment and health insurance benefits to Americans who are out of work.

We all have had emotional lapses, but most of us learn from our mistakes and try to control any repeat outbursts. Evidently, Senator Bunning is beyond help in that regard. Last week the senator allegedly muttered “tough sh-t” as Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) criticized Bunning’s stance on the package.

Rule No. 1 in crisis and issues management:  Never let your emotions get the better of you, no matter how tense the situation. That rule is especially true if you are in the presence of a journalist — a producer for network news nonetheless.

Identity Crisis. What American Corporations Can Learn from an “Invisible” TV Character.

Posted on February 5, 2010 by 1 Comment

I’m showing my age here, but a recent article on the front page of The Wall Street Journal rekindled memories of the American sitcom Soapwhich aired on ABC from 1977 to 1981.

This classic series, a parody of day-time soap operas, chronicled the foibles of two dysfunctional Connecticut families.  Richard Mulligan played the role of Burt Campbell, who suffers from mental illness and believes he can make himself invisible by closing his eyes and snapping his fingers.  After snapping his fingers, he would simply go about whatever he was doing believing he was invisible to everyone around him.

The article that made me remember invisible Burt had nothing to do with television sitcoms, but in many respects, the topic was just as comical.  Apparently, some luxury hotels are dropping the words “resort” and “spa” from their names in order to retain corporate clients currently under scrutiny for largesse.

Snap your fingers, and – “Poof!” – you’re no longer a resort. 

Just how stupid do these resorts, um I mean conference hotels, think people are?  More to the point, how stupid are corporations that still book meetings at these facilities, believing that no one will notice there’s a lavish party going on poolside?  Or are those companies suffering from the same mental malady as the fictional Burt Campbell?

I sympathize with the hotel industry, which is trying to keep a lucrative business model alive in the wake of the outrage that followed reports that AIG was planning a $400,000 party at a California resort — on the heels of receiving a $180 billion government bailout.  Adopting a more pedestrian name, however, is not a solution to the crisis of confidence faced by American corporations. 

Current perceptions are being shaped by sincere changes in behavior.  Smoke and mirror solutions are about as effective as Burt snapping his fingers.   It is okay to have offsite business meetings.  It is even okay to allow employees to have a little fun at these meetings.  But the day of the egregious junket is over.  The sooner companies accept and embrace the realities of this new world, the faster confidence in big business will be restored.   Conducting business as usual at a “non-resort” resort, however, is recipe for a public relations disaster.

Even Burt eventually figured out that he wasn’t really invisible.

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