As my gift to you this year – tough economy – I am giving you the World’s Best Joke – and I am dead serious about this. It has been thoroughly researched and you’ll find it at the bottom of this e-mail. No peaking now!
A recent op-ed by Steven Corman from ASU, and co-author of “Weapons of Mass Persuasion,” was directed specifically at U.S. public diplomacy, but spoke volumes about the work that many of us do in public communication, consensus, reputation and credibility.
Corman said that some experts believe the solution to our problems with global diplomacy and a diminished U.S. reputation is to more aggressively market and advertise Brand America. He argues that any conventional message we send international audiences is seen as another example of American arrogance and hubris which makes us look clueless, further damaging our credibility. His advice to the president-elect is to demonstrate humility with a frank critique of our recent foreign policy, acknowledging the damage our choices may have caused, changes that we need to make, and communication that needs to occur. This may result in fewer thrown shoes but unfortunately it’s an approach that’ll be tough for a lot of Americans to swallow.
A recent L.A. Times editorial said, “A strong America, one worthy of respect at home and abroad, is one that grants those in its custody their rights, that declines to spy on citizens without warrants. It requires a president willing to share power with Congress and the courts and to subject himself to public scrutiny and accountability.”
Domestically, our federal, regional and local governments often have credibility problems painfully similar those of the U.S. abroad. (My sympathy to those of you working in Illinois state government this month. …)
In general, government officials are most familiar and comfortable with electioneering, lobbyists and TV time, and domestic government attempts to market its citizens are usually seen as ”PR” gimmicks and given little, if any, credibility.
Humility, authenticity, transparency and respect for the customer builds government (and business) credibility. There’s just no effective substitute. You and I tend to trust and like other people (including government people) that treat us well and with respect. It’s a foundation of effective communication and consensus building at any level. It’s remarkably simple, yet usually ignored.
News, Propaganda: What’s the Difference?
Source: Reuters, November 29, 2008
The U.S. general heading NATO forces in Afghanistan wants to merge the office that provides NATO information to reporters with the office that carries out “information operations” against enemy forces. U.S. General David McKiernan ordered that the public affairs functions of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan be combined with its Information Operations and PsyOps, starting December 1. The order is being reviewed by NATO headquarters in Brussels. An ISAF spokesperson called the review “an internal matter.” NATO policy directs the separation of public affairs (PA) and information operations (IO), “to avoid creating a media or public perception that PA activities are coordinated by, or are directed by Info Ops.” Reuters reports that “Germany has already threatened to pull out of media operations in Afghanistan,” and one NATO official told Reuters that the merger would “totally undermine the credibility of the information” released by NATO. Back in 2006, the Columbia Journalism Review reported that the U.S. military had established a group in Kabul, Afghanistan called “Theaterwide Interagency Effects,” to “synchronize public affairs, IO, and psyops.”
World’s Funniest Joke
OK, here it is: A University in the U.K., led by Prof. Richard Wiseman along with the British Association for the Advancement of Science, recently conducted research to find the world’s funniest joke. The tax/tuition payers must be thrilled…those wacky Brits, huh….?
They found 86 that they deemed the best, and here’s #1.
A couple of New Jersey hunters are out in the woods when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn’t seem to be breathing, his eyes are rolled back in his head. The other guy whips out his cell phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps to the operator, “My friend is dead! What can I do?”
The operator, in a calm soothing voice says: “Just take it easy. I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.” There’s a silence, then a shot is heard.
The guy’s voice comes back on the line. He says, “Okay, now what?”
(Apparently they figure it’s funnier if the setting is New Jersey.)
Happy New Year