How to talk about the caravan

As the caravan slowly makes its way to the U.S. border, it’s important we talk about it not in hyperbolic terms but factually and carefully. The media and politicians have promoted a narrative that makes doing so difficult — if you attempt to deny or counter their talking points, you risk being labeled heartless, racist, ignorant, etc.

But you have the power of proof (over opinion) to lean on. A great resource to use is this report by an MSNBC correspondent:

Here’s the key takeaway — “The truth is, the majority of the people that are in this caravan, especially outside — if we can make our way all the way over there, we’ll show you the majority of them are men…From what we’ve seen, the majority are actually men and some of these men have not articulated that need for asylum.”

His report is directly opposed to the narrative promoted by the media and politicians, but his example reveals the truth. We suggest you use it to your advantage when confronted by questions about the caravan. It’s more important now than ever to make sure we have and promote the facts, which you can do via examples.

BEWARE: Early Voting

The media are hungry for predictions ahead of midterms, and they have their sights set on early voting. But as we’ve warned (here and here), making a prediction leads nowhere good. The safe play is to answer the prediction question by pivoting to what’s more important.

Here’s what we mean:

Q: Voter turnout for early voting is high at 8.1 million and counting, with more Republicans casting ballots than Democrats. Does this mean the “blue wave” is receding?

A: “The high voter turnout is interesting, but it’s too early to make a prediction about results and the “blue wave.” No matter which party controls Congress post-midterms, the issue we need to focus on is <insert talking point>.”

Acknowledge the high voter turnout but refuse to make a prediction. The more substantive answer will pivot to a pressing policy issue. And if they push you to make a prediction, push back by explaining that early voting numbers don’t give us the data we need to make an accurate prediction. Sure, it’s interesting that a lot of people have turned out, and that a larger number of Republicans have cast votes, but there is no guarantee that a registered Republican voted for Republicans.

EXCEPTION: If you’re working on a campaign, you have to predict that your candidate will win. No matter how unlikely it seems, a victory is always the right (and expected) prediction.

Why Nikki Haley is so popular

As Nikki Haley prepares to step down from her position as UN ambassador at the end of the year, her popularity on both sides of the aisle has come into sharp focus. In April, Quinnipiac released a poll that showed Republicans and Democrats liked Haley 75-9 and 55-23, respectively.

With numbers like that, Nikki Haley might be the most popular politician in America right now. But why? We think her communication game has a lot to do with it. Here are the three things she does that we wish more politicians would consider:

#1 — She stands up for herself.
Haley has responded to a number of unfair comments about her and her motivations, but the tussle ignited by Larry Kudlow highlights how good she is at standing up for herself:

“When a White House official suggested this week that United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley had suffered ‘momentary confusion’ over the Trump Administration’s approach to new Russian sanctions, she responded with a clear message to the contrary. ‘With all due respect, I don’t get confused.’

Haley could’ve ignored or apologized for the attack, but instead she defended herself with confidence and clarity.

#2 — She doesn’t take sides.
As a female, Haley had to address the allegations against her boss that surfaced in the 2016 campaign, and she did so in the best way possible:

“More than a dozen women came forward during the 2016 campaign with allegations of unwanted touching or kissing or other forms of sexual harassment. Haley addressed the allegations on CBS’s Face the Nation, after discussing North Korea’s missile tests and the plan to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Haley told host John Dickerson that women who feel that they were harassed by Trump have ‘every right to speak up’ and ‘we should all be willing to listen to them.’

Haley didn’t discuss details or place blame, but instead focused on what everyone is seeking — the truth.

#3 — She’s tough.
There are numerous examples of Haley’s “take no prisoners” approach as UN ambassador, but the following statement is a good example of the kind of speech she’s now famous for:

“[In March 2017, Haley spoke] to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), [and] said the U.S. was putting countries ‘on notice.’  The U.S. now will ‘actually act on what we say,’ she said. ‘If you challenge us,’ she said, ‘be prepared for what you’re challenging us for, because we will respond.’

Women are often categorized as shrill or aggressive when they talk tough, but Haley hasn’t received that same characterization. When she’s tough, she speaks simply and clearly and exudes confidence.

How to talk about #metoo

The testimony this week will again remind us of the #MeToo moment we’re living in. It’s tragic, it’s pervasive, and the way we communicate about it will have consequences. It seems obvious that you want to speak carefully and factually whenever you’re asked about sexual harassment claims, but HOW and WHEN you say what you say matters.

Step 1: Don’t do this.

Step 2: Consider this approach instead.

  • Don’t pretend to know the facts.
  • Reiterate that it’s important to know the truth before making a judgment.
  • If a claim seems politically motivated, focus on the process rather than the victim’s authority.

Here’s an example of how you can navigate a reporter’s question about sexual harassment claims you know nothing (or very little) about:

Q: Who do you think is telling the truth?

A: These are serious allegations, and it’s irresponsible to make a judgment before we know all the facts. I hope, for the sake of both parties involved, that the facts come out soon.

When to go public with your faith

In the past couple weeks, we’ve watched two men from two different Hollywoods talk about their faith. One received a lot of applause and praise hand emojis; the other was relentlessly mocked.

So, why the discrepancy? Because Chris Pratt considered his audience and provided context, and Jeff Sessions didn’t. Let us explain.

#1 — Know Your Audience

While most people believe in a higher power, not everyone subscribes to the Bible. To guarantee your message reaches as many people as possible, remain inclusive by using generalizations that most people agree with regardless of their faith – i.e. God loves you.

#2 — Context Matters

It rarely works to apply one Bible verse to a complex issue, so we recommend you don’t. But if you find yourself speaking to an audience that wants (and is prepared) to hear scripture cited or read, you have to give context.

Jeff Sessions may have been able to escape the mockery if he had first provided context for the Romans 13 reference, or he may have realized in the process of providing context that his reference didn’t apply to the larger policy issue.

If you’re unsure whether to talk about your faith in public, first consider the audience:

  • Sometimes it’s best to stick with a general truth that applies to many faiths.
  • Sometimes it’s best to use examples to prove your point — remember, Jesus often spoke in parables.
  • Sometimes it’s helpful to state your case, but not tie your perspective to faith.

Whatever you do, choose wisely. And if you cite a document of faith — Bible, Torah, Koran, etc. — always provide context.

David Hogg, author

David Hogg has been in the news since that fateful day in February when 14 students and 3 staff members were killed at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.

In the aftermath, he and his classmates have made a name for themselves by championing gun control. You’ve seen them in interviews on major news networks and as headliners at the March for Our Lives.

Today marks another activist milestone – David and his sister have written and released a book to serve as “a guide to the #NeverAgain movement.”

This means the media will turn their attention back to the Parkland shooting and the issue of gun control, and you should prepare to answer questions about it.

Here’s what not to do:

  • Don’t attack the kids. Doing so hijacks the conversation and turns attention away from the issue we should be debating.

Here’s what to do:

  • Start by acknowledging how great it is for young people to be exercising their free speech rights, and then pivot to solutions.

It’s a simple equation, but it works. Acknowledge the kids’ involvement as a good thing before you talk facts and figures. Otherwise, you make news by attacking victims of a school shooting, and that’s never a good look on anyone. Just because we can’t imagine the horror and tragic aftermath doesn’t mean we should skip over the emotion and their efforts to deal.

NoKo: How NOT to do a photo op

All eyes are on the summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un as they decide North Korea’s nuclear future. Every step they take and move they make will be analyzed, and the opportunity for Kim Jong-un to use this meeting and its optics as propaganda is very real.

Though most of us won’t ever have to worry about appearing too friendly in a photo op, President Trump and members of his Administration should.

Kim Jong-un is the worst human rights violator of our time. He has killed members of his own family, he tortured and killed American Otto Warmbier, and there are estimates of up to 120,000 political prisoners in North Korea today.

Because we don’t want to legitimize the brutality of Kim Jong-un’s regime, it’s imperative that every photo op between him and Trump signal diplomacy, not friendship.

Here’s a study in what to do/what not to do from Secretary Pompeo’s first meeting with Kim Jong-un:

#1 — Keep your happiness in check

Yes, we want North Korea to be a better actor on the world stage, but it’s never a good look to laugh with a murderer. Maintain your composure and accept the gravity of the situation.

#2 — Remain cool

This photo is much better, but Pompeo’s hand on Kim Jong-un’s back seems a little too familiar. They aren’t friends. They will never be friends. So, there’s no need to act otherwise. The only acceptable contact is a hand shake to demonstrate business has been done.

#3 — Repeat after me

This photo is a perfect demonstration of how to pose with the worst human rights violator of our time. No smile means all business, and the only contact is a handshake which signals diplomacy not friendship.

This meeting will be a true test in discipline for President Trump as he loves a camera and a microphone. Fingers crossed the gravity of the situation will outweigh his desire to say cheese (or start another international bromance).

Religious Liberty, Presidential Pardons, and #MeToo

So much has happened, and it’s only Tuesday. Given the busy, busy news cycle, we thought we’d highlight the teachable moments from yesterday’s top stories:

#1 — U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop

This story has been making headlines for a while, so Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop are now household names. Which is the point. You want to fight for someone rather than against someone, and the only way you’re able to do so is by connecting a face to an issue. The importance of this case for religious liberty doesn’t change, but you’ll win more hearts and minds any time you can talk about a person instead of a wonky policy or legal case.

#2 — Trump threatens to pardon himself

In a bright and early Monday morning tweet, President Trump reminded the Twitterverse that he has the power to pardon himself:

In case you’re asked to respond, here’s a block and bridge:

Q: President Trump claimed he has the power to pardon himself – do you support his claim?

A: “The Constitution does allow for a President to pardon himself, but my hope is that the result of this investigation will be clear and swift and not warrant any threat of a presidential pardon.” Then immediately transition to your talking point as we assume you don’t intend to address presidential pardons in your interview.

#3 — Bill Clinton makes an impeachment claim

Bill Clinton is back in the spotlight to promote a book he coauthored with James Patterson, which you may not have realized because the sound bites from his latest interview cover every topic BUT the book. This is a PR nightmare made worse by Clinton’s hypocritical attempts to label “bad behavior” in others. To avoid a similar fate for you or your boss, remember that it’s not a good move to call out someone else’s indiscretions when you haven’t apologized for your own. It’s best to start with “I’m sorry.”

TUESDAY TIP: Tax Day Talkers

While we’ve cheered the passage of tax reform at the federal level, there’s still plenty to discuss and reform at the state level. And Tax Day presents you with the perfect opportunity to do so!

One way to highlight the need for tax reform at the state level is to use comparisons. Comparisons are powerful, because oftentimes people don’t realize how good or bad their state’s economic performance is until they view it in light of neighboring states or the majority of states around the country.

But there are a lot of states, and a lot of numbers to accompany each state’s economic performance.

For this reason, we suggest you check out the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) just released report Rich States, Poor States. It breaks down your state’s performance and outlook based on fifteen policy variables. This is a fantastic resource you should use to cite data points that support tax reform at the state level.

Now, go forth, play up that state pride, and use Tax Day for good!

TUESDAY TIP: Equal Pay Day

According to the National Committee on Pay Equity, Equal Pay Day “symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.”

Excuse me? If true, this is horrifying. And if true, it’s easy to understand why people usually present an emotional argument in defense of the gender pay gap.

But the defenders are wrong, and we have the data to prove it.

Watch as Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute summarizes what the data tells us about the gender pay gap:

The good news is we have facts on facts on facts to combat this myth. The bad news is we’re trying to dismantle an emotional and false narrative. Tread carefully.

Here’s how we recommend you respond when confronted with an unfair question or false claim about Equal Pay Day:

Q: <Insert false claim or unfair question about the gender pay gap>.

A: “If what you say is true, we should all be outraged. But the reality is <insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, validate the emotion of the other side before you make your case. If you don’t, people will assume you don’t care. And if people assume you don’t care, they’ll stop listening. Reiterate that you would share their outrage if the disparity existed. It’s just you know it doesn’t. So, really, you’re the bearer of very good news. Adopt this approach, and we guarantee you’ll change hearts and minds on the gender pay “gap.”

Interested in DMG’s services? Contact us! We’d love to work with you.