Tax Day is coming.

Monday is Tax Day, and we can expect a lot of confusion over refund size because of tax cuts. The common narrative by Democrats is the tax cuts benefited the rich at the expense of the middle class. But that’s incorrect, and we encourage you to spread the good news.

Here are two important things to remember when talking taxes and tax returns in 2019:

#1 — Refunds = Interest-Free Loan

Let’s not misunderstand what’s happening when you receive a refund from the government. The government is not giving you money, the government is returning your money. The money you receive in a tax refund is your money, but you’ve allowed the government to hold it interest free over the past year.

#2 — Check Your Paycheck

According to Money.com, smaller refunds are likely a result of larger paychecks — “In other words: ‘You’ve been receiving the tax cuts every two weeks’ for the past year.’” This is actually very good news given point #1. Because employers had to change how much money they withhold from employees under the new tax law, you get to keep more of your money throughout the year RATHER THAN having it returned to you via a lump sum during tax season.

Critics are likely to point to smaller refunds as proof that the tax cuts only benefited the wealthy, so use these two talking points to expose their false narrative.

How to talk about the Green New Deal

The Green New Deal (GND) hits the Senate floor this week. Though it’s been in the news since its release, coverage will increase in the next few days as we watch the Senate presidential primary candidates decide whether to back up their vocal support with a vote.

Increased coverage means you should be prepared to field a question or two in your upcoming interviews. The good news? So often it’s difficult to visualize the impact of legislation –- how will it affect pocketbooks, what changes day-to-day, etc. — but tangible examples abound in the GND.

Here are a few of our favorites:

#1 — Cost
Total cost is roughly $93 trillion, which is a meaningless number to quote. Instead, break it down to cost per household = $419,000. There is not one single household willing to expand their budgets by $419,000/year. Not one.

You can also use a comparison to emphasize the sticker shock. The CBO has estimated that the moon landing would cost $225 billion today (which is a lot less than $93 trillion). AND WE WERE ABLE TO PUT A MAN ON THE MOON.

#2 — Eliminate air travel…
…in favor of high-speed rail. Given the recent high-speed rail fail in California, this seems like an impractical suggestion.

#3 — Everything is free
Literally, everything. The GND promises free money to those “unable or unwilling to work,” free jobs, free education, and free housing for EVERY American. 

The legislation is outrageous and unworkable as the facts and figures suggest, and you only need to highlight one or two examples per interview to prove your point. 

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BONUS — If you’d like to stay away from facts and figures, here’s a block and bridge to highlight the absurdity:

Q: Don’t you think the GND is the best answer to a pressing issue?

A: “Why take seriously something the authors of the bill aren’t ready to put their names on? The very day AOC unveiled this plan, she removed it from her website and voted against it on the House floor.”

For the People Act

Though most Americans agree it’s wrong to punish someone for sharing their viewpoint (as free speech is highly valued and continually fought for), House Democrats are trying to codify this type of discrimination into law. 

The euphemistically named “For the People Act” will make its debut on the House floor this week, and if passed will expose the names, addresses, and other personal information of every American who generously donates money to an organization, cause, or campaign. 

Though most Americans agree it’s wrong to punish someone for sharing their viewpoint (as free speech is highly valued and continually fought for), House Democrats are trying to codify this type of discrimination into law. 

While the name of the bill (“For the People”) suggests helpful legislation to stop corruption and expose how money is spent in politics, it actually does something far more dangerous — it makes every American a target.

For this reason, it’s important to speak up and out about it. Here are a few suggestions:  

  • A great line to use: “Transparency is for government, privacy is for people.”
  • You can emphasize that you’re actually fighting for the people they claim to be fighting for: “No American should be forced to have their name put on a list for simply making a donation.”
  • And if you want to make a comparison: “Passage of this legislation is like asking every American who donates money to wear a bumper sticker for the cause.”   

Every day we hear stories about discrimination on social media, violence on college campuses, and harassment on street corners if you openly support a cause someone deems “wrong.” Allowing passage of the “For the People Act” will only increase the frequency of intimidation for those who choose to show support with their pocketbook.

Gov. Northam: A Cautionary Tale in Crisis Management

You don’t have to be a PR professional to understand that Gov. Northam absolutely failed in his response to a racist photo that surfaced last week. Between his initial reaction on Friday to the follow-up press conference on Saturday, there’s a lot to talk about.

We want to focus on something that people in the public eye struggle to do—admit they’re wrong. Responding to a crisis isn’t easy as you risk destroying personal and professional relationships, but Gov. Northam’s “apology” fell short as he gave into the popular narrative of “I’m not that person.” 

Here’s how we think Gov. Northam should’ve handled the situation:

  1. Don’t say “I’m not that person.” 
  2. Instead, admit you’re wrong and say you’re sorry.
  3. And then explain what you’ve learned/how you’ve grown since the incident.

It’s painful to admit you’re wrong, but this strategy is much less newsworthy than a denial, reversal, and offer to moonwalk. If you get out in front of the story, the story will never exist.

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.