B²: An Attitude of Gratitude

It’s been quite a year.

In the coming days, numerous listicles will pop up trying to make sense of (and laugh at) the good, the bad, and the ugly that defined much of 2016. The clickbait will be strong, and we aren’t ashamed to admit that we’ll fall prey more than once. Heck, we plan to compile a few lists of our own!

But we want to focus only on the good in our last B2 email of 2016, and for us that means gratitude. You’ve read and put into practice all we’ve taught you this year about blocking and bridging and finding common ground to win others to your side — The importance of communicating with the people in your life, even family and friends who disagree, is not lost on you. This is the greatest compliment. Thank you!

As a result, the post-election holidays with your second cousins (twice removed) should be no problem, right? Right. We trust you. Go forth.

With no specific issue to block and bridge this week, we want to share with you what DMG is thankful for…

Elastic waist pants, online shopping, and YOU!

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B2 day.

Here is how DMG will answer this very important question while staying true to our mission:

Q: “What is District Media Group thankful for this year?”

B²: “We are thankful for all our clients who are dedicated to connecting with people through the valuable tool of communication…<insert talking point about good communication>.”

Wherever we take the conversation next, just know that you all matter a whole lot. We do what we do because of you, and we’re thankful you’re willing to be good communicators on every issue. Cheers to a fantastic 2016!

B²: A Rigged Election

Over the weekend, Donald Trump and company (shout out to Rudy Giuliani!) began to speculate about the possibility of a rigged election. These cries have only become louder and more numerous in recent days. And you can bet they will continue if the poll numbers increasingly favor Hillary Clinton.

Whether you find any validity in Trump and company’s claims, it’s a great moment to turn the conversation to voter ID laws, and what it means to move through the election process in a free and fair way.

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “Donald Trump has started talking about the possibility of a ‘rigged election.’ Do you think he’s right?”

B²: “We can all agree that a free and fair election is everyone’s goal, and those who meet the requirements to vote should be allowed to vote. One way we make sure those requirements are met is <insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, move away from talk that includes a “rigged election” and similar conspiracy theories. Use this moment to have a serious conversation about voter ID laws, an issue that resurfaces every election cycle. If we want to guarantee free and fair elections, we need to start outlining what that process looks like and why. Last minute cries of “it’s rigged!” don’t resonate, especially at the end of an election cycle that seemingly won’t quit.

For more talking points on how to defend voter ID, read Beverly’s column in The Daily Signal.

B²: He Said, She Said

A lot of people tuned in to witness Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton strike the careful balance between policy talk and entertainment television. Americans want to know where the candidates stand on the issues, but also demand a meme-able moment…or 7.

Last night delivered. With a one-on-one split screen that just wouldn’t quit, the candidates were on full display. And a non-existent moderator allowed both to trade unassisted monologues and attack each other without limitation.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, in a debate without a moderator to interrupt or apply a timeline, how do you defend yourself?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “<Insert Hillary’s attack on tax returns>.”

B²: “<Dismiss tax return claim and quickly pivot to Clinton Foundation>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, very quickly discredit the claim and then attack your opponent. When Hillary mentioned Trump’s tax returns, the best response would’ve been to dismiss it and then attack her on the Clinton Foundation. A worthy attack he didn’t take advantage of, which seems to be the theme of the night…on both sides. In a debate, you always want to move from defense to offense. In. Every. Answer.

B²: Bad Behavior

As Paul Ryan learned last week, words matter. Especially if you want to prevent a media firestorm.

In response to Trump’s comments about a judge’s inability to rule fairly in the Trump University case given his Mexican-American heritage, Ryan said:

“Claiming a person can’t do the job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment. I think that should be absolutely disavowed. It’s absolutely unacceptable.”

Cue the madness.

In addition to asking whether you think Trump’s comments are “racist,” reporters can NOW add “do you agree with Paul Ryan’s labeling of Trump’s comments as ‘racist’?” Two tough questions to navigate and answer well.

Ryan is in a tough spot, and the rightness of his response only depends on what he’s trying to accomplish. Unfortunately, if his goal was to bury the issue, Ryan did the opposite by using the word “racist.”

Because crisis management is real life, and you’ll likely have to tread lightly at some point, what do you say if you’re asked to comment on bad behavior and hope to bury the issue in the process?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “Do you think Trump’s comments were racist?”

B²: “Many, including myself, find Trump’s rhetoric appalling/deplorable. But ultimately it’s the voters who will have the final word on what he says as well as what he plans to do on issues like <insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, DO NOT insert words or phrases that allow the media to define the narrative. Remain truthful, but benign in order to bury the issue. And then pivot to your talking points to redirect the conversation. The question the reporter asked Ryan didn’t include the word “racist.” It was his decision to use it in his answer. A decision that many of his colleagues on Capitol Hill most likely won’t appreciate.

B²: “Lucifer in the flesh.”

When asked about Senator Ted Cruz last week, former speaker John Boehner made his feelings known. In case anyone thought otherwise, there is now no confusion over how Boehner feels towards Cruz and consequently who he’ll vote for in November.

Got it. Thanks.

But what did Boehner gain by taking off the kid gloves? And is his tactic worth repeating? It depends on what he was trying to accomplish. Two things are for sure:

  1. The media appreciated Boehner’s candor as the headlines wrote themselves for a few days.
  2. His abrasive language probably won him some cool kid points. As the current state of politics has demonstrated, there is a sizable voter base that craves this kind of truthfulness (*cough cough* Donald Trump).

All in all, not a terrible fallout…if your goal isn’t elected office or a policy change. But what if it is? Does DMG recommend you follow Boehner’s lead when a reporter asks you to comment on someone you don’t like?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “What do you think about <insert name>?”

B²: “He/she and I definitely have some differences, which is why I propose <insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, don’t assess motive. It’s permissible to criticize policy, but don’t make it personal. Doing so never ends well – the news cycle grabs hold of your negative statement and plays it on repeat for days thereby turning the conversation from substantive to superficial. The result? The audience knows you’ll never pick so-and-so to play on your team, but the message you carefully crafted and wanted to communicate was never heard – major bummer.

How Marco Rubio lost his voice…and the election

With Marco Rubio’s unsurprising exit from the 2016 election cycle, DMG president Beverly Hallberg adds her take on what ultimately led to his downfall:

“Much will be written about the rise and fall of the former Tea Party darling’s presidential run. Pundits will focus on the typical reasons for an election cycle meltdown… [but] Rubio’s failure is largely the result of something else — something he was so good at no one considered it would ever lead to his downfall.”

To read more, head over to The Federalist.

B²: “I’m not a socialist!”

If this had been Hillary Clinton’s answer when repeatedly asked by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews if she considers herself a “socialist” like Bernie Sanders, newspaper headlines, panels of pundits, and Twitter would’ve easily defined the fall out.

Instead she said, “I’m a progressive Democrat who likes to get things done and who believes we’re better off in this country when we’re trying to solve problems together.”

Well done, Hillary.

It’s likely she learned from so many who’ve taught us what NOT to do (including her husband) – if you try to distance yourself from an accusation (whether it’s true or not), the audience often thinks you’re guilty.

A few noteworthy examples:

  • “I’m not a crook.” (President Richard Nixon in response to the Watergate Scandal)
  • “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” (President Clinton in response to sex scandals)
  • “I’m not a bully.” (Governor Chris Christie in the Bridgegate Scandal press conference)
  • “I’m not a witch.” (Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell in response to dabbling in witchcraft years earlier)

If you don’t want to dominate the news cycle with talk of what you aren’t, the obvious solution is to talk about what you are! But DMG realizes that’s much easier said than done. Especially when your character is attacked and you desperately want to set the record straight.

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that allows you to avoid those pesky “I am not (fill in the blank)” headlines:

Q: “Aren’t you just a (fill in the blank)?” or “Aren’t you just trying to (fill in the blank)?”

B²: “Not at all. I’m (fill in the blank of what you ARE)” or “That’s not the case. What I am doing is (fill in the blank of what you ARE doing) <insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, fight the urge to say what isn’t true since the media can (and will) easily recycle it over and over and over. Instead, negate the faulty premise with “not at all” or “that’s not the case” and then focus on who you are or what you are doing. You’ll cut the accusation off at the head, remain on offense rather than defense, and shift the narrative to what you want to talk about. And that’s a message that wins.

B²: Predicting 2016

Welcome to 2016! Not only is it a brand new year, but we’ve officially entered election season. Whether the days and months leading up to November 8th seem exciting or torturous (or a little of both), the flurry of campaigning, debating, and primary voting can easily change the focus of media questions, specifically in reference to predicting an election or two.

Here’s a potential New Year’s resolution – Don’t predict the future unless you’re a pollster!

Many have tried and failed (i.e. all the pundits who’ve said “Donald Trump’s campaign is over” in the past 6 months…and yet he remains in the race). Since there is very little room for you to succeed if you do make a prediction, it’s best to err on the side of caution and redirect to policy…especially if you work for a non profit.

Do you know how to respond to prediction-making questions AND keep your tax status in check?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here’s this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “Do you think Donald Trump will win the primary?”

B²: “That’s for the voters to decide, but whoever wins the ultimate prize on Nov. 8th will have to deal with <insert policy talking point>.”

If you don’t make a prediction, you can’t be added to the now-long list of people proven wrong. And if you work for a non profit, you’re actually prohibited from supporting a candidate – a worthy excuse to use to your advantage with reporters. Instead, focus on policy. You’ll be able to give a more substantive answer and highlight the issue you most want the media to cover. Whoever occupies the White House will need good solutions, so give him/her a few. In the end, it’s a win-win.

B²: 2016 – Persona vs. Policy

The saga that is the 2016 Presidential Race continues this week in the form of two debates – one Republican, one Democrat.

Both sides anticipate narrowing down the field in order to name someone “nominee,” but the media chatter is ripe for distraction. We’ve heard a lot about Rubio’s finances, Jeb Bush’s reset button in the form of “Jeb can fix it,” Ben Carson’s alleged fabrication of a West Point scholarship, Trump’s success on SNL, and Fiorina’s “war” with the women on The View.

Headlines like these have been the drumbeat of every election cycle, but that doesn’t mean they should define the electorate’s scorecard. So, how can you shift the media spotlight away from persona and focus on policy?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here’s this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “What do you think of the <insert candidate’s name> controversy?”

: “We’re a year away from the election and voters will ultimately decide whether this narrative rings true. But regardless of who wins the presidency, he/she will have to focus on <insert policy issue> because <insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, talk about policy and its importance to the next POTUS regardless of party affiliation. Controversies either ruin a candidacy or fade away, but the need for good policy remains true. If your talking points prop up policy rather than persona, you’ll retrain the spotlight on a winning narrative.

B²: Minimum Wage

Now that Labor Day Weekend has passed, you face two very important tasks: 1) put away your summer whites and 2) return to work.

A return to work quickly focuses our minds on the topic of the minimum wage…especially with the majority of Americans in support of raising it. (Hart Research Associates reported in January 2015 that 75% of Americans support raising the minimum wage to $12.50.) With the polling data so heavily favoring one side, it’s no surprise that the minimum wage has become a topic of conversation, especially amongst Presidential candidates.

On a tour through New Hampshire, Governor John Kasich was asked to give his perspective. The Washington Post reported that he “rebuffed the idea of raising the federal minimum wage. He told reporters that any increase in the minimum wage should be done state by state, but that it should obviously increase.”

Not too surprisingly, Hillary Clinton is happy to give her position on an issue polling in her favor. In July she stated, “I think it’s going to be important that we set a national minimum, but then we get out of the way of cities and states that believe that they can and should go higher.”

Much has been (and will continue to be) said about the minimum wage, especially as the Presidential race heats up. But what will you say if you’re asked about the minimum wage and your answer is not to raise it? Do you know how to respond so those struggling to make ends meet are considered?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “How do you expect a single parent to support their family if they only make minimum wage? Isn’t it time to consider a living wage?”

: “The challenges a single parent faces are great, and I have no doubt it’s difficult to provide for a family when you’re only making minimum wage. There is, and should continue to be, a safety net for this reason. But we must look at the unintended consequences of raising the minimum wage <insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, whether you focus on how raising the minimum wage will mean less job opportunities for those looking for work, how it is likely to push people out of the workforce, or talk about the burden on businesses, you have to meet the emotion of the question before you transition to your talking points. Otherwise, you’ll sound like you don’t care about people. And if you sound like you don’t care about people, the audience will assume you care only about money…and that’s never a winning argument.