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“Weiner”: Crisis as Tragi-comedy

weinerHere’s the best description I’ve read for the new documentary “Weiner,” from NPR’s David Edelstein:

“…a cross between ‘The War Room,’ in which resourceful operatives steer a scandal-ridden but confident candidate to victory, and ‘The Blair Witch Project,’ in which everyone runs around screaming and dies.”

The film, which follows the mayoral campaign of Anthony Weiner, could have been a comeback tale about a disgraced congressman who turned around his reputation to serve the city he loved. Instead, it’s about a disgraced congressman who is further disgraced…this time in front of cameras that he invited into his professional and personal life.

It’s also a lesson about why crisis communications, no matter how well it’s executed, can’t make up for dishonesty. In one scene that will be uncomfortable for any communications professional to watch, Weiner tries to determine how to answer a question from reporters — not by telling his communications director Barbara Morgan the answer, but by trying to remember what he has said in previous interviews. “I think we’ve got to answer the question,” he tells her. “The problem was that a series of interviews that I did when I got in the race were after this. And people asked is the number still the same? I think I said to…six…and then cleaned it up in subsequent interviews because I knew that was a problem. The question is do we answer it or not? I think we have to answer these questions.”

It’s as much a film about Weiner’s wife, Hillary Clinton confidante Huma Abedin. She comes across as a strong and confident woman who deserves better, but in a situation that is out of her control. (If you ask me offline, I’ll tell you my Huma story, but I’ll just say that while I could somewhat enjoy watching Weiner’s downfall unfold on the screen, the movie is hard to watch knowing that it was Weiner, not her, who sought this cinematic attention.)



What’s Your Medium?

medium-show_7024What’s the ROI of annual reports and other publications? It’s a negative if no one is reading them (no matter how well they are written and designed).

In a guest post for The Communications Network, Ory Rinat, who leads digital strategy for the Heritage Foundation, makes a strong case the “the PDF is dying.” For the first time in 2015, the foundation published its 2015 Index of Culture and Opportunity entirely on Medium, replacing the original format of a print book and a PDF. Take a look — it’s a LOT of content but easy to skim and get key points.

Rinat explains, “The Index has a wealth of valuable data, but…we doubted that many of those who received the book read through a majority of it…What about those who were interested in just a few of the data points, or even a single indicator? Asking them to read through an entire book to get the information they need is simply unrealistic.  We knew that if we didn’t make the information easy to use and find, our audience would look elsewhere.”

Completing the “publication” took less than a week from setup to launch, Rinat says, and “the end result was exactly what we were looking for: a de-facto microsite that looks and functions as well as a custom-built destination.” And it attracted 20,000 views in the first month.

Compare those results with a study by the World Bank that examined the ROI of its policy reports. While the reports are intended to inform and influence the development community, more than 32 percent of its reports had  never downloaded. And only 13 percent of the reports were downloaded more than 250 times. Almost 87 percent had never been cited by another source.

The study’s authors note, “Knowledge is central to development. The World Bank invests about one-quarter of its budget for country services in knowledge products. Still, there is little research about the demand for these knowledge products and how internal knowledge flows affect their demand.”

Not that the World Bank has asked me, but the format of reports is just part of their usefulness and readability. It’s telling that the second page of their study lists 36 acronyms that are needed to understand World Bank jargon.

In my organization, these days we’re talking less about channels (websites, blogs, and social media) and focusing more on content. There are many ways to market content, and the medium (pardon the pun) is only part of the message.




Facebook launches a newswire so it can help the media — while it competes with them

Have you used Paper? What do you think?

Using Social Media to Improve Service and Expand Reach in Health Care

It would be hard to make a case that hospitals are leading the way in innovative communications, but social media is becoming more important as 1) patients depend more on apps, websites, and review sites for health information and 2) the Affordable Care Act makes it more important than ever to add value and improve efficiency. Using social media is not just about having a Facebook page or a Twitter account — it’s about integrating online and offline strategies to improve health in real and measurable ways.

On Saturday I had the pleasure of leading a panel discussion on social media for the National Capital Health Executives at George Mason University. Other panelists were Ed Bennett of University of Maryland Medical Center, Shana Rieger of Inova Health System, and Joey Rahimi of Branding Brand. View slides from the presentation to see some of the latest uses of social media in the areas of health care marketing, reputation management, customer service, education, fundraising, and more. Ed has some great talking points for people who are trying to advocate for social media access in their organizations.