Take a Break and Consume Some Hopeful News

 If you are discouraged by the continuous torrent of bad news, check out stories written from the perspective of solutions journalism. They can be informative and inspirational, restoring some semblance of hope that serious social problems are being addressed and conquered.

If you are discouraged by the continuous torrent of bad news, check out stories written from the perspective of solutions journalism. They can be informative and inspirational, restoring some semblance of hope that serious social problems are being addressed and conquered.

What people believe is largely determined by the information they consume.

People are bombarded with a wide range of information on TV, the internet and grocery checkout aisles. They also receive information from friends, coworkers and the clergy.

The blizzard of information we experience seems oddly inconsistent with proclamations we now live in a post-truth era, increasingly influenced by fake news – and claims of fake news. In the past, we had differing points of view; now we face a fundamental disagreement on basic facts – from the size of a crowd to signs of perilous climate change.

This state of affairs has led many in the news media to reflect on their performance. Have media outlets surrendered objectivity to reinforcing partisan perspectives? Are ratings and clicks driving news agendas? Will shrunken news staffs focus on “breaking news” at the expense of more time-consuming trend stories and investigative reports?

Allison Frost, a senior producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting, has asked an even more probing question – is there a role for journalists to point out solutions to serious and often chronic problems? In her piece posted on Medium and titled, “I practice solutions journalism,” Frost says the answer is yes.

I practice solutions journalism because: Our job as journalists is to cover what’s happening in the world, and we are largely only covering the things that are falling apart, broken, murderous, horrific,” Frost writes. “Those things are true, they are. But there are other things that are also true.”

Those ‘other things’ include covering “the people who are envisioning and contributing to solving problems.” “We’re socially and biologically programmed to attend to problems, but we need to attend to the responses to those problems in order to solve these problems – as community, as a state, a country, a planet,” according to Frost.

The news media, Frost believes, can help by telling the stories of problem-solvers. “If we don’t cover what’s possible, the alternatives and responses to the daily conflict, death and destruction, who will?”

Stories about problem-solvers and solutions can at once be informative and inspirational. They can be an antidote to alienation and frustration. They can be a respite from an unremitting series of stories about mass shootings, public corruption and persistent poverty. “I do not kid myself,” Frost admits, “that the problems will all go away and there will be no more problems or conflicts to cover.”

As pessimism feeds on itself, so does hope. Solutions journalism is one way the news media can break out of its cycle of bad news and publish stories that fuel some optimism.

Frost included in her post a link to the Solutions Story Tracker™, which features almost 3,400 solutions journalism stories reporting on responses to social problems. They were produced by more than 600 separate news outlets from 135 countries. The database continues to grow. If you despair from all that bad news, check out the Story Tracker and realize there are people trying to make things better.

Don’t Miss the Opportunity to Market to Hispanics in Spanish

 Don’t let ugly immigration policy rhetoric distract you from marketing to the growing bloc of US Hispanics who speak Spanish, use the internet and reward brands that respect their culture.

Don’t let ugly immigration policy rhetoric distract you from marketing to the growing bloc of US Hispanics who speak Spanish, use the internet and reward brands that respect their culture.

Debates over immigration policy have raised awareness of Hispanic people in the United States, but not provided much of a back story about Spanish influences in America and Spanish as a language and cultural marker.

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MotionPoint, which specializes in multilingual website development, has produced an infographic with some startling data points such as there are 40.5 million Spanish-speaking people living in the United States, the second largest language group behind English speakers.

The Spanish language is freighted with cultural meaning for Hispanics, whether they are recent immigrants or have lived in the United States for more than a generation. It shouldn’t be surprising because Hispanic people have left a significant and proud footprint in the discovery and development of the New World and of America.

The larger message MotionPoint makes through its infographic – it is a serious mistake and missed opportunity to overlook Spanish and Spanish speakers. Here is some of the evidence:

  • The growth of Hispanic internet users has grown from 65 percent to 84 percent from 2009 to 2015.
  • The growth of Spanish-dominant internet users in that same period has risen from 36 percent to 74 percent.
  • Eighty-three percent of US Hispanics use a mobile device for product research while in-store, which explains why Amazon.com now features a Spanish language option on its e-commerce site.
  • The combined purchasing power of US Hispanics in 2016 totaled $1.4 trillion, roughly 10 percent of total US consumer purchasing power.
  • Ninety-five percent of US Hispanics believe future generations should speak Spanish as well as English.
  • More than 400 million people view Spanish as their native tongue, making it the world’s second-most spoken language behind Mandarin Chinese. (English is third, Hindi fourth and Arabic fifth)

Connecting with Spanish speakers is more complex than using Google Translate. MotionPoint points to the need for cultural fluency, which requires a certain amount of respect for Hispanic cultural and contributions. Marketers might do well to travel to Spain where influences on America are just about everywhere, from architecture to food to religious faith or to Latin American countries to see their sense of family and their willingness to undertake hard labor to improve their economic lot in life.

The debate over immigration can be raw, mixing together fears of terrorism, gangs and drugs with the aspirations of people trying to escape poverty and oppression. One way to cut through rhetoric is, with MotionPoint’s assistance, to see the broader economic opportunity, to see Hispanics as a sizable, growing bloc of consumers with families to feed and clothe and smart phones to research products and buy them online.

You will be glad you did because Hispanics are becoming a larger segment of the US population, predicted to rise to 30 percent or more by 2060.

[Information for this blog also came from an article written by Robby Brumberg for ragan.com.]

 

Research Can Turn Skeptics, Mavericks into an Army

 If you are stymied by skeptics or puzzled by a complex challenge, quality research can help by producing data that leads to discipline – and disciples.

If you are stymied by skeptics or puzzled by a complex challenge, quality research can help by producing data that leads to discipline – and disciples.

Through quality research, you can convert skeptics into believers and mavericks into disciples.

People will fight to the death in defense of ideas for which they may have only flimsy evidence to support. Talking them out of their view can be difficult and even acrimonious. Research findings can provide a bridge for them to retreat.

The point of research is to point the way forward based on something more solid than a hunch or an opinion. A hunch or an opinion may be right, and research can be the vehicle to provide it. Research also can expose an idea as off base, even counterproductive. Think of research as idea intervention.

There is no better place to witness this dynamic than a political campaign. Candidates or ballot measure proponents gather a group of key advisers, including important financial contributors. They come to the brainstorming table with a range of ideas, many rooted in the successes or failures of previous campaigns. That is valuable experience, but not a substitute for fresh, robust research into the current circumstances and voter attitudes that will face candidates or ballot measure advocates.

Mark Nelson, a legend in the realm of Oregon lobbying and political campaigns, was unequivocal in his reliance on solid research. A pollster himself, Nelson told candidates and campaign committees that if an idea hadn’t been tested in polling, it was unusable. (His actual phrasing was blunter.) His track record of success in defeating or passing ballot measures is unmatched in Oregon.

Nelson understood that credible data trumps impulsive ideas or even past experience. He would say research findings provided the discipline for a campaign to stay on message, and his triumphs proved him right. He would agree that research can convert skeptics into believers and mavericks into disciples. Winning can have that effect.

The Nelson approach applies to more than politics. Business decisions, marketing campaigns and strategic planning can benefit from a richer understanding of the competitive playing field, consumer preferences or management priorities. Knowing what gels and what thuds is invaluable in selecting a message or designing a product or service.

While some challenges require sophisticated polling, many can get by with less complicated and costly research techniques, such as well-conceived one-one interviews and roundtable discussions, especially if target audiences are smaller and relatively discrete. A representative sample remains vital to reliable findings, but the task at hand should shape the form of research. The people, businesses, nonprofits and public agencies that get the most of out of their research investments are knowledgeable research consumers.

Research won’t resolve every difference of opinion, but it can inform your actions and enlist skeptics and mavericks in your army of followers.

 

 

Curiosity and the Chocolate Chip Cookie

 The New York Times story about the overlooked woman who invented the chocolate chip chocolate is a reminder that useful, relevant information can be found anywhere, even in  an obituary, if you are curious enough top look

The New York Times story about the overlooked woman who invented the chocolate chip chocolate is a reminder that useful, relevant information can be found anywhere, even in  an obituary, if you are curious enough top look

Curiosity is a mental tool you want to keep sharp and never get rusty. Curiosity can help you find valuable, interesting information in nooks, crannies and obituaries.

The New York Times has a series called “Overlooked” that mines stories from old death notices about women of note who were ignored. Its latest “uncovery” is Ruth Wakefield, the inventor of the chocolate chip cookie in the 1930s. Her original creation was named the Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie, a paean to the restaurant she and her husband ran in eastern Massachusetts.

Like many inventions, Wakefield was trying to create something else – a variation of a thin butterscotch nut cookie served with ice cream. As related in the “Overlooked” story, Wakefield wanted to melt squares of chocolate to add to the butterscotch batter, but only had a Nestlé chocolate bar. Without enough time to melt the bar, she wielded an ice pick to create bits of chocolate that she poured into the dough. The chunks of chocolate didn’t melt and the chocolate chip cookie was born.

The author of a book about chocolate chip cookies casts doubt on the “dumb luck” version of their creation, claiming Wakefield was too much of a perfectionist to produce something so yummy by accident. Inadvertent or not, Wakefield gave the world a “revolutionary” mouth-watering taste treat.

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Perhaps knowing the history of the chocolate chip cookie won’t solve any of your everyday problems, but it should kindle your sense of curiosity, the foundation for research.

Research is far more than telephone surveys or focus groups. Research also includes talking to people, listening, asking questions and being open to new information and information channels. Research can involve actively exploring what competitors or opponents are saying and doing, and where they are saying and doing it. Research can mean treating the world around you like a library with accumulated knowledge waiting to be discovered. Actually the library of the world is at your fingertips on a laptop or mobile device.

Curiosity may seem like a random way to search for what you need to know. However, curious people have a sharpened sense of where relevant information can be found or reliable sources you can point to where the information exists. In that sense, curious people are like scouts who pay attention to minute details of their surroundings to chart a path forward.

Too often, we fail to scour the past for information. The “Overlooked” series reminds us that history can be one of the best teachers. Did Wakefield accidentally discover the chocolate chip cookie or did she land on it after purposeful trial and error? It is more than a trivial historical question; it is the start of a conversation about our own search for the “next big thing.”

As a cub reporter on a small daily newspaper in Port Angeles, Washington, one of my first assignments was to write obituaries using notes from funeral homes. It occurred to me, this could be a lot more than a rote assignment. I started calling funeral home directors and asking for more details. That led me to contact family members and ask them to reminisce. What they told me turned death notices into front-page feature stories, describing the lives of men and women who in their own way shaped the community in which they lived and died.

Even though I only worked in Port Angeles for three years, I knew more about what made it tick than I did my own home town where I grew up. My job in Port Angeles gave me a license to be curious. It’s a license I’ve tried to avoid allowing to lapse.

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Gary Conkling is principal and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.

 

Poll Shows Americans Dubious about Tariffs, Trump Trade Policy

 President Trump is poised to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum  imports as early as this week, despite vocal opposition by congressional Republicans and business groups. A new poll shows Americans aren’t too keen on tariffs and even less so about prospects of inciting a trade war

President Trump is poised to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum  imports as early as this week, despite vocal opposition by congressional Republicans and business groups. A new poll shows Americans aren’t too keen on tariffs and even less so about prospects of inciting a trade war

As President Trump prepares to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the United States, polling results show tariffs are unpopular with Americans and Trump’s notion that trade wars are good is unbelievable.

A Quinnipiac University poll published March 6 revealed 50 percent of respondents opposed tariffs proposed by Trump. Sixty-four percent disagreed with Trump’s claim that a trade war would be good for America

 “Poll results suggest Americans disapprove of steel and aluminum tariffs proposed by President Trump out of fear they can raise consumer prices, invite trade retaliation and put US jobs at risk in a trade war."

“Poll results suggest Americans disapprove of steel and aluminum tariffs proposed by President Trump out of fear they can raise consumer prices, invite trade retaliation and put US jobs at risk in a trade war."

“Every listed party, gender, education, age and racial group oppose steel and aluminum tariffs, except Republicans, who support tariffs by a lackluster 58 - 20 percent and white voters with no college degree, who are divided with 42 percent supporting tariffs and 40 percent opposed,” according to the poll.

"Tariff, smariff, say voters who believe punishing other countries on imports will do more harm at home," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. 

“American voters disapprove 54 - 34 percent of the way President Trump is handling trade. Only Republicans and white voters with no college degree approve his handling,“ poll results show. The strongest disapproval rate is by Democrats. Eighty-five percent disapprove of Trump’s handling of trade and 73 percent oppose the steel and alumni tariffs. Sixty-eight percent of black respondents disagree with the tariffs. There is a sharp divergence between college-educated respondents who strongly oppose tariffs and non-college respondents who lukewarmly support them.

The same poll asked about the National Rifle Association and its influence on gun violence legislation. In response to a question about whether Republicans in Congress are afraid of the NRA, 70 percent of GOP respondents said “no” and 83 percent of Democrats said “yes.” Older Americans and African-Americans were much more likely to view congressional Republicans as fearful of the NRA and its grassroots political power.

 

US Workers Increasingly Are Part of a Liquid Workforce

 Business are seeking a competitive advantage by turning to a liquid workforce that offers flexibility and optimized skill matches. Workers are going along because they also value job flexibility and career freedom. The big questions are whether a lack of future financial security and automation will wreck the uneasy bargain between employers and liquid employees.

Business are seeking a competitive advantage by turning to a liquid workforce that offers flexibility and optimized skill matches. Workers are going along because they also value job flexibility and career freedom. The big questions are whether a lack of future financial security and automation will wreck the uneasy bargain between employers and liquid employees.

The US workforce is becoming more liquid in what may be an uneasy alliance that gives both businesses and employees increased flexibility. Businesses gain the ability to control costs and hire workers that match specific skill needs. Employees surrender job security and access to corporate-level benefits.

The Randstad 2025 Workplace Report predicts as much as 50 percent of the US workforce will be what it calls “agile.” Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Trends declares “we are moving away from a full-time workforce and skill requirements to multiple workforces and technologies defining delivery. The old style hierarchal leadership is on its way out, along with big mahogany desks and side bar of scotch.”

Managers lose the corner office. Employees lose a steady income.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics defines a “liquid workforce” as “traditional employees and a wide variety of non-employee workers including temporary workers, independent contractors/consultants/ freelancers, volunteers, outsourced resources and even non-human options such as robots, drones and cognitive computing applications.” So much for the claim that a liquid work is all about “people.”

The application of liquid to a workforce can be a bit fluid. Terri Gallagher, writing for Recruiting Daily, says, a liquid workforce “allows companies to optimize competitive performance, react to fluctuating markets and demand as well as balance labor costs and workforce agility. It’s finding the right combination of internal employees, freelancers and technology for each new project.”

The price of that “fluidity,” she adds, is to blur the lines “between permanent, contingent, IC, cloud and crowd sourcing. Leading companies are using collaboration tools and cloud-based workflows that empower anytime, anywhere working.”

Some people may become liquid by being laid off, but others appear to equate employer flexibility with employee freedom. It may actually be a workplace innovation that benefits both employer and employee.

Gallagher provides historical perspective. “We are entering a new era that some say is the biggest since the Industrial Revolution. The way we work, and the reason we work, is changing – and technology is a primary enabler.”

The question that will take time to answer is whether employee freedom to work when they want, control their career and follow their passions turns out to be a box canyon. Will a mosaic work experience amount to a clear picture of a financially secure and personally rewarding work life? Will a gypsy work experience ultimately translate into a solid body of experience and expertise? Will a liquid workforce be just an interim step to an automated workforce?

Hard questions to answer from where we stand today. But liquid workers are certainly a trend worth following, especially if you one of the workers caught in the streamflow.

 

 The transformation of a traditional workforce to a liquid workforce

The transformation of a traditional workforce to a liquid workforce