CFM

Gritty Positivity Adds Social Fabric to Public Affairs Strategies

Columnist David Brooks deplores the lack of media coverage for gritty, raw and authentic stories about healing and community-building. The same is true about public affairs strategies that can be heavy on stats and ponderous on claims, but light on grit and authenticity.

Columnist David Brooks deplores the lack of media coverage for gritty, raw and authentic stories about healing and community-building. The same is true about public affairs strategies that can be heavy on stats and ponderous on claims, but light on grit and authenticity.

News media consumers don’t have to look very far for bad or frightening stories. They have a harder time finding uplifting stories about people helping other people.

(Reposting from May 20, 2019)

(Reposting from May 20, 2019)

“Many of our colleagues don’t define local social repair and community-building as news. It seems too goody-goody, too ‘worthy,’ too sincere. It won’t attract eyeballs,” says David Brooks in his latest column in The New York Times. Brooks thinks that’s wrong-headed.

After attending a #WeaveThePeople conference in Washington, DC, Brooks encountered what he described as “some of the most compelling people I’ve ever met.” A former prison inmate who connects community members to health care services. A Texas man who assists people with spinal cord injuries. A former Army Ranger who suffered from PTSD, but now builds communities for veterans.

“Why don’t we cover these people more?” Brooks asks. Their stories are “emotionally gripping” and demonstrate how to turn vulnerability into action. Many of the stories, Brooks admits, “was uncomfortable and searing, but the discomfort broke through barriers and moved us closer.”

The stories have substance and include “acute observations” about how to heal, build community and win trust. Brooks believes readers would devour and value such stories, if they were told.

The Weaver movement is repairing our country’s social fabric, which is badly frayed by distrust, division and exclusion. People are quietly working across America to end loneliness and isolation and weave inclusive communities. Join us in shifting our culture from hyper-individualism that is all about personal success, to relationalism that puts relationships at the center of our lives.

The Weaver movement is repairing our country’s social fabric, which is badly frayed by distrust, division and exclusion. People are quietly working across America to end loneliness and isolation and weave inclusive communities. Join us in shifting our culture from hyper-individualism that is all about personal success, to relationalism that puts relationships at the center of our lives.

“Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out that associational life is the central feature of American life,” Brooks says. “Somehow we in the media under-cover this sector. We barely cover the most important social change agents. These people are not goody-goody. They are raw, honest and sometimes rude.”

Brooks’ observation rings true in a wider circle than the news media. In public affairs, the stories that are told are more often just sterile, emotionless arguments coupled with slick slideshows. They can be true, even persuasive, but not compelling. They make a point, but don’t always talk about making a difference that matters to a community. They touch the surface, not the core.

“How did we in our business get in the spot where we spend 90 percent of our coverage on the 10 percent of our lives influenced by politics and 10 percent of our coverage on the 90 percent of our lives influenced by relationship, community and the places we live in every day?” wonders Brooks.

The same question should be asked of public affairs communications, with too much verbiage about process, too much focus on “benefits,” too much hype, too little empathy and almost no grit or social fabric. 

Communities are unmoved by statistics, predictions and promises. They would more likely be impressed by tangible actions; promises made and kept; and raw, if uncomfortable, candor.

As weavers that Brooks encountered said, “Neighbors are people we practice doing life with” and “relationships move at the speed of trust.” Public affairs strategies should increase their focus on neighbors, relationships and trust, so they can tell stories that are authentic, believable and inspiring.

Gary Conkling Image.jpg

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.

 

 

Gritty Positivity Adds Social Fabric to Public Affairs Strategies

Columnist David Brooks deplores the lack of media coverage for gritty, raw and authentic stories about healing and community-building. The same is true about public affairs strategies that can be heavy on stats and ponderous on claims, but light on grit and authenticity.

Columnist David Brooks deplores the lack of media coverage for gritty, raw and authentic stories about healing and community-building. The same is true about public affairs strategies that can be heavy on stats and ponderous on claims, but light on grit and authenticity.

News media consumers don’t have to look very far for bad or frightening stories. They have a harder time finding uplifting stories about people helping other people.

“Many of our colleagues don’t define local social repair and community-building as news. It seems too goody-goody, too ‘worthy,’ too sincere. It won’t attract eyeballs,” says David Brooks in his latest column in The New York Times. Brooks thinks that’s wrong-headed.

After attending a #WeaveThePeople conference in Washington, DC, Brooks encountered what he described as “some of the most compelling people I’ve ever met.” A former prison inmate who connects community members to health care services. A Texas man who assists people with spinal cord injuries. A former Army Ranger who suffered from PTSD, but now builds communities for veterans.

“Why don’t we cover these people more?” Brooks asks. Their stories are “emotionally gripping” and demonstrate how to turn vulnerability into action. Many of the stories, Brooks admits, “was uncomfortable and searing, but the discomfort broke through barriers and moved us closer.”

The stories have substance and include “acute observations” about how to heal, build community and win trust. Brooks believes readers would devour and value such stories, if they were told.

The Weaver movement is repairing our country’s social fabric, which is badly frayed by distrust, division and exclusion. People are quietly working across America to end loneliness and isolation and weave inclusive communities. Join us in shifting our culture from hyper-individualism that is all about personal success, to relationalism that puts relationships at the center of our lives.

The Weaver movement is repairing our country’s social fabric, which is badly frayed by distrust, division and exclusion. People are quietly working across America to end loneliness and isolation and weave inclusive communities. Join us in shifting our culture from hyper-individualism that is all about personal success, to relationalism that puts relationships at the center of our lives.

“Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out that associational life is the central feature of American life,” Brooks says. “Somehow we in the media under-cover this sector. We barely cover the most important social change agents. These people are not goody-goody. They are raw, honest and sometimes rude.”

Brooks’ observation rings true in a wider circle than the news media. In public affairs, the stories that are told are more often just sterile, emotionless arguments coupled with slick slideshows. They can be true, even persuasive, but not compelling. They make a point, but don’t always talk about making a difference that matters to a community. They touch the surface, not the core.

“How did we in our business get in the spot where we spend 90 percent of our coverage on the 10 percent of our lives influenced by politics and 10 percent of our coverage on the 90 percent of our lives influenced by relationship, community and the places we live in every day?” wonders Brooks.

The same question should be asked of public affairs communications, with too much verbiage about process, too much focus on “benefits,” too much hype, too little empathy and almost no grit or social fabric. 

Communities are unmoved by statistics, predictions and promises. They would more likely be impressed by tangible actions; promises made and kept; and raw, if uncomfortable, candor.

As weavers that Brooks encountered said, “Neighbors are people we practice doing life with” and “relationships move at the speed of trust.” Public affairs strategies should increase their focus on neighbors, relationships and trust, so they can tell stories that are authentic, believable and inspiring.

Gary Conkling Image.jpg

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.

 

 

Timely Wisdom from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

Bomb threats aimed at political leaders and a mass shooting at a synagogue have left the nation stunned once again and in desperate need of some wisdom. What better source than Mister Rogers.

Bomb threats aimed at political leaders and a mass shooting at a synagogue have left the nation stunned once again and in desperate need of some wisdom. What better source than Mister Rogers.

This is a day in the neighborhood when we could use some wisdom from Fred Rogers, who grew up a few blocks away from the Pittsburgh synagogue that was the scene of the latest American mass shooting.

Here is a sampler of Mr. Rogers’ gentle wisdom assembled by Chris Higgins.

“Confronting our feelings and giving them appropriate expression always takes strength, not weakness. It takes strength to acknowledge our anger, and sometimes more strength yet to curb the aggressive urges anger may bring and to channel them into nonviolent outlets. It takes strength to face our sadness and to grieve and to let our grief and our anger flow in tears when they need to. It takes strength to talk about our feelings and to reach out for help and comfort when we need it.”

“As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has – or ever will have – something inside that is unique to all time. It's our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression."

“It always helps to have people we love beside us when we have to do difficult things in life.” 

“Peace means far more than the opposite of war!”

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It's easy to say, 'It's not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.' Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

“Most of us, I believe, admire strength. It's something we tend to respect in others, desire for ourselves, and wish for our children. Sometimes, though, I wonder if we confuse strength and other words – like aggression and even violence. Real strength is neither male nor female; but is, quite simply, one of the finest characteristics that any human being can possess.”

And from the speech Fred Rogers gave in 1999 when inducted into the Television Hall of Fame: 

“Fame is a four-letter word; and like tape or zoom or face or pain or life or love, what ultimately matters is what we do with it.

I feel that those of us in television are chosen to be servants. It doesn't matter what our particular job, we are chosen to help meet the deeper needs of those who watch and listen – day and night!

The conductor of the orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl grew up in a family that had little interest in music, but he often tells people he found his early inspiration from the fine musicians on television. 

Last month a 13-year-old boy abducted an eight-year-old girl; and when people asked him why, he said he learned about it on TV. 'Something different to try,' he said. 'Life's cheap; what does it matter?' 

Well, life isn't cheap. It's the greatest mystery of any millennium, and television needs to do all it can to broadcast that ... to show and tell what the good in life is all about.

But how do we make goodness attractive? By doing whatever we can do to bring courage to those whose lives move near our own--by treating our 'neighbor' at least as well as we treat ourselves and allowing that to inform everything that we produce.

Who in your life has been such a servant to you...who has helped you love the good that grows within you? Let's just take 10 seconds to think of some of those people who have loved us and wanted what was best for us in life – those who have encouraged us to become who we are tonight – just 10 seconds of silence.

No matter where they are – either here or in heaven – imagine how pleased those people must be to know that you thought of them right now.

We all have only one life to live on earth. And through television, we have the choice of encouraging others to demean this life or to cherish it in creative, imaginative ways." 

Framing an Issue, Changing a Mind

How would you argue for scrapping Oregon's iconic Bottle Bill or sacrificing personal privacy to keep the Internet free? That was the challenge my Willamette University MBA students faced as they learned the skill of issue framing.

Effective framing is critical to give people a quick, memorable way to see an issue with your point of view. It is an advocacy tool that plays a fundamental role in issues management, in congealing the views of a broader group and even in changing people's minds.

Here are some of the best issue frames for retiring the venerable Oregon Bottle Bill and its 5-cent redemption fee and having beverage containers collected curbside along with other recyclable material instead of returned to grocery stores:

  • "Kick your cans to curbside."

  • "In recycling we trust."

  • "Ban the Bottle Bill. Recycle instead."

  • "Recycle at the curb, the way GREEN was intended."

  • "Curbside recycling. A simpler choice for you. A cost savings for all."

  • "Kick the Bottle Bill to curbside. Don't pay twice to recycle responsibly."

  • "Save your nickel. Recycle at curbside."