CFM Research

Lessons We Learned from 50 Years of The Godfather

Few films of any generation have had the lasting impact as  The Godfather , which turns 50 this year. Amid all the violence, crime and intrigue, the movie conveys phrases and life lessons that have become everyday expressions and bedrock beliefs for many Americans.

Few films of any generation have had the lasting impact as The Godfather, which turns 50 this year. Amid all the violence, crime and intrigue, the movie conveys phrases and life lessons that have become everyday expressions and bedrock beliefs for many Americans.

The Godfather turns 50 this year, which is a reminder of how influential the trilogy has been, even though it tracks the lives and travails of a mobster family. 

Phrases derived from The Godfather such as “an offer you can’t refuse,” “it’s not personal, it’s business” and “time to hit the mattresses” have become everyday expressions. But the movie’s influence runs deeper to life lessons about power, family and even capitalism, according to Iris Milanova. “It has so much substance, and it offers some very important life lessons. That’s certainly an offer you can’t refuse.”

(Reposted from March 11, 2019)

(Reposted from March 11, 2019)

Here are some of the life lessons Milanova identified:

  • Don’t make promises you cannot keep. Your word is the most important thing that you have to offer.

  • Don’t involve yourself in other people’s personal lives. “Sonny, don’t get involved,” advised Carmela Corleone.

  • Family is the most important thing in life. “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man,” says Don Vito Corleone.

  • Don’t go against your own family. “Fredo, you’re my older brother and I love you. But don’t you ever go against the family again. Ever.” – Michael Corleone.

  • Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. Always keep a watchful eye on your enemies and play life’s game of chess with precision, dedication and tact.

  • Establish friendships out of respect, business and trust. “Friendship is everything. Friendship is more than talent. It is more than the government. It is almost the equal of family.” – Don Vito Corleone.

  • Violence is the last option. “I don’t like violence, Tom. I’m a businessman. Blood is a big expense.” – Solozzo.

  • Build a powerful community. “Someday, and that day may never come, I’ll call upon you to do a service for me.” – Don Vito Corleone.

  • Don’t take things too personal. “it’s not personal, it’s business.” – Michael Corleone. 

Francis Ford Coppola gained fame by directing the three Godfather films, which he readily admitted “made me,” not the reverse.

Francis Ford Coppola gained fame by directing the three Godfather films, which he readily admitted “made me,” not the reverse.

Francis Ford Coppola, who directed The Godfather movies, wrote a new introduction to Mario Puzo’s novel to mark its 50th anniversary. One of his more interesting observations is that many of the life lessons espoused by Don Vito Corleone were actual expressions Puzo heard from his own mother.

“Mario told me that all of the great dialogue, those quotable lines he put into the mouth of Don Corleone, were actually spoken by Mario’s mother. Yes, ‘an offer he can’t refuse,’ ‘keep your friends close but your enemies closer,’ ‘revenge is a dish that tastes best cold,’ and ‘a real man takes care of his family,’ among many others, were sayings he heard from his own mother’s lips. Mario later wrote, ‘Whenever the Godfather opened his mouth, in my own mind I heard the voice of my mother. I heard her wisdom, her ruthlessness, and her unconquerable love for her family and life itself. Don Corleone’s courage and loyalty came from her, his humanity came from her.’”

Coppola revealed it was his sister who suggested the idea that Kay, Michael Corleone’s long suffering wife, would abort their unborn son. “I loved it because it seemed symbolic and the only way a woman married to such a man could halt the satanic dance continuing generation after generation.”

Many films are unforgettable and have intergenerational appeal. The Godfather is that rare cultural phenomenon that became part of our lives for 50 years – and counting. To turn Michael Corleone’s phrase, “It’s not business, it’s personal.”

 

PR Industry Must Embrace Integrity to Boost Reputation

A new Gallup poll shows the reputation of the PR and advertising industry just above drug companies and below oil and gas companies. It will take a strong dose of integrity for communicators to elevate public trust in what they do.

A new Gallup poll shows the reputation of the PR and advertising industry just above drug companies and below oil and gas companies. It will take a strong dose of integrity for communicators to elevate public trust in what they do.

A new Gallup poll reveals the reputation of the public relations and advertising industry is just a nudge above the reputations of drug companies, healthcare organizations and the federal government. It ranks lower than the oil and gas industry and lawyers.

PR professionals are seen by many as flacks, spin doctors and fixers, not as trusted communicators, honest brokers and problem-solvers. TV portrayals of PR professionals feed the negative stereotype of the industry. The performance of recent presidential press secretaries hasn’t helped.

PR Week addresses the reputation issue in a recent blog that quoted Kim Sample, president of the PR Council. "It should be our moment in the sun, but we don’t grab it. We believe PR can solve the world’s biggest problems, and we need to talk about that more. The council has to take some responsibility and work to set the record straight on the good the industry does."

Talking about the good work PR professionals perform in support of critical social causes won’t be enough to overcome perceptions that some – and certainly too much – PR fudges the truth.

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It would help if the PR industry talked more about its Code of Ethics and policed its own ranks when there are cases of misconduct such as intentional inaccuracy, misleading claims and faithless public responsibility. It also would help if the PR industry demanded authenticity and verification as steps to greater public trust.

The Code, maintained by the Public Relations Society of America, says in part: “We serve the public interest by acting as responsible advocates for those we represent. We provide a voice in the marketplace of ideas, facts and viewpoints to aid informed public debate. We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.” Action, of course, speaks louder than words. 

The perception of PR and advertising isn’t all bad. The poll shows 34 percent of respondents hold a negative view of the industry compared to 33 percent with a positive view and 32 percent with a neutral view. The problem isn’t just the -1 percent net negative perception. The problem is a general lack of trust for an industry that is evolving into one of the major sources of information for the public.

Current data suggests there are now six PR professionals for every journalist. Spoon-fed public releases and manicured public statements have become staples in news coverage for reporters who lack the time, resources and editorial support to dig into stories independently. 

As news operations continue to shrink, this dynamic will increase, not decrease. That puts even greater responsibility on the PR industry to act in the greater public interest, which can include standing up to clients who push to trim the truth or whitewash the facts.

Persistent attacks about – and by – “fake news” have contributed to growing public suspicion and sent more people scurrying to their comfort bubbles to get “information.” PR and advertising professionals must be mindful of this trend and avoid exacerbating polarization as they target audiences with messaging. Legitimate PR and advertising firms also must distinguish themselves from real “fake news” sources.

Integrity in communications and advocacy is the key to regaining public trust. Without integrity, the PR and advertising industry will continue to wallow on the bottom of the industrial reputation ranks.

Integrity requires more than doing your own job. It also requires calling out bad actors. The public will notice when the PR profession points the finger at dissembling, disinformation and fact-denial. PR pros need to get out of their own comfort zones and look at the larger picture of their profession and look at their responsibility to the public.

Where the PR and advertising industry rank on an annual poll is irrelevant to where the industry ranks in the minds of the general, news-consuming public. It’s never too early to make a positive impression.

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.

 

Seismic Demographic Shifts Contribute to Rising Racial Animus

Pew Research has updated its demographic report that shows racial and ethnic minorities are continuing to grow and there are now around 300 nonwhite-majority counties in America, most of which are located in the Southwest from Texas to California. Virtually none are in the stretch of America from the Ohio Valley to the Pacific Northwest.

Pew Research has updated its demographic report that shows racial and ethnic minorities are continuing to grow and there are now around 300 nonwhite-majority counties in America, most of which are located in the Southwest from Texas to California. Virtually none are in the stretch of America from the Ohio Valley to the Pacific Northwest.

Intensifying racial and ethnic animus in America can be traced in part to changing demographics as Hispanic, Asian and African-American populations continue to grow, while white populations remain relatively stable.

According to an updated Pew Research Center study released last week, racial diversification is occurring unevenly around the nation, which may explain differing attitudes toward demographic shifts.

Pew Research says 109 counties went from majority white to majority nonwhite between 2000 and 2018, based on US Census information. There are now almost 300 counties in the country with nonwhite majorities.

The largest number of nonwhite-majority counties are in the Southwest from Texas to Southern California. There are concentrations of nonwhite-majority counties in the South and along the Eastern seaboard. There are virtually none from the Ohio River Valley through the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest. There are two nonwhite-majority counties – Yakima and Adams – in Washington and none in Oregon. 

Nonwhite majorities exist in 21 of the 25 US counties with the largest populations. Eight of those 21 had white majorities as recently as 2000. They include San Diego, Orange, Riverside and Sacramento counties in California, Clark County in Nevada, Broward County in Florida, Tarrant County in Texas and Wayne County in Michigan. Hispanics represented the largest nonwhite population in seven of those eight counties. African-Americans were the largest nonwhite population in Wayne County, which includes Detroit.

Pew notes two counties, both with small populations, shifted from nonwhite majorities to white majorities in the same time period – Calhoun County in South Carolina and West Feliciana Parish in Louisiana.

Even as racial and ethnic diversity increases, whites remain the single largest bloc, Pew says, accounting for 60 percent of the nation’s populations. The largest US counties with white majorities include King County in Washington.

The Pew demographic study also noted reverse migration patterns, such as African-Americans leaving northern states to move to Atlanta and an increase in multiracial Americans.

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 An earlier PEW Research commentary noted six significant demographic trends:

  1. Millennials between the ages of 23 and 38 are the largest adult cohort in America and tend to be more educated, more racially and ethnically diverse and slower to marry than previous generations.

  2. Hispanics are projected to be the largest racial and ethnic group that will cast votes in the 2020 election.

  3. The American family continues to change. Now one in four US parents is unmarried.

  4. The 13.6 percent immigrant share of the US population is approaching a record high dating back to 1910 when immigrants accounted for 14.7 percent of the US population. The percentage was slightly higher in 1890. According to United Nations data, 25 nations and territories have a larger percentage of immigrant population than the United States.

  5. The unauthorized immigrant population in the United States is at its lowest level in more than a decade.

  6. Incomes are rising, but the increase is not spread equally. US household income is at or near its highest level in the last 50 years, while income inequality has grown, especially among racial and ethnic groups. For example, between 1970 and 2016, Asian-Americans went from a group with the lowest income inequality to the highest.

And, here are some bonus demographic data points related to older adults:

  • Around 90 percent of the increase in US employment since 1998 has come from higher employment of workers 55 and older.

  • The labor force participation rate for people age 65 to 69 has risen from roughly 28 percent in 1998 to 38 percent in 2019 for men and from 18 percent to about 30 percent for women.

  • Adults between ages 55 and 64 made up 26 percent of new entrepreneurs in 2017, an increase over the 19 percent figure in 2007.

Customer Experience Is the New Brand Differentiator

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Ever wonder why more point-of-sale clerks ask you how your day is going and whether you found everything you were looking for?  They are carrying out an intentional strategy of engaging consumers in service of improving the “customer experience”.

Improving the customer experience – or CX, as it is called in marketing lingo – has become the new battlefield to differentiate a brand from competition and increase retention, satisfaction and revenue. Business leaders say as much as two-thirds of their competitive edge is based on the experience they deliver to customers in-store and online.

As a consequence, marketing dollars have shifted to CX improvements, based on a more attentive analysis of customer feedback to see if expectations are being met or exceeded – and, if not, to find out why, according to a Gartner survey. An intimate understanding of consumer expectations and the customer journey is critical to guiding strategic decisions at all levels of an organization. 

In the past, product value and service quality dominated consumer decision-making. That may be changing. Some 86 percent of buyers surveyed said they would pay more for a better customer experience on items such as coffee, sports tickets, airline seats and car insurance. Sustained customer satisfaction can lead to fierce consumer loyalty.

CX can extend from virtual reality tours for homebuyers to a good experience on a mobile device. Data indicates there will be nearly 28 billion more queries on mobile devices than desktop computers. Customers like to search for information themselves, so it is important to make the path easy, including mobile search and purchase.

Fifty percent of customers value finding and purchasing what they want on their own. Seventy percent expect a brand’s website should allow for self-service. Some of those queries will occur in-store. Impediments to positive in-store or online consumer engagement include difficult navigation, unhelpful search results, slow load times and sites that aren’t searchable.

Customer frustration with their experience can lead to bad word-of-mouth. One study indicates 13 percent of unhappy customers will share their dissatisfaction with 15 or more people, while 72 percent of customers will share a positive customer experience with six or more friends and family members. One in three customers will desert a brand after a bad experience. 

The bottom line is that if you aren’t measuring your customer satisfaction and investing in your customer experience, your bottom line will suffer.

[Many of the statistics cited in this blog came from a post titled, “37 Customer Experience Statistics You Need to Know for 2019” by Toma Kulbyté and published by SuperOffice.]

 

Poll: Americans Open to Medicare Choice, Not Medicare-for-All

Fresh poll results indicate a majority of Americans think a choice between private health insurance and Medicare is a good idea, but a Medicare-for-All plan is a bad idea.

Fresh poll results indicate a majority of Americans think a choice between private health insurance and Medicare is a good idea, but a Medicare-for-All plan is a bad idea.

A majority of Americans like the idea of choosing between private health insurance or Medicare, but disfavor eliminating private health insurance under a Medicare-for-All plan, according to a new NPR/Marist Poll.

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Seventy percent of poll respondents said a choice between coverage under private health insurance or Medicare is a “good idea.” Only 25 percent view that choice as a “bad idea.” Democrats are the most supportive at 90 percent, with 70 percent of independents in agreement. Republicans are split with 46 percent liking the idea and 48 percent viewing it is a bad idea.

There was little difference in viewpoints between men and women, between respondents from different regions in the country or between big city and small city dwellers.

There were slight differences based on education and age. Millennials (79%) were the most favorable toward the idea and older Americans (64%) were the least favorable.

Fifty-four percent of poll respondents consider Medicare-for-All a “bad idea,” while only 41 percent view it as a “good idea.” As you would expect, people identifying themselves as “progressive” (68%) were the most supportive and Republicans (14%) and Trump supporters (15%) were the least enamored.

For 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, a troubling finding was that only 40 percent of self-described moderates and 39 percent of independents regard Medicare-for-All as a good idea. It is unpopular in all regions of the country and in big cities, suburban areas and rural areas.

Millennials (53%) and people with household incomes below $50,000 (49%) are the most supportive respondents for Medicare-for-All. 

The poll touched on a number of other issues. Here is a quick summary:

  • 89% of respondents regard background checks for gun purchases at gun shows is a good idea.

  • 67% favor government regulation of prescription drug prices.

  • 64% favor a pathway of citizenship for immigrants in the United States illegally.

  • 63% favor legalizing marijuana nationally.

  • 63% favor a Green New Deal to address climate change.

  • 62% favor a so-called wealth tax on higher-income individuals.

  • 57% favor a ban on the sale of semi-automatic assault guns.

  • 56% favor a $15 per hour minimum wage.

  • 53% favor the United States rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement.

  • 53% favor free tuition at colleges and universities.

  • 50% favor a carbon tax on coal, oil and natural gas.

  • 51% oppose repeal of Obamacare.

  • 50% oppose eliminating the electoral college.

  • 58% oppose abolishing the death penalty.

  • 62% oppose a national health insurance program for illegal immigrants.

  • 66% oppose decriminalizing illegal border crossings.

  • 62% oppose reparations for slavery.

  • 66% oppose a universal basic income of $1,000 per month for all US adults.

The Marist Poll was conducted from July 15-17 with 1,346 adults using a random sample of landline and mobile phone users. Of the adult respondents, 1,175 said they were registered voters. Thirty-eight percent of the registered voters were independents, 33 percent were Democrats and 27 percent Republicans. Fifty-two percent were women and 48 percent men. Minority participation was consistent with US population demographics.

 

A Peek at American Pride Before Independence Day

As Americans prepare to celebrate Independence Day, a new Gallup poll reveals a continuing decline in national pride that reflects polarized political views, discontent with US welfare and health care systems and deep disappointment in the US political system.

As Americans prepare to celebrate Independence Day, a new Gallup poll reveals a continuing decline in national pride that reflects polarized political views, discontent with US welfare and health care systems and deep disappointment in the US political system.

American overall pride in their country has dipped to the lowest point since Gallup started asking the poll question in 2001. Democrats are mostly responsible for the decline in pride.

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“Record-low American patriotism is the latest casualty of the sharply polarized political climate in the U.S. today,” Gallup said of its poll conducted in June. “For the second time in 19 years, fewer than half of U.S. adults say they are extremely proud to be Americans. The decline reflects plummeting pride among Democrats since Trump took office, even as Republican pride has edged higher.” 

Before jumping to a conclusion about who is and isn’t patriotic, Gallup asked revealing questions that help to pinpoint the decline in pride:

  • 91% of Americans take pride in American scientific achievements.

  • 89% are proud of the US military.

  • 85% are proud of American culture and arts.

  • 75% are proud of American economic achievements.

  • 73% are proud of American sporting achievements.

  • 72% are proud of US diversity in race, ethnic background and religion.

America is off track on its health, welfare and political systems.

  • Only 37% of Americans take pride in US health and welfare system.

  • Only 32% take pride in the American political system.

There is an unmistakable division between Republicans, Democrats and Independents and a noticeable difference between older and younger adults.

  • 76% of Republicans are extremely proud of America contrasted to only 41% of Independents and 22% of Democrats.

  • 63% of adults 65 or older are extremely proud of America compared to 24% of adults between the ages of 18-29.

Gallup said the highest expressions of pride in country occurred immediately after the 9/11 terror attack in New York.