CEOs, Michael Cohen, AT&T, Annapolis, Detroit, Cincinnati, Elon Musk, Warren Buffett
The Weekly | Brigadoon
May 13, 2018
Curation and commentary from Marc A. Ross
Reporting from Alexandria, Virginia
The Weekly = Enterprise + Culture + Sport + Policy
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What CEOs need to learn from Michael Cohen and AT&T
One of my all-time favorite political campaign books is The Selling of the President.
Written by Joe McGinnis, the book covers the story of how Richard Nixon was repackaged and reshaped for the American public as a candidate for president in 1968. Eight years after Nixon’s losing presidential campaign and his lackluster television performance at the Nixon-Kennedy debate, he faced all the old image problems.
Nixon hired then 28-year old Roger Ailes to remake his image. An image that would win at the ballot box, and more importantly, on television. Ailes created television moments that made Nixon, not smart, not knowledgeable, but well-liked. Ailes created television moments that engaged numerous constituents on their terms.
1968 was no time for policy, it was a time for charismatic personality and shared values.
McGinnis’ book makes clear, presidential candidates can be rebranded and remarketed. Television does not expose and demystify the powerful. Instead, it makes personality stronger. Television ensures style is substance.
David Miller, of the legendary political consultancy Sawyer Miller, saw how television and mass communications would change not only candidates but commerce. He wrote in an article for the Yale School of Organization and Management that just like candidates, if done correctly, corporations could use the tools of television and campaign management to ensure market size and good paying consumers.
Miller wrote: “Corporations must recognize that it is now in their long-term self-interest to develop much more democratic relationships with all of their shareholders, community members, and the public at large.”
Miller foresaw how the corporate world was quickly resembling a politician’s world and how a politician relates to constituents.
As information channels increase, multiply, focus on niches and distinct tastes and thoughts, corporations need to forge an emotional bond with their various constituents - just like a politician.
The only sensible and meaningful way to do is - establish a relationship and commercial transaction based on shared values.
Today’s masters of the universe CEO is poor decision away from disrupting a relationship based on shared values. Corporations can no longer control the flow of information and can lose control of the narrative within hours.
Corporations are under assault from government regulators, reporters, shareholders, and employees all demanding style that supersedes substance.
CEOs today need to woo their customers, engage regulators, listen to shareholders, reinforce employees, and make their case daily. CEOs need to communicate more often, on more platforms, and more broadly. Sawyer believed CEOs needed to define themselves before someone else set them - just like a candidate who works like they are up for reelection daily.
As all significant institutions continue to lose sway and influence, the pressure on corporations and CEOs to fill this void increases daily.
For AT&T it wasn’t the paying for access, advice, and public affairs expertise which was a bad idea, it was that they paid an individual (Michael Cohen) who was out of step and not in line with the shared values of AT&T’s numerous constituents.
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said as much in a memo distributed to employees last week.
“Our reputation has been damaged,” Stephenson wrote. “There is no other way to say it—AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake.”
Companies need to sell worthwhile goods and services - this for sure will continue to matter. But the transaction now has an emotional connection as well.
As pointed out in Edelman's 2018 Trust Barometer: "A good reputation may get me to try a product—but unless I come to trust the company behind the product, I will soon stop buying it, regardless of its reputation.
63% of those surveyed agreed with this statement.
The Edelman Trust Barometer provided a clear directive for today’s CEOs - building trust is job one.
Winning commerce of the future will happen when a company is trusted, provides high-quality services and products, and where business decisions reflect shared values.
AT&T hiring Michael Cohen is losing commerce.
It is not essential to much to be smart and knowledgeable, but it is necessary to be well-liked.
FIVE ARTICLES TO READ
HBR: A 40-year debate over corporate strategy gets revived by Elon Musk and Warren Buffett http://bit.ly/2I7MF7O
When Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that “moats are lame” during the company’s earnings call last week, he was calling out Warren Buffett, the chair of Berkshire Hathaway, who uses “moat” to describe barriers to imitation that stave off competition. “If your only defense against invading armies is a moat, you will not last long,” Musk continued. “What matters is the pace of innovation — that is the fundamental determinant of competitiveness.
‘We don’t take cash’: is this the future of money? Tougher for criminals, easier for hackers: what life is really like in a cashless society. https://on.ft.com/2I87s77
HBR: Having your smartphone nearby takes a toll on your thinking http://bit.ly/2IrQpQE
"In recent research, we investigated whether merely having one’s own smartphone nearby could influence cognitive abilities. In two lab experiments, nearly 800 people completed tasks designed to measure their cognitive capacity."
The 13 best Warren Buffett quotes from the Berkshire Hathaway meeting https://for.tn/2I407tm
One goal of Amazon’s HQ2: Learn the lessons of Seattle. Amazon has surprised officials in cities vying for the company’s new headquarters by asking how to avoid soaring housing costs and paralyzing traffic. https://nyti.ms/2HXTZTe
Brigadoon Annapolis | Salon Dinner + Lectures = September 20-21, 2018
Brigadoon Detroit | Salon Dinner = October 11, 2018
Brigadoon Cincinnati | Salon Dinner = November 1, 2018
Briagdoon Scotland 2018 = November 11-13, 2018
Brigadoon Sundance 2019 = February 24-26, 2019
More details and ticket information @ thebrigadoon.com
“Bots won’t be better at being human, just as humans aren’t “better at” being chimpanzees.” -- Damien Patrick Williams, PhD researcher at Virginia Tech, on how robots will experience the world in a way completely different from humans.
Adventures in Branding: Melanie Spring (Brigadoon Sundance 2018): Over the last 9 years, Melanie has been asked "Can I buy you a cup of coffee & pick your brain?" at least once a week. To celebrate her 9 year anniversary, she dumped 9 years worth of entrepreneurial experience into a 1-hour podcast episode.
She covers why she started her business, when she hired her first employee, how many times she pivoted, why profitability matters, and understanding your core values.
She also provides her three top books to read for entrepreneurs - all of which I promptly ordered.
It is a good and authentic session. You can listen here: http://bit.ly/2rFSkXt
BBC: Wayne Rooney: Everton forward agrees 'deal in principle' to join MLS side DC United
FIFA pitches multibillion-dollar ‘Project Trophy’ to seven top clubs: NYT reports, Representatives of seven of the world’s richest soccer teams, including Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid, visited FIFA on Wednesday for a private meeting aimed at winning the clubs in the increasingly fractious battle to set up a new multibillion-dollar world club championship. The group also included the English champion Manchester City, Italy’s Juventus, France’s Paris Saint-Germain and the perennial German champion Bayern Munich. The seven clubs invited to the meeting had combined revenues of more than $4 billion in 2017, and they command a massive global fan base that would be critical to making FIFA’s secretive discussions about the new tournament, code-named “Project Trophy,” a success.
Formula One will attempt to hold a race in Miami next year.
A baseball season with too many awful teams: WSJ reports, only one club has had a 100-loss season in the past four years. This season, six teams are on pace for at least 100 losses.