Friday, November 26, 2010

Cherry picking communications (and tweets)

In this Gizmodo article, the author takes the TSA Twitter team to task for flippancy. While Americans are debating the extent of fourth amendment rights and videos of travelers having to tolerate gropings from TSA agents of a nature generally reserved for spouses, partners, and friends with benefits, Gizmodo quotes the TSA Twitter team's tweets:
#TSA Travel Advice for Pilgrims: Clothing with large buckles and blunderbusses at checkpoints could cause delays. #holiday #travel #security
And:
#TSA Travel Advice: Be on the lookout for turkeys with “fowl” intent. #holiday #travel #security
followed by a few bizarre responses to other tweeters, shown on the Gizmodo post.

In the comments, "Blogger Bob," purportedly a TSA tweeter, responds:
Hey Gizmodo - nice way to cherry pick the tweets. Seeing yesterday was the busiest travel day of the year, I tweeted far more than I usually do. I tweeted mostly travel tips and peppered them with some really intentionally corny Thanksgiving jokes. And yes, there was some two way communication. Is it a bad thing for a government agency to sound human?
If "Blogger Bob" is the genuine article, then his response throws the TSA's standards of professionalism into even greater shadow. A public relations or communications pro knows that the media and the public do cherry pick any organization's messages, like heat-seeking missiles intent on finding those that are incendiary, wrong-headed, or, in this case, juvenile and inappropriate to the situation and the nation's mood. People focus on and remember poorly chosen messages as well as moments of poor leadership. For example, how many have not forgotten George W. Bush's "heckuva job" comment as FEMA floundered in the wake of Hurricane Katrina under Michael D. Brown? Solid communications are the common norm, while gaffes are rare and noteworthy. It's not hard to figure out why people do take note; out-of-tune messages stand out, especially in circumstances that are themselves a test of our collective temper and temperament.

We expect a toy maker to be clever, cute, creative, and charming in its communications—until there's a recall because of faulty or even dangerous design. Then we expect them to speak to us in a way that conveys a blend of corporate professionalism, empathy, and humanity. Flippant comments and adolescent humor don't cut it.

The TSA is charged with striving to keep us safe during our business and leisure travels. They require our full cooperation as they scan, grope, and search us in their mission to protect us from the acts of terror that we fear and dread. The least we should require of the TSA is that their communications, which are part of their public face, and their communicators like "Blogger Bob," convey the gravitas that demonstrates their appreciation of and commitment to that public trust. The TSA needs professional communicators, not standup comics.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dream: Band on the run

I was standing up with the Beatles, all four, who were performing live. As with all my dreams, I found myself there suddenly and didn't know why or what to do. i tried to keep to a small side area I thought to be off camera. I could imagine the resentment if I appeared to mar the reunion.

After an uncomfortable time, I noticed there was an audience, a congregation at a synagogue. I was their rabbi and was expected to play a traditional instrument. I may have surprised myself by being able to, unusual for me in a dream.

At a banquet hall, I walked past a table where TB was seated. He was quiet, but his companions were discussing girls' names, coming up with all kinds of dreadful contortions. The only one I could think of was "Anne," so I suggested it casually without appearing to notice him. TB stirred, seemed to look at me, and to my shock threw in his contribution: "Diane."

Outside, I saw an entire orchestra roll by, each member strapped to an appropriately sized single wheel. I marveled at the wonder and incongruity, then noticed a violinist for whom it seemed especially dangerous. Some threatened others by rounding corners at too much of a tilt. All were riding toward an apocalyptic sky.

It was then I realized I, in my form as the musical rabbi, was supposed to be leading them.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dream: Who moved my theater?

I was at a high school reunion, where each of us had received a gift, probably a stapler. I left for a while, and when I returned to the table the gift was gone. For some reason, I was disturbed into outrage over this trivial loss and demanded that the hotel staff help me, but they pointedly ignored me. I was beside myself.

As part of the reunion, we boarded a bus that headed west on 55th Street/Garfield Avenue in Chicago. Our destination was a theater, where we watched a musical that seemed to be part Big River, part Show Boat, and part Dreamgirls, with the main story revolving around a African American singer married to a Caucasian man in the 1960s.

The bleacher seats we were on started to move, and the scene changed to an outdoor view of the Chicago River and a church in winter. I looked behind and saw tracks through a back window, so I suspected the entire theater was on a track and could be moved to change the scene, but I was mystified by the view of the river from that location. I sensed that the theater could be moved to any scene and that there was more to this mystery than moving within the limits of physical tracks. This, and that it was occurring in Chicago, where I had not attended high school, bothered me, and I woke up frightened and fascinated.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dream: Gothic college adventures

During a rare afternoon nap, I went back to college, was victimized by an administration prank, pushed flatboats that were underwater further underwater, noticed I had nothing with me, realized that skipping a year I would be graduating with strangers, listened to the agony of a boy in love, and horrified my mother with my apparent lack of underclothes. Busy afternoon.

I was back at college for a fifth year, this time because I had skipped a year. A couple of boys and I were waiting in a small Gothic-style room, where we heard strange voices and witnessed strange movements. At last a door opened behind us, and a dart flew past us and landed with a hard thwack in the opposite wall. Although it had come from behind, I knew it was no supernatural agency because somehow I had seen the dart thrower—a boy from my high school. Even more odd, the college boys who couldn’t have seen him either and who had never been to my high school recognized and named him. As we tried to open various doors, all locked, to escape, they told me this was all an administration ploy to see how stressed we would be about filling out forms. Forms?

I finally forced one door open and found another door beyond it. To my relief, it opened to the outdoors. Water flowed down the steps, and a flatboat passed and disappeared under the flow as it went downstream. Tiny voices from another boat, girls from high school, implored me to push them under and over as they were stuck. Without seeing them, I did, and felt guilty.

I wondered why I was here and had taken a year off. I would graduate with strangers, I thought, which I regretted.

In a hallway, I encountered a boy from college who was a year behind me, standing in front of a door. Although he talked to me, it was as though I were not there. He poured out his affection for some worthless girl who would never notice him, while expecting comfort from the invisible. I had little to give as I had none for myself.

I found myself in a room with a long table, where the scene looked like an elaborate 18th-century banquet. At a sideboard, I bent slightly to pour coffee and heard a gasp behind me. Without looking, I knew it was my mother, horrified by what she perceived as my lack of underclothes under my skirts.

I wasn’t wearing skirts.