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Friday, February 19, 2016

The Art of Messaging

By Douglas V. Gibbs

The Following is an excerpt from my upcoming book: A Tyrant's Guide to Killing Liberty (check out my other books at www.douglasvgibbs.com/books.php)

“Media has evolved as a commanding influence permeating every aspect of our waking world.  It has the power to topple Presidents, neutralize armies, and create or destroy billion dollar corporations. . . Media is not the enemy; it’s a tool.” ― Michael S. Emerson, American television director and producer (A&E and The History Channel), author of Mastering The Art Of Media Messaging

THE ART OF COMMUNICATION is a key component when fighting a political war.  The statists have mastered the art of messaging, and have nearly complete control over the news media, and the entertainment industry, so that they may spread their messaging far and wide.

When confronted with the opportunity to use a media person to assist in the messaging for the Mitt Romney campaign in 2012, the political consultants attached to the GOP’s star candidate rejected the offer of assistance, claiming that nobody from the entertainment industry could possibly understand the intricacies that surround the kind of messaging needed to properly get a presidential candidate elected.  So, the offer was withdrawn, and the Romney Campaign suffered a tremendous loss, mainly because through a superior messaging campaign, the Democrats branded Romney as they wanted, portraying him as a wealthy plutocrat who cannot possibly connect with the average citizen.  His lack of caring for anyone, or anything, according to the messaging, was so bad that he even was willing to travel a long distance with his poor dog sadly strapped to the top of his car.  Romney was considered to be uncaring, and unable to relate to the average citizen, and in turn lost the Presidential Election of 2012.

Communication reaches farther than mere words and pictures.  Messaging must stir the emotions, and poke at hidden anger.  The message must be something that the average person can relate to, something they understand from personal experience.  The comedians we enjoy most are not always the funniest, or the ones with the dirtiest mouths, but the entertainers who tell a story we have commonalities with.  We laugh, because we’ve “been there” too.

The statists use media messaging to its fullest extent, offering half-truths in order to taint or titillate the information they are offering.  Every report and article is agenda-driven, intimidating and slanted.

While the statists use messaging to create, or extend, their power, the reason for media to participate goes beyond the agenda.  Broadcasters and news outlets largely believe in the statist agenda, but their motive is not as altruistic (in terms of saving the planet, saving the community, saving the poor, etc.) as may appear on the surface.  Their primary motive is money.

One of the AM Radio stations I had a program on was owned by a staunch liberal left statist.  However, he was in a constant fight with environmentalists when it came to the placement of his towers, and with agencies when it came to the ridiculous regulations they were forcing him to succumb to.  I once said to him, “You are a great conservative, my friend, when it comes to your own wallet.”

He could only grin in agreement.

The reason members of the media, both news and entertainment, scream so loud about the greedy profiteers out there is because they are greedy profiteers, and they are attempting to project the guilt upon somebody else.  While they pride themselves in “adversarial activism against corporate America, very few of the country’s corporations come close in size, power and profitability to America’s Media giants, and none of them can equal Media’s ability to influence America, her people and her way of life!  (Remember, Mass Media Molds the Minds of Modern Man.)1

Communication is a two-way process.  If you try to get your ideas across to others without paying attention to what they have to say to you, you can forget about the whole thing.2

“I know that I have communicated with the other party when his eyes light up and he responds, ‘I know exactly what you mean.  I had something just like that happen to me once.  Let me tell you about it!’  Then I know that there has been communication.”3

Effective messaging offers relate-ability while also teaching something the person didn’t know in the first place.  Sometimes, negativity and controversy is an effective tool.  Most important, however, is in order to reach a point of understanding by your audience, the messaging must be delivered in a very personal way.

The personal touch is achieved by deciding carefully what is important to the audience.  If the data, or news, is not important to the viewer, they will turn away, reject the information, or turn off the device they are using to receive the information.  After time passes, and the media is choosing what is important information for the public to consume, the audience begins to trust the media to make the right choice for them.

If media chooses to ignore or downplay a story, event, issue or accomplishment, then the public’s perception is that it must not be important and thus not worthy of the public’s admiration, concern, or attention.4

Story placement and the intensity of coverage is also used to train the public.  “Media first tells us what we should be thinking about and second, what we should be thinking about it!”5

“To appeal to the audience, and to relate to their life experiences, the messenger must have at least a cursory familiarity with their experience.  It not only serves communication but it strengthens the personal identification of the organizer with the others, and facilitates further communication.”6

We judge books by their cover, and people by what they drive, where they live, and how they look.  In messaging, the same principles apply.  The most feel-good story of the night can be seen in a negative light if the symbology surrounding it is not appealing to the audience.  Therefore, in order for a message to be well received, the potential for negative association in the reporting of the message must be minimalized.

“Say you’re a pharmaceutical company releasing a new line of cancer treatments and the graphic depicts a medical symbol with dollar signs over it, your story’s connotation would have a negative impact on its audiences, even though the report itself could be either positive or neutral in nature.”7

In our society where technology is king, and quick and concise explosions of information are the norm, it is also important to say a lot in a small package.

The Barack Obama campaign used “Hope and Change,” and the message resonated with an entire nation.  The homosexual agenda has been using “love is love” with great success.

How about, “Abortion stops a beating heart”?  My own Constitution Association has used “Defend Liberty,” “We the People,” and “Got Constitution?”  Short, quick, and impactful are a key components in an organization’s messaging campaign.  Sometimes, context is not necessary, because the message is personal.

“Love is love.”  How can anyone argue with that?  You hear the statement, and agree.  Then they spring on you the connection to the homosexual agenda, but it’s too late to wriggle out of it.  You’ve already agreed that “love is love,” and that “love sees no discrimination.”  With the power of messaging, the homosexual agenda has turned the tables, changing a discussion regarding sexual behavior into one regarding discrimination, and civil rights.  Everyone has been singled out, made fun of, or discriminated against at one time in their life.  And, everyone has experienced love.  Love is an important component to being human.  Therefore, the message is personal, and therefore, it is powerful.

It doesn’t matter if the context is off, or the message is morally wrong, or that the issue is being pushed against a majority of Americans by a group who is perhaps 2% of the population.  You, the audience, has already decided to trust the media to pick and choose what is important, and not important; to cover what you care about.  Besides, you don’t want to be considered “close-minded,” or “homophobic,” do you?

Messaging can be effective and powerful when wielded properly.  Messaging can be informative, motivational, and destructive.  In skilled hands, messaging can change nations, and upend entire cultures.  People believe what they are told, and if the message confirms something in them that must be true, the assumption is that the rest of the message must be true, as well.  However, none of the message will be believed if the listener cannot make a personal connection to what is being said.

I communicate, often, using allegories and metaphors that draw in the audience; or I make comparisons to something they personally understand.

For example, once I was speaking to a group of about twenty-five men in a club populated only by business owners.  I was talking about State Sovereignty, and the importance of the States being autonomous and sovereign.  The very nature of State Sovereignty is individualism, which means that the States should be unique individuals no different than we are as people.  The States, then, as individuals, innovate and compete, much like businesses do in a free market.  Competition reduces prices, increases quality, and raises standards and opportunities for innovation.

When I began to speak their language as businessmen, the concept of State Sovereignty began to come alive for them.  The listeners that may have been considering having heavy eyes were suddenly wide-eyed and attentive.  They could relate.  I was making the presentation, and the subject matter, personal for them.

Effective communication and messaging appeals to the personal experiences of the listeners.  If the message becomes too complex, or involves too many things that are foreign to the listener, they will be lost in confusion.

Usually, in the Constitution Classes I have taught, there is that one student who knows more than the average participant.  That person is often not there to learn, but to fluff his feathers, challenge the instructor, to make himself look good, or feel good, in the process.  They will ask complex questions, or try to steer the discussion into a complex and intellectual direction so that they may show off their intellectual prowess.

When I encounter these people who believe themselves to be intellectual giants, and they begin to try to nitpick my presentation, zeroing in on obscure terms or references that go beyond the understanding of the remainder of the class, I stop it quickly.  I don’t nip the conversation in the bud because I cannot compete with the person wielding a massive cerebral sword, but because as the conversation deepens into territories beyond the understanding of the average audience member, the average audience member becomes bored, overwhelmed, or begins to feel like they don’t belong in that particular classroom setting.  They are already feeling a little dumb because of all of the new information.  Making it even more complex with a conversation with an erudite who refuses to accept any offering in opposition to their argument simply kills the desire for learning, or being active, in the average person.  They are there for basic understanding.  If they wish to go beyond that to a new level, that is fine, but they have to understand the basics in the first place.  Baby steps always precede taking a walk, or moving up to running marathons.  Besides, I am not there to satisfy the intellectual demands of a single person, but to inform and educate the masses regarding the basic principles that surround the United States Constitution.

In our attempt to communicate our message to the public, it is important to understand that most people do not spring into action until the danger is very personal for them.  “It is only when the other party is concerned or feels threatened that he will listen – in the arena of action, a threat or a crisis becomes almost a precondition to communication.”8

The statists used crisis and personal danger to encourage the voter to run out and vote for Barack Obama in 2008.  The economy was on the verge of collapse, we were told.  If we didn’t use socialism to save capitalism, everyone would be worse off than the folks who suffered through the Great Depression just before World War II.  And the public was convinced that only Barack Obama had the intelligence and the ability to save America.  It didn’t matter if it was all a lie, or that he had no experience on such matters.  The media, who is trusted by a large swathe of the American mosaic, said so, therefore, it must be true.

Nothing negative could be said about the young Senator from Illinois, because he had no record.  He was an empty vessel upon which they could place all of their hopes and dreams, and we were told he was the only one capable of saving America from an otherwise inevitable economic collapse.

The use of crisis and personal danger emerged in 2012’s presidential election, as well.  Now, the danger was pointed at the opposition.  The evil, racist, bigoted, wealthy, mean, and phobic Republicans, if they took office (we were told) would undo all of the wonderful things President Obama had accomplished.  We will be in crisis, we were told, unless the statists continued to run things.

Crisis of Climate Change, crisis of #blacklivesmatter, crisis of gunmen causing shootings in the U.S., crisis of economic upheaval, crisis of terrorism and the threat of domestic terrorists, crisis of mental illness and unstable war veterans, and a crisis of global instability because the sickness of individualism makes members of society unwilling to coexist.  Crisis after crisis, and the statist claims he is there to fix it all.

Through all of the crises, however, the message is cool-headed, personal, and reassuring.  “I understand your pain,” says the organizer.  “You have permission to feel that way.”  “I used to be like you, but now I have seen the light.”

Behind it all, however, hidden in the shadows, is the real formula.  Influence.  Power.  Money.  But to hide the truth, the message must have Audience Appeal, Audience Reach, and Renumeration.9

The court of public opinion primarily operates on a theory that “perception is everything.”  Self-confidence is perceived as knowledge and authority.  Hesitation or doubt portrays weakness, insincerity, or misrepresentation.10

Image is important.  We are judged by how we dress, and what image we allow the audience to see.  That image, however, not only supports one’s message, but can also be altered by the message. 

The image must be professional, while simultaneously appealing to the average person.  This does not mean dressing down to try and look like the locals.  The average person is not stupid.  They know when they are being played.  So the image must be sincere, yet one that connects to the audience.

Michael Emerson tells a story about a politician’s mistakes when it came to his image during a campaign.

In one of his political ads, Bill was seen walking in the surf along what seemed to be the Malibu coastline. . . he was barefoot and wearing trousers with the cuffs rolled up.  He delivered a pro-environmental message at the end of which he walked up the sand and joined his wife and children who were standing next to a rather large beach house.11

Regardless of the truth, the message sent was contrary to what Bill intended.

Bill comes from a very distinguished and successful corporate and political family, a fact that worked against him in the campaign.  The last thing he needed was to look like some corporate CEO trying to fit in with the common man at the beach wearing his long pants with the rolled up bottoms while walking barefoot in the water.

There is nothing wrong with having Bill’s family join him in the shot (after all, they are all very attractive and intelligent looking individuals, a definite plus to any campaign).  The problem arose where he met them – specifically, standing next to a large beach house – the impression being it was his multi-million dollar Malibu beachfront house!

. . . it didn’t matter what Bill was saying in his political ad, the message that came across visually was another rich republican trying to fake it and come across as just an ordinary guy spending a day at the beach . . .  as he stood outside his multi-million dollar Malibu beach home!  Not exactly a message to which the ordinary voter could relate!  In the end, the ad came off as insincere at best!  Not only was the ad a total waste of time and money, but in my opinion, it hurt his image more than helped it.  That same political message could have [been] handled in a number of effective and positive ways. . .”12

Emerson goes on to suggest that the children could have been shown playing in the ocean, looking natural in the beach environment.  Then he and his wife could be dressed in appropriate beach attire, discussing the issues and Bill’s political platform.  Or, he could have gone in a totally different direction regarding portraying his “strong commitment to environmental issues” by soliciting “help of a true credentialed environmentalist,” with the environmentalist saying, “Bill. . . agrees with me, and that’s why I’m voting for him for Governor.”13

The message must be believable, it must be presented in a believable manner, and the audience must believe that you believe in your message.

One of the obstacles the Donald Trump campaign experienced during the 2016 Presidential Election was that because of his checkered past, and his less-than-believable presentation, it was thought that Mr. Trump did not believe everything he was saying.  It was, in line with his book, simply the Art of the Deal.  He was seen by some as being just another billionaire telling you what you want to hear so that he can receive a position of power for whatever purpose he had planned.  The fact that in person, Trump was a caring and warm person who gave you all of his attention when he spoke to you, and while you were speaking (a description given to me by a “We the People Rising” advocate named Robin) was lost in his campaign.  Rather than the man Robin met, the campaign made him look more like the overbearing business mogul that shouted “You’re Fired!” on his Apprentice television program.  It was just another show, and he was playing his part.  He failed to capture emotions because he did not connect with the voters.  He still turned a lot of heads, despite his presentation, largely because of another successful element – his “No compromise, no appeasement, no giving in to statism” message.

What people perceive is what people believe.  However, the premise of perception has already been established by the media, so our messaging must not only convey our message truthfully, but it must disarm what the other side already believes about us.

In late June, and early July, of 2014, I participated in an immigration protest in Murrieta, California that turned around buses full of illegal immigrants being shipped into the Southern California city after facilities in Texas, and San Diego, were unable to take them because of the excessive numbers they presented.  I dressed professionally, but lost the tie so that I didn’t look like a politician.  The button down shirt and slacks attracted the media, and my message garnered a number of return visits to the networks.  After the dust had cleared, I was on Fox News five times, Al Jazeera three times (the third visit to the network emerging later in the year on December 30), One America News once, and NPR once – along with various local television and radio outlets.  My presentation was professional so I stood out form the crowd, yet I blended in nicely because I was just another citizen.  My messaging, however, was what was most appealing.  I was not just another “anti-immigration” protester pounding my fist and screaming at the camera.  My message was one that the average person could relate to.  It was personal, caring, and community driven.  I had real concerns that the audience could relate to, while also providing an added nugget regarding the law, and constitutional tidbits.

My brother later commented that my message was the same on each network, and during each interview.  Consistency was a key point.  It portrayed my honesty, while also enabling my message to resonate to a larger number of people.  I was not angry, nor did I stumble over my words.  I was confident, warm, and to the point.

Each time I began with a personal story that anyone could relate to.  I was concerned about the health of my grandchildren.  My granddaughter had contracted hand-mouth-and-foot disease, and prior to the influx of illegal immigrants into the area, this illness was not a concern in the area.  I supported my concern with news that one of the Border Patrol agents had contracted tuberculosis, another illness not prevalent in Murrieta, prior to the delivery of hundreds of illegal aliens.  “I am concerned about my community,” I said.  “This is, in addition to being a legal issue regarding immigration, it is a health issue for my community.  I am doing this to help protect my community.”

Then, I turned the table, showing personal concern for the immigrants, as well.

“These immigrants are people who thought they were seeking a better life.  I don’t blame them for wanting to come to America.  But, they encounter disease and misery along the way.  Many of the boys are molested, and many of the young girls are raped, by fellow immigrants in their group.  Then they come here, sick, tired and molested only to be treated like cattle where a couple hundred of them are crammed into a facility only designed to handle twenty-four people at a time, with no meal, no chance to bathe, crammed in tight with other people who are sick, and contagious.  Then, they are sent out on their own to communities they know nothing about, in some cases dropped off on the side of the road and left homeless to fend for themselves.  How is that humanitarian?  It is illegal to drop a dog off on the side of the road because it is inhumane, yet the government drops off thousands of illegals at a time, after encouraging these people to come here with their policies.  I blame the federal government for their role in encouraging this kind of misery, while overwhelming our communities with numbers we are just not capable of taking in.”

When questions were pointed at me questioning my motive, with a racial undertone to it, I had an honest answer that shut them up, and resonated well with the viewers.

Al Jazeera America asked me, “Are you anti-Hispanic, or anti-immigration?”

I said, “My wife was born in Mexico and immigrated here legally.  She naturalized in 2007 and is angrier than I am.  Allowing illegal aliens into the country, and granting them benefits of which they paid no taxes for, is a slap in the face of people like my wife who abided by the law, and navigated the immigration system legally.”

On Fox News’ Hannity program, the famed talk show host interviewed me along with a pro-amnesty individual in San Diego, and after all of my calm answers and logical conclusions, it wasn’t long before Mr. Hannity was launching into my opposition because of the holes in his responses, and his inability to appeal to the audience with reasonable answers as I was able to do.

In a number of the interviews, I also appealed to those concerned about national security, making reference in one of the interviews to a study related to the San Ysidro crossing near San Diego that found a significant percentage of the illegal border jumpers having Middle Eastern origins.

For some, a message is effective if there is already common ground, or a personal relationship.  Being involved in community events, or local charities increases the chance of the speaker having a personal relationship with the audience.  “I feel your pain because I have felt it too” is an effective tool in messaging, especially when the speaker has evidence that backs it up.  Shared experiences are powerful tools, and should be used during one’s delivery.  It strengthens the feeling of brotherhood.

            To be effective in communicating the message, the speaker must be able to:
1.       Be able to think on his or her feet.
2.       Be pleasing to the eye, well groomed, professional appearance, physically fit.
3.       Have a commanding knowledge of the issues they are addressing.
4.       Project a professional attitude and positive personality.
5.       Radiate an image of energy and confidence.
6.       Be proficient in the use of language.14

Choose your words wisely, for they may make or break the presentation.  Record everything.  Recorded interviews keep the interviewers honest when they report the discussion through the media.  If the resulting article is full of inaccuracies and false conclusions, call them on it.  You have a recording of what was accurately said.  Demand accuracy, and expose those who reported your words inaccurately.  Once this happens, it’s like beating up the bully at school – everyone else recognizes what you are capable of, and treat you in a manner they should.

There are always three sides to every story.  What he said, what she said, and what really happened.  Truth has become a radical act.  Messaging enables the truth to work its way to the surface.  With proper messaging, we can encourage the masses to listen, and participate in the good fight.

While all of this is good and well, there is also the aspect of knowing one’s audience.  If you know your audience, and you know their concerns, you will be able to properly structure your message.  Every group has its uniqueness.  By learning about them before you deliver the message, you will be able to determine who they are, and what they want to know, which will then enable you to craft an effective message, and encourage them to become active in the good fight.

When I speak, I ask a lot of questions.  I want the audience involved.  When they are involved in the discussion, they pay closer attention, and they remember more of what was said.  Sometimes, the group is so large, waiting for an answer takes too long because in a room of 100 people, there will be 200 opinions.  Ask the question, give them a moment to think about it, and then answer it for them.

Feed them and make them laugh.  Humor keeps them attentive, but the humor must be chosen carefully.  This, again, returns to the need to know your audience.  If there is any doubt, use self-deprecating humor.

The audience has fears, and they have passion, regarding what is going on as the statists work to fundamentally change America.  Play on those fears, encourage their passions, and do so energetically.

The best presentations are superior because the presenter knows the material.  Messaging requires knowledge on the subject matter.  Being fully knowledgeable about the subject matter gives the speaker confidence, and confidence makes the message believable, and inspiring.

Provide a lot of information in memorable packages, packed with imagery, antidotes, quotes, examples, and stories packed with information the audience can relate to.  The message must be impactful, and be a call to action.

“We are in crisis, so you must act now.”

Persuading the audience to act, to become active, and to join the fight is the goal.  They must feel as if they are in danger from statism, they must understand that statism means to directly influence their life in a negative manner.  The torches must be lit, and the statists must be stopped.  The future of our country, and our posterity, depends upon it.

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary

2, 3, 6, 8: Alinsky, Saul, 1971, Rules for Radicals, New York: Random House

1, 4, 5, 7, 9-14: Emerson, Michael S., 2012, Mastering the Art of Media Messaging, Los Angeles: Overlord Press


1 comment:

JASmius said...

My eyes don't focus that well anymore, dude.