A series of surveys conducted in Florida during the summer of 2008 found support for offshore oil drilling to be around 60 percent. More recently, surveys in California have also shown support for offshore drilling to constitute a slight majority of public opinion. For example, a July 2009 Public Policy Institute of California survey found 51% of Californians in support of expanding offshore drilling, the same as in their July 2008 survey.
In addition, one of the research firms I frequently partner with, Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin &Associates (FMMA), recently conducted statewide research in California regarding a new offshore drilling project proposal. Fifty-three percent of respondents indicated that they would favor the project, with just 36 percent opposing it and 11 percent undecided.
Interestingly, while there has been speculation that support for drilling is being driven largely by high levels of concern about dependence on foreign oil imports and high energy prices, the results of the FMM&A survey showed that support was strong across the board, regardless of whether respondents have a high or low degree of concern about foreign oil dependence.
Other attitudes and factors may be at play in both California and Florida – two states where the current economic downturn has played havoc with balancing state budgets – such as the desire to capture a portion of offshore drilling revenues for state coffers. For example, in the California case, mention in the survey of billions of dollars in new state government revenues from offshore drilling drives the numbers for support for the California offshore drilling proposal to nearly two-thirds. Further, there is simply the passage of time. It has been 40 years since the Santa Barbara oil spill galvanized offshore drilling opposition nationwide. Perhaps as memories and concerns fade, economics are taking over.
Having made the up-front investment to get this far in the game, and with so much at stake, it’s time to ask yourself whether you’ve done everything possible to enhance your chances of success and reduce the risk of failure.
Here’s the question: Can you tell your story in a way that’s so compelling that you will win the day? Policy makers, legislators, regulators, juries, the general public — these decision makers control the destiny of your project, but they generally do not have the technical background to understand massive volumes of data and reams of argumentation. You must help them understand and believe in your case — in your story.
Every set of facts can be summed up by a compelling story, a logic train that makes clear why your efforts – your facts – should matter to those making a decision. A compelling story opens up a gateway of understanding, making it possible for your audience to easily grasp the gist of your case, and to achieve emotional buy-in.
Finding the story behind volumes of technical information and crafting that story into compelling words, diagrams, charts, pictures and video — while remaining true to the underlying facts – these story telling skills are the essential element in the process of persuasion.
How do we go about developing and telling your story? It’s a multi-step process, customized to each client’s needs, but based on some fundamental principles developed over decades of work on hundreds of complex and challenging public affairs situations.
To begin, we study and absorb all the details of your fact case. Only when we understand the nuances can we craft the most compelling story that will win over sometimes very skeptical audiences.
Next, we use our understanding of your information and your story, on the one hand, and the interests of your audiences, on the other hand, to bridge the gap between you and them. Every communications situation, no matter how dry or technical, offers themes that help us forge this bond.
We do this by weaving your facts and themes into a story that is designed to appeal to your audiences on multiple levels and lead to understanding of your efforts and agreement with what you are trying to achieve.
Finally, in presentations, fact sheets, white papers, brochures, website materials, speeches, documentary films and other communications tools we tell your story in a manner that optimizes for success and protects against failure.
Most companies are eager to stretch their advertising budgets as far as possible – which is why media buyers frequently negotiate perks for their clients beyond the price of the advertising itself.
These benefits – known collectively as “added value” – can come in the form of bonus commercials, sponsorships, free PSAs, on-air promotions, public relations opportunities and/or online links. How much value they add to a paid advertising campaign depends upon their execution and their relevance to the company. In many ways, it depends upon how well the media agency knows its client.
With careful planning, thought and collaboration, a small “added value” benefit can not only add tremendous value to a specific advertising campaign, it can transcend its immediate purpose and support other business objectives as well.
Case in point
As the agency of record for Southern California Edison (SCE), Winner & Associates produces branding commercials and seasonal commercials for the utility’s various energy-efficiency programs – for example, tuning up central air conditioners in the spring, recycling refrigerators in the summer, and switching to CFLs in the fall.
In 2008, when SCE began seeking new ways to tie their discrete seasonal programs together to raise awareness of the many ways customers could save energy, money and the environment, Winner & Associates negotiated added-value air time with TV stations running SCE’s branding ads. The result: we produced a handful of 10- and 15-second spots starring three SCE employees delivering energy-saving tips.
Soon after the spots began airing for the general market, SCE expanded the program into six ethnic markets. The award-winning ads were well-received – both internally and externally – and helped SCE exceed campaign goals for all three seasonal campaigns.
Buoyed by the success of the initial energy-saving tips campaign, Winner & Associates expanded the tips campaign in 2009. For one week in April, Winner & Associates and SCE auditioned nearly 600 employees. “We really only expected about 100 employees to be interested and were thrilled by the overwhelming response,” the utility’s corporate communications manager said at the time.
In the end, 37 SCE employees were selected as “on-air” talent for the 2009 campaign, and Winner & Associates produced a total of 80 spots in six different languages – English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese and Korean. Already, the tips have increased traffic on SCE’s website by 50 percent, and they’ve enhanced employee morale.
“All I could hear when walking anywhere in the office was, ‘Good morning, superstar,’ and ‘Can I have your autograph?” said one SCE engineer who appeared in the ads. “I was bombarded with all kinds of questions concerning the filming and the audition. It was a great experience.”
Now that’s added value.
A new survey by the Public Policy Institute of California finds that Californians’ trust in their state government has reached a record low and their desire for change is high.
Californians are cautious about the types of reforms they are willing to support. Huge majorities are willing to support a shift to an open primary system (70%) but only 23% favor reducing the legislature to part-time status.
The research by the PPIC shows deep distrust in state government on the part of the voters. Nearly three-fourths (73%) say it is pretty much run by a few big interests looking out for themselves, a new high in the 11-year history of the PPIC Statewide Survey. Just 20 percent say that state government is run for the benefit of all of the people.
Residents retain more confidence in their own abilities to make policy decisions. A small majority (56%) say that decisions made through the initiative process are probably better than those made through the legislative process and only 28% say they are probably worse. Californians continue to feel that Proposition 13 and term limits—two constitutional changes made by initiative—have mainly been good for the state.
Not surprisingly, Californians are in agreement that the budget situation is a problem and two-thirds see it as a big problem–78 percent seeing it as a big problem and 18 percent calling it somewhat of a problem. The 78 percent figure matches a record high first reached in September 2008. A majority (60%) are very concerned about the effect of spending cuts on local government services—far more than when PPIC asked a similar but less detailed question five years ago (35% August 2004).
80% see the budget process as in need of major changes which marks a steady increase since March of 2008. This view is held across political parties, demographic groups, and regions. Californians were asked to consider three fiscal reform ideas under discussion:
• Spending cap: Most (65%) say it would be a good idea to strictly limit increases in state spending each year (28% bad idea).
• Two-thirds vote to pass a budget: A majority (53%) say it would be a good idea to lower the threshold needed for budget passage to 55 percent of the legislature (38% bad idea).
• Two-thirds vote for local special taxes: Half (50%) say it would be a good idea to lower this requirement to 55 percent of voters (42% bad idea).
There have been increased calls for review and perhaps revision of the constitution, but the survey does not show support for this among the voters. Only 33 percent of Californians say major changes to the constitution are needed, while 36 percent say minor changes are needed and 24 percent say the constitution is fine as it is.
Two landmark initiatives are seen mostly as a good thing for California. Proposition 13 (55% mostly a good thing, 30% mostly a bad thing, 12% don’t know), which limits property taxes on both residential and commercial buildings, and term limits (59% good thing, 15% a bad thing, 23% no difference), which limits state legislators’ terms to six years in the assembly and eight in the senate.
However, the survey found that residents also support changes to these measures. A majority (58%) say it would be a good idea to tax commercial properties according to current market value, known as a “split roll.” A majority (65%) also say it would be a good idea to modify term limits by reducing the total number of years lawmakers could serve—from 14 to 12—but allowing years of service to be in either house or a combination of both.
Even though residents are pleased with direct democracy, overwhelming majorities favor two possible reforms to the initiative process:
• Increasing public disclosure of funding sources for signature gathering and campaigns (81% favor, 14% oppose)
• Having a period of time in which the initiative sponsor and the legislature could meet to see if a compromise is possible before putting the measure on the ballot (80% favor, 15% oppose).
Support has grown since March for a change in the state’s primary system that would allow voters to cast ballots for any candidate, with the top two vote-getters advancing to the general election regardless of party with 70% favoring support regardless of party, region, and demographic group. But residents’ negative views of their full-time legislature do not mean they see a shift to a part-time legislature as a solution: 44 percent say it would be a bad thing, 23 percent a good thing, and 27 percent say it would make no difference.
Californians’ perception of the economy has improved since July, perhaps in response to recent positive economic indicators. But residents’ views are far from positive: 67 percent say the state can expect bad times financially in the next 12 months.
The negative views about the direction of the state are reflected in views about state leaders. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s approval rating (30%) is near his record low in July (28%), and his disapproval rating has hit a new high of 61 percent. The legislature’s rating (21%) inched up from its low (17% July). Californians’ approval of their own legislators (34%) remains near its lowest level (32% March 2009).*
*Information in this post based on a recent article in California Progress Report
Regardless of one’s brand of politics, being asked by the Presidency to help out during a new Administration’s first 100 days is an honor. This was a particularly stressful period for White House staffers, because they had to deal with major issues on multiple fronts, pursue an ambitious set of goals, and operate within tight budgetary constraints.
Non-politicos are now familiar with OPE due to the recent media attention surrounding the announcement that actor Kal Penn would be joining the department. But what many don’t know is that OPE’s precursor, OPL (Office of Public Liaison), has existed in some form or another for over 30 years. However, historically OPL has been perceived by many as a pathway to the White House only for lobbyists and powerful special interests. In recent years, the department was often seen as a tool for leveraging allies to support previous Administrations’ top-down agendas.
President Obama expands OPE’s role
During his inauguration, President Obama stated very clearly that “our commitment to openness means more than simply informing the American people about how decisions are made. It means recognizing that government does not have all the answers, and that public officials need to draw on what citizens know.” To help fulfill this commitment, the Obama Administration sought to create an expanded role for its OPL, one that would allow it to function as the open front door to the White House, engaging meaningfully with a broad range of constituencies across the country. To help underscore this openness, the Office of Public liaison was re-launched and re-branded as the Office of Public Engagement.
Within this new framework of engagement, the Administration has signaled through both words and actions that it is not just accessible to lobbyists, but that it is serious about supporting the President’s philosophy that, “everyone should get a seat at the table, but no one should be able to buy up all the seats.”
Communicating with the public
My typical OPE workday was often a fascinating mixture of carrying out some of the most important work in the country – helping communicate key policy points to the American people – while at the same time learning my way around the White House and the old Executive Office Building. Some days were particularly intense when I narrowly avoided bumping into the President and various members of the Cabinet as we all hurried from meeting to meeting through the West Wing’s tight hallways and blind corners.
OPE has been working at a breakneck pace since the Inauguration, conducting thousands of meetings with groups that represent the many faces of America. To my surprise, some of the most consistent and emphatic feedback that we received was that many people had never been given the opportunity to engage any White House for the better part of a decade, if at all. This was a message that came not just from the left or right, but from individuals and organizations across the political spectrum. Opening up citizen access to their government is exactly the dynamic that the current Administration is looking to encourage.
On one occasion, for example, an industry organization concerned about the Administration’s position on several issues affecting its members requested a meeting with White House. OPE facilitated the meeting, which resulted in a productive dialogue that enabled the Administration to better understand what the group’s needs were and to take meaningful action to address their concerns. This particular group later provided feedback that even though they may have a difference of opinion with the Administration on some issues, progress was made, and they were pleasantly surprised by the openness and responsiveness of the White House.
While it’s great to be home again and to be back at work at Winner & Associates, I am also very grateful to have had the opportunity to help advance the President’s goal of making government more inclusive, transparent, accountable and responsible.
If your company has ever been in the media spotlight, you already know it’s hard to control news coverage. But most companies underestimate their ability to influence what’s written or said about them. Whether preparing your CEO or spokesperson for a television interview, a legislative hearing or a high profile event, or responding to a crisis, you have more control than you might think.
Prepare Before you make the news…
It all starts with an understanding of how the news media function, and what is likely to attract their attention. Now is the time to do a thorough assessment of your company’s strengths and vulnerabilities, and prepare for unexpected events or crises that could damage the company’s reputation or its brands. In the Internet world and the 24-hour global news cycle, even a seemingly small problem in a far-off location can become a significant national or international issue within hours.
An invaluable part of your preparation is media training for your company’s senior management and primary spokespersons. Their performance under pressure can create long-lasting impressions on the media and public.
At our firm, Winner & Associates, our one-on-one or group training focuses on communicating about issues strategically and not just reacting to events. We emphasize developing and implementing communications strategies that support your company’s business goals and objectives. Our formula for success in media interviews and speaking opportunities is:
Preparation + Practice = Performance
We recommend that before you talk to the media, you should identify three or four key messages and practice how you would deliver them. Regardless of any reporter’s agenda, it is your job to deliver these key messages persuasively several times during any encounter with the media. Your ability to do this is enhanced through careful preparation, including mock interviews.
The time to prepare for the media spotlight is before you make the news.
Winner & Associates has had more than 30 years of experience training clients, including senior executives from numerous Fortune 500 companies, for some of the most challenging encounters with the media and other vital audiences. We prepare our clients by showing them in advance how to communicate strategically on issues and by simulating one-on-one interviews, press conferences and other events. We give them the tools they need to understand audiences, anticipate tough questions and craft effective messages.
To schedule a media training session, or learn more, contact Zach Winner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
California’s perennial struggle to balance its state budgets has national importance. Among the issues with which the nation’s most populous and socially diverse state is grappling are:
How to define and pay for quality public education.
How to sustain a safety net for the economically desperate
in a period of shrinking state and local revenues.
How to overcome structural obstacles to efficient budget making.
The resolution of these and other issues could have significant political, economic and social impacts across the country in the years ahead.
California’s fiscal process, as well as its social priorities, will have a lot to do with this and future years’ mix of service cutbacks and new taxes and fees. Since the 1930’s, California has been Constitutionally required to adopt the state budget by a two-thirds Legislative majority. Because of a 1978 initiative statute, the Legislature must also agree on any new taxes by the same supermajority. Thus, in recent years disproportionate influence over these decisions rests with a minority of tax and spending-averse conservative Republicans, in spite of large Democratic majorities in both houses of the Legislature and a 44 to 31 percent Democratic advantage in the state’s electorate.
But do California voters want to change the rules to adopt state budgets and to make it easier to pass new revenue measures? Recent public opinion research says, “No”, as shown in the first three sets of bars in the graph below. This explains, in part, why California is having such a difficult time balancing its 2009-10 budget. However, the fourth set of bars, on the far right, suggests that under certain circumstances Californians might support raising revenues.
It would seem that California voters are much more likely to end the two-thirds supermajority for new taxes if the lesser vote requirement were to apply to issue-specific local taxation proposals. Thus, California may eventually see financial responsibility for education, public safety and social welfare — which in the past three decades has been increasingly concentrated at the state level – devolve to local governments, where voters seem to feel more immediately connected and believe there would be greater accountability. If this devolution occurs in California, it could be echoed in other states, much to the inconvenience of national policy makers and interest groups, which look to state government as the principal conduit for Federal aid and support.