Why is good messaging so hard?

A somewhat off-topic post about Tiger Woods hiring Ari Fleischer

I have been very critical of the scientist at the center of the email maelstrom (e-mailstrom?) — Phil Jones — “for adopting the Tiger Woods approach to media relations” (see With science journalism “basically going out of existence,” how should climate scientists deal with well-funded, anti-science disinformation campaign?).

Jones is now talking to the media, of course, which gets filed in the be-careful-what-you-wish-for-category because “he is not terribly adept at answering questions, particularly the inane trick-questions from the disinformers” (see BBC asks CRU’s Phil Jones the climate version of “When did you stop beating your wife”).

As a (former) fan of Mr. Woods (though ongoing admirer of his golf game), I am going to reprint this Think Progress piece and mostly leave it at that.  I am filing this under humor and do think it would have been a perfect April 1 or The Onion story:

The New York Post reports that golfer Tiger Woods has hired former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer to help repair his public image:

“Two sources in the golf community have told The Post that Ari Fleischer, the former presidential advisor to George W. Bush and the man who was brought in to help repair the steroid-shattered image of Mark McGwire, has been huddling with Woods, plotting a strategy for his return to golf “” at the Arnold Palmer Invitational starting March 25 at Bay Hill in Orlando.  “They were in his living room this week going over a strategy for how to handle Bay Hill in two weeks,” one source told The Post.”

Since his time as President Bush’s top spinmeister, Fleischer has become a consultant for the sports industry. Fleischer has advised Mark McGwire on his return to baseball and public admission about using steroids, the Green Bay Packers on “how to deal with the fallout from their breakup with Brett Favre” in 2008, and “college football’s BCS on how to repair an image that has been ridiculed.”


Has Woods even looked at Bush’s or McGwire’s reputation now?  McGwire actually asserted this year that taking steroids didn’t help him break the home run record, which has kept him a subject of disbelief in the sports community.  Does Woods get that merely hiring Fleischer would lead to another round of ridicule and jokes — and undermine any effort to rehabilitate his image?

It just goes to show you that messaging is hard and even uber-talented mega-sports figures don’t get it.

6 Responses to Why is good messaging so hard?

  1. Leland Palmer says:

    Hi Joe-

    I’ve wondered about the media harassment of Tiger Woods, and have also wondered if the far right media are after him, because they see an opportunity to lower the positive impression of African American men that Obama creates. So, they see a necessity to ruin the reputation and puncture the positive image of as many African American men as possible.

    It’s hard to know why our mostly controlled corporate media does things, Joe. It’s not necessarily Tiger Woods fault, or not necessarily all his fault.

    For one thing, if they get us hooked on the gossip, we have less time to spend on what really matters, for example global warming.

    Our messaging is generally pretty good, we are just up against paid professional propagandists, IMO.

    I even see signs of a systematic study of information theory in the right wing propaganda. By increasing the noise, they decrease the signal to noise ratio, and drown out the signal.

  2. Anne says:

    One person I get inspiration from when it comes to both message and messaging is a man named Bill Talen, aka The Reverend Billy when he’s in character. This morning I’m watching a sermon of his, an inspiring talk he gave last week. Check it out with me: Rev Billy could do a lot more good for climate scientists on a bad day than Ari could do in a lifetime. In fact, if you watch all 4 segments, in the 4th one he announces plans to do a very creative act of nonviolent civil disobedience to protest mountaintop removal. I won’t spill the beans here, but, I’m thinking real hard about participating along with him. :)

    Here’s the tag line for the talk, which nearly brought me to tears:

    “This heartfelt sermonette was the annual talk at the Lehigh Pocono peace coalition dinner in Bethlehem, PA. Savitri and I were honored to speak where Howard Zinn and others of such special peacemaking status had raised their voices. The “LEPOCO” people are hardcore peace workers, going off to Guatemala and Kenya, raising money and bringing supplies and staying for months lending conflict resolution techniques. In this troubling time for peace, I wanted be as straightforward as possible and risk the hurt feelings. And there was some of that, of course, but mostly the atmosphere of no-time-to-waste was shared by these veteran world-changers.”

  3. fj2 says:

    There is one Republican who truly knows about good messaging and what the good message is.,0,3364029.story

    “Beyond politics”
    “Why Republicans should support health care reform”

    Ray LaHood, a former Republican congressman from Illinois, is secretary of transportation in the Obama administration.

    Ray LaHood stood on a table to speak to an ecstatic crowd last week at the Bicycle Summit in Washington, DC.

    “People get it. People want to live in livable communities,” LaHood told the crowd, after hoisting himself atop a table in the Dirksen Senate Office Building room so the large gathering could see him. “People want streetcars that are made in Portland, Oregon. People want walking paths, biking paths, and opportunities for families to really do the things they do best, which is to hang together and have fun. You all created an opportunity for America with all of your hard work.

    “I’ve been all over America, and where I’ve been in America I’ve been very proud to talk about the fact that people do want alternatives. They want out of their cars, they want out of congestion, they want to live in livable neighborhoods and livable communities.” He added, to thunderous applause, “You’ve got a partner in Ray LaHood.”

    And, if you have any doubt about the tremendous reduction in emissions sensible human mobility will bring just read Lester R. Brown’s “Plan B 4.0 Mobilizing to Save Civilization” also reviewed on this site.

  4. Oliver James says:

    What’s amazing is that *anyone* would pay Fleischer to do this work, when clearly he is not at all good at it.

  5. ChicagoMike says:

    I thought for a second that was a picture of W rubbing Joe’s head :)

  6. mike roddy says:

    Woods hired Fleischer because both are Republicans, and all of the Republican spinmeisters are discredited anyway. Who else would he have picked? Carl Rove?