Monday, November 22, 2010

TSA Troubles, continued

The TSA continues to get shellacked.  I saw footage on television this morning of a young boy who was told to remove his shirt and then get patted down by an "agent."

A young boy?  This isn't the Middle East where terrorists use children to act as mules.

Here's a rant about the anti-TSA rants.  Peter Shankman presents a good case for people to (1) shut up and not opt-out of the body screenings and (2) if you're going to organize an opt-out day, do it on a day that makes sense.  He rightly points out that the TSA is not security; it's "security theater."

The AP has an interesting piece out today which basically echos what I've said earlier about the TSA's problem being communications-based.

So, aside from obvious operational changes (rules that are consistent and make sense, profiling, simple logic, hiring intelligent "agents," etc.), what can the TSA do to improve its image?

1.  Let people know the real facts about the amount of radiation they are exposed to by the scanners.
2.  Show examples of the images that are produced by the scanners.
3.  Provide a real explanation of the rules and why they make sense.
4.  Stop hiding behind the notion that information can't be divulged "due to security reasons." 

I expect the TSA to issue a PR RFP anytime now...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Social media: MLM or late-night infomercial?

Here's a question I recently posted on LinkedIn:

Is social media like MLM or maybe late-night infomercials?

Here's what I mean.  It seems like there is a handful of people who use social media well to make a very good living.  They are, in many ways, professional social media users who have very successfully leveraged their online "brands" into lucrative careers.

At the same time, it seems like these careers are centered around telling others how they, too, can create social media success.  I can't get the image of the late-night infomercial out of my head.  "Follow my simple 12-step program and YOU TOO can enjoy life as I do!"

Don't misunderstand.  I'm not "anti-social media."  I'm simply making an observation and wonder if anyone agrees.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The TSA's Biggest Problem isn't Security.

The Transportation Security Administration has a problem, and it's not security.  It's image.

I don't deride the organization for what it does.  It serves a vital and important part in public air travel in the United States.  The problem lay not in what they do, but how they do it.

As a frequent-flier I have no problem if they want to pat me down.  Shoes off? No sweat.  Jacket, belt, pants?  I don’t care.  Full-body scan?  Sure.  (Maybe they can have a radiologist on-hand as well...) Cavity search?  Maybe not.

It’s simply the rudeness of the minimum-wage, ill-trained, no-clue “agents” who, I suspect, find themselves in positions of power for the first time in their lives.  Once – only once – I took fate into my hands, turned to an offending agent and said, quite simply, “You know, this would all be much easier if you treated us like people and not your dog.”

He was stunned.  His internal debate played out on his face as he realized that I was right.  No apology of course, but I could have been pulled off the line and made to miss my flight.

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve seen these “professionals” bellow in the faces of hapless seniors, young parents or foreigners who don’t quite know what’s going on.  This is not breaking news; if you do a quick internet search, you'll see countless of posts like this one.  But my point of differentiation is that TSA staffers can be 100% as effective as they are now (Notice the phrasing.) by being polite.  Yelling will not ferret out someone with ill intentions.  Just the opposite, in fact.

In response, the TSA seems to have embarked on an effort to become more accessible to the public and is offering a multitude of ways to be in touch.  But, they're missing the point.  Much of the public outrage over the TSA would be obviated if they just followed some basic rules of good customer service.

And that is the point of this post.  Very often how we do something is even more important than what we do.  That can be applied to any product or service in any industry.  Including security.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's not just "there, their and they're" anymore.

Apparently, being an award-winning journalist - including the Edward R. Murrow Award - doesn't mean you can't make mistakes.  And it doesn't mean you have good copy editors, either.

In reading Election Day coverage, I came across a piece by Chad Pergram, who covers Congress for Fox.  His article on the new speaker, John Boehner, pointed out:

Political observers have lots of barometers at their disposal to track the political winds. You can crunch polling data, pour over surveys, evaluate voting habits and study electoral history. But most importantly, you learn to trust your gut.
Anyone else have a problem with this sentence?  If you raised your hand and pointed to the word "pour" you'd be correct.  It should be "pore."

It's the whole "there, their and they're" thing, taken to a new level.

Friday, October 29, 2010

There is no Parallel between Islamophobia and Homphobia

Robert Wright in The New York Times bemoans the wave of islamophobia and compares it the homophobia a generation ago.  His angle is the recent Juan Williams affair.  If I was gay, I'd have taken offense.

Write accurately points out: "Over the past nine years about 90 million flights have taken off from American airports, and not one has been brought down by a Muslim terrorist. Even in 2001, no flights were brought down by people in 'Muslim garb.'"

But, Wright's logic completely fails when you consider the following fact: homophobia, ridiculous as it is, is not the result of some sort of global gay agenda to destroy "The Infidel," murder civilians and impose a religion on others. 

I'm curious, how many murders or terrorist attacks have been perpetrated in the name of homosexuality? Perhaps the convicted Times Square bomber is secretly gay.  Nidal Hassan might be gay, too.

Juan Williams should likely not have said what he did.  But Wright's position reveals simple ignorance of recent history.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Of Urban Legends and Parental Behavior

Never, in the United States, has a child died from eating poisoned candy on Halloween.  (No, I didn't do my own research; I'm relying on The Wall Street Journal.)

Why then, the insanity around this relatively harmless holiday?

Lenore Skenazy has her own theories.  I think it's just a great case study for effective public relations and communications.  Consider:
  • The overwhelming opinion seems to be that Halloween is a dangerous time for kids.  
  • The facts do not support this.
  • No one cares.
What we see here is that once a narrative takes hold it is next-to-impossible to dispel it, even if it is blatantly incorrect.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

If you're looking for Viagra, don't expect to see deals in your inbox.

It's a happy day for anyone with an email inbox., the leading purveyor of inbox clutter, mysteriously closed down earlier in the week.

Based in Russia, the company was responsible for so much email spam, that people who monitor global spam traffic (Yes, it's apparently a job.) have noticed a decline of up to 20%.

Now where am I going to find special deals on Viagra?