Meeting a Hero

This isn’t necessarily work-related, but I wanted to share it regardless. We use the word “hero” a lot, but I was honored to meet someone whose claim to that word is beyond debate.

ColeThis is Col. Richard Cole, who was Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot during the famous “30 Seconds Over Tokyo” raid of 1942. To get America a much-needed victory and reset Japanese strategic calculations after Pearl Harbor, the “Doolittle Raiders” launched bombers that had never before flown from an aircraft carrier on a mission where they had no real expectation of landing at an actual airfield. (Cole’s crew bailed out over China when they ran out of fuel.) They bombed military targets in Tokyo, doing minor physical damage but sending shockwaves through the entire Japanese military and delivering notice that America wasn’t going to go down without a fight.

At 102 years old, Col. Cole is the last surviving member of the Doolittle Raiders.

I met him because this past weekend, my family and I were honored to be guests at the 93d Bomb Squadron’s centennial celebration, which included a change-of-command ceremony. My grandfather Charles R. d’Olive was a member of the 93d in World War I, when it was a “pursuit squadron” (we call them “fighter squadrons” now), and scored the first victory in the 93d’s history. Today, the 93d is a USAF Reserve B-52 squadron based at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.

The men and women of the 93d continue to serve in the best tradition of Col. Cole, my grandfather and their brothers in arms. Their legacies are in good hands.

Expert Opinion

It’s always nice to have people whom I respect like my work. But it hit an entirely different level today when nationally-known and widely respected economics professor Mark J. Perry wrote a blog post for the American Enterprise Institute to point people at my “excellent” and “insightful” Jones Act corporate welfare article.

That makes one thing I’ve written that Dr. Perry liked and found valuable (as far as I know), so I’ve only got several hundred more to go until we’re even.

They’re Aware. Now What?

Any time you’re told someone wants to “raise awareness” of a policy issue or topic, your immediate response should be, “OK, and then what?” Just as if you were trying to sell pickup trucks, hamburgers or prescription medication, awareness of a policy topic is only the first step in a marketing funnel-based strategic process that gets your target audience to the point where you can close the deal.

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Give the People What They Want

You may have the perfect policy to meet your population’s needs. But do you know how to give them what they want?

Principled public policy advocates tend to work proactively where they see the biggest need for reform. This differentiates them from politicians, who largely react to public opinion. Taking on the big issues is a good way to go about staying true to your mission, but it can backfire if your advocacy only focuses the need for the reforms rather than connecting it to what people truly want. This doesn’t require a change in policy, but it does call for thoughtful marketing and communications strategy and execution.

For instance, as a fiscal policy expert, you may know that your state needs to shut down its wasteful “economic development” corporate welfare programs. Evidence, logic and principles are on your side and you can explain very clearly how this needs to happen. But most people want a job far more than they want good fiscal policy. While you’re explaining to them why they need these reforms, the interests at the intersection of big business and big government simply contend they’re “creating or retaining” jobs and you lose overwhelmingly.

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Breaking the Curse of Knowledge

I joked on Twitter today that I was going to save this graphic from a depressing Annenberg Center study for the next time I had to convince a policy wonk to tone down the complexity of their messaging for a general audience.

There is a serious point behind that joke: One of the most important roles a communicator plays in an organization is serving as the proxy for their audiences. Before you can communicate effectively with an audience, you have to be able to listen to them — and listen as them — as well.

This is especially critical for groups engaged in advocacy or education, such as think tanks. Communicators have to help subject matter experts distill their work into messaging that’s appropriate for each unique audience, while keeping it all consistent enough across those tiers of complexity. This avoids what I’ve called “messaging arbitrage,” where your inconsistencies in what you say to different audiences can be collected and used against you.

To accomplish this, the communicator needs to be able to put themselves in the audience’s mindset and understand what they value, what they know and what they understand. This lets them be an effective sounding board or even gatekeeper for their subject matter experts, who understandably struggle with the “Curse of Knowledge” in these situations and can value comprehensiveness of argument over comprehension.

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New Article on Right to Work

I have a new article up at Think Freely Media entitled, “Why Shouldn’t I Have the Right to Leave A Union?

I was struck by the way the unions and their allies in Missouri are trying to co-opt the language of individual liberty and thought it would be worthwhile to follow their rhetoric about rights to the logical conclusion. (Spoiler: It’s not where they say it is.)