Communication is the heart of all human endeavour.

Posts Tagged ‘United States’

Fellow Americans, are you in or are you out

In Uncategorized on June 27, 2016 at 10:16 am

As an American living in Toronto, it’s painful to watch the too-frequent reports of mass shootings in my former homeland. The US and Canada have different founding stories, which may explain our different views on gun laws. But that was a very long time ago. Over more than two centuries, the U.S. has proved it’s a union that works. The Second Amendment is an escape clause that is no longer relevant.

This link is to an article by me on this subject, published in the Toronto Star.joinordie22-300x200


Weasel words and the failure of leadership: we get what we accept

In Uncategorized on March 20, 2012 at 4:25 pm

By Geoffrey Rowan
TORONTO, March 20, 2012 — Short-sheeting your brother’s bed is a dirty trick.(“Ohh, you brat!”)  Impersonating a government official to rig an election is a felony.
But the sad truth is most of us don’t care. We don’t expect any better from our leaders. We don’t believe what they say, and who can blame us. In the political arena, at least, we have been conditioned to ignore all the faux wounded hyperbole and ersatz indignation of our leaders. Every day someone in government does something so egregious it can only be fixed by his or her resignation, or the prime minister’s resignation or someone’s ceremonial disembowelment. Who’s to know when something serious actually happens?
Many if not most business leaders are just as disingenuous, obtuse, evasive and self-serving. Leadership in the worlds of religion, not-for-profits and at the local community level is no more inspiring. If perception is reality then we are one sorry family of man because around the world we perceive our leaders as a dismal lot.
You know this because you are aware of the U.S. race for the Republican presidential nomination, or our own robo-call scandal, a dysfunctional city council and mayor’s office or countless other examples that range from bumbling buffoonery to malicious malfeasance. I know it because my colleagues in research at Ketchum surveyed people in 13 countries to find out what they think about leaders. The results were dismal. (Here’s the link to the results media release –

There is a huge gap — a 28 percentage point difference — between what we expect from our leaders and what we think they deliver.

Business leaders were the best of a weak lot globally, with a little more than a third of respondents giving them an excellent rating of eight or above on a scale of 0-10. (In Canada, not-for-profit leaders were best.) Even more surprising, among businesses, leaders in banking and financial services rated near the top of the pack. (Leaders of tech companies were rated highest by 44 per cent of respondents for effective leadership, compared to consumer packaged goods firms at the opposite end of the spectrum, cited by just 20 per cent for effective leadership.) 
As jaded as we are in our view of leaders, we’re still hopeful. We want good leaders and believe that we need them to guide us through these difficult times. And we don’t seek the impossible in leadership. Around the world, across many countries and languages, people were pretty consistent about their expectations in response to this survey.

1. Close the Say-Do Gap — People aren’t as stupid as our leaders seem to think. If you say you love people and then you bomb them, or take away their jobs, or their health care, or abuse their trust, they will grow cynical. We want more from our leaders than catchy slogans and lyrical sound bites. We want people who lead by example, who have the courage and commitment to act, and who keep a level head in a crisis.
2. Strong, Silent Types Need Not Apply — As important as it is to act decisively and with integrity, leaders also must keep people informed. In the absence of clear communication – whenever there is ambiguity – we will assume the worst. So, no to slogans and sound bites but yes to clear, consistent communication, with a little humility. Be willing to admit mistakes. Be aware that different situations require different leadership styles, and different leadership styles require different communication styles, but they all require good communication.
3. Don’t sugar-coat it — The survey was decisive on this. Speak the truth with purpose and without ambiguity. We can handle a challenge if we understand it and if we know what our leaders are doing to address it.  
4. The way to be seen to be trustworthy is to be trustworthy — (See No. 1, Close the Say-Do Gap.) For organizations to be seen to be leaders, nothing rated higher in the survey than trustworthiness, including quality of products, services or management, financial strength, or innovation.
5. Let Them Look You In The Eyes — Face-to-face communication is by far the communication channel that creates the greatest sense of leadership credibility. The lack of credibility given to some digital communication channels was surprising given their fast proliferation, but we believe Twitter feeds and social media were useless for leadership is because most of the content doesn’t meet the other criteria for effective leadership. It’s usually bland marketing speak and sloganeering, and it’s rarely actually written by the leader. Does anyone believe Stephen Harper writes his own Tweets?

The bad news is that we have grown so cynical that we expect our leaders are going to be even worse in 2012 than they were in 2011. There is such a powerful hunger in so many to be anointed “a leader” and then to hang onto that perceived power that they have forgotten the fundamental tenet of leadership – that they work for the people they are leading.

And so cynicism grows, and alientation, and disengagement, until we end up with leaders no one listens to, or until a new kind of leader emerges — one who leads instead of manages. That’s where leadership opportunity exists now.


Business, Political, Religious Leadership a Big Disappointment

In Uncategorized on March 20, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Leadership crisis expected to worsen, Ketchum global survey reveals

Canadians rate not-for-profit leaders best of a weak lot of leaders
Globally, business leaders rated first; bankers surprise
  Politicians rated worst on leadership; vast gap between expectation, reality
  Traditional media far outperforms social media for leadership credibility

 TORONTO, March 20, 2012 – Leaders in business, politics, religion, local communities and the not-for-profit sector fall far short of expectations around the world, according to a 12-country survey by global communications firm Ketchum, and we expect it to get worse this year.

The survey found a 28-percentage-point gap between respondents’ expectations of leaders and their view of how well leaders are meeting those expectations.

In Canada*, survey respondents were at least as harsh in their judgment of leaders as elsewhere, but rather than rating business leaders as the best of a weak lot, Canadians gave that recognition to leaders of not-for-profit organizations.

 Canadians gave not-for-profit leaders a mean score of 6, on a sale of 0-10, for effective leadership. Canada’s business leaders followed with a mean score of 5.6 out of 10. Canadians rated political leaders tied for last place, with celebrities, with a 4.2 mean score.

Besides showing the depth of the world’s lack of faith in our leader, the global survey also provides a roadmap for leadership effectiveness. Being perceived as an effective leader requires a combination of decisive action and honest, transparent communication, which is best achieved through a leader’s personal presence and involvement.

“Our study reveals for the first time the full extent of the world’s disappointment with its leaders across every category of human endeavour,” said Geoffrey Rowan, managing director of Ketchum’s Canadian operations and a partner in the global firm. “But the research is also full of practical insights – a clear blueprint for more effective leadership. One point of clarity was how inextricably linked effective leadership is to effective communication.”

A surprise finding outside of Canada, given the lingering global financial crisis, business leaders were seen as the most effective over the past year – beating politicians, not-for-profit bosses and religious leaders. But in Canada, not only did not-for-profit leaders get the highest mean score. They also got the highest number of “excellent” ratings (8 or above on a scale of 0-10) at 23 per cent. Globally, it was the business leaders who got the most excellent ratings, at 36 per cent.

“The key to leadership, particularly in the ‘social profit’ sector, is knowing what to do with it,” said Rahul Bhardwaj, president and CEO of Toronto Community Foundation, one of Canada’s most far-reaching not-for-profits. “When working to build stronger communities, cities, and, by extension, a stronger country, it’s important to remain focused, transparent and committed to open and authentic communication. You must be guided by and communicate strong values – be constructive not destructive. “Above all, don’t confuse managing with leading.”

Within the business community globally, knowledge-based industries were perceived as having the most effective bosses. Ranked highest on leadership effectiveness was technology, with a 44 per cent approval rating, followed by media (39 per cent) and telecommunications (36 per cent). Banking chiefs came in fourth overall in the poll worldwide with 32 per cent. The energy sector and financial services leaders were ranked fifth (31 per cent) and sixth (30 per cent) respectively. Consumer business leaders lagged far behind on leadership, with consumer packaged goods leaders being rated effective by only 20 per cent.

Perhaps most significant for the business community, the research makes a direct link between positive perceptions of leadership and business-critical decisions such as a willingness to buy stock, goods and services or recommend working at a company. This explains crisis response being seen as the most important area for business leaders to communicate personally (53 per cent), followed by financial results (48 per cent) and the state of the business (40 per cent).

Personal Leadership and Powerful CommunicationA Direct Link

Clear, transparent communication topped the table of key leadership behaviours globally. For 84 per cent, effective communication is extremely important to strong leadership, while 48 per cent rated it as the number one factor. In Canada, not-for-profit and business leaders tied for top spot in effective communication, at a fairly dismal mean rating of 5.7 out of 10. Political and religious leaders tied with the lowest mean rating of 4.6 on effective communication.

 Action also matters in rating leadership. Being able to make the tough decisions, leading by example and staying calm in a crisis rated immediately behind effective communication. The study revealed that the number one action leaders should take to restore confidence in 2012 is to be open and honest about the nature and scale of the challenge ahead (57 per cent US; 52 per cent Europe vs. 43 per cent China). By contrast, only 17 per cent indicated a preference for leaders to spare them the full picture to avoid panic.

Trustworthiness was seen as the number one source of leadership credibility for corporations, placed above quality of management and financial strength. In order to win that trust, the report found that the personal “presence” and involvement of a leader in communicating was vital. As a result, communication via face-to-face and traditional media left social media trailing. Face-to-face contact provided the greatest source of leadership credibility (50 per cent), followed by televised speeches (43 per cent), broadcast media (41 per cent) and print media (38 per cent). Digital platforms and social media were well off pace, with blogs at 20 per cent, Facebook at 16 per cent, advertising at 13 per cent and Twitter at just 8 per cent.

“We were a little surprised that mainstream media was still far ahead of digital and social media in conveying leadership credibility,” said Mr. Rowan. “The message we take is that most organizations aren’t using social media as a leadership channel. It’s mostly used to push marketing messages, and even when a leader’s name is involved, most people don’t believe it’s the leader who is actually communicating. This doesn’t mean we should write off social media as a channel for building credible leadership but rather that we have to make the authentic ‘presence’ of the leader shine through.”

Visit for additional survey information and materials. # # # About the Leadership Communication Monitor Ketchum Global Research & Analytics and Ipsos Observer, a worldwide strategic business line within Ipsos, conducted an online survey of 3,759 respondents in 12 markets from Dec. 14, 2011 to Jan. 10, 2012. These were the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Poland, China, Singapore, India, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa and Brazil. The global margin of error is +/-1.6%. About Ketchum Ketchum is a leading global communications firm with operations in more than 70 countries across six continents. Named 2012 Agency of the Year (PRWeek) and the winner of an unprecedented three consecutive PRWeek Campaign of the Year Awards, Ketchum partners with clients to deliver strategic programming, game-changing creative and measurable results that build brands and reputations. For more information on Ketchum, a unit of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE:OMC), visit About the Canadian Survey From March 15th, to September 16th, 2012, an online survey was conducted among a sample of 1,003 Canadian adults 18 years plus, who are Angus Reid Forum panel members. The Angus Reid Forum is owned and operated by Vision Critical. Individuals were sampled according to Census data to be representative of the Canadian national adult population. The full dataset has been statistically weighted according to the most current gender, age, region, education (and in Quebec, language) Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada. The margin of error is ±3.1%, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. About Ipsos Ipsos is an independent market research company controlled and managed by research professionals. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has grown into a worldwide research group with a strong presence in all key markets. In October 2011 Ipsos completed the acquisition of Synovate. The combination forms the world’s third largest market research company. With offices in 84 countries, Ipsos delivers insightful expertise across six research specializations: advertising, customer loyalty, marketing, media, public affairs research, and survey management. Ipsos researchers assess market potential and interpret market trends. They develop and build brands. They help clients build long-term relationships with their customers. They test advertising and study audience responses to various media and they measure public opinion around the globe. Ipsos has been listed on the Paris Stock Exchange since 1999 and generated global revenues of €1,363 billion (1.897 billion USD) in 2011. Visit to learn more about Ipsos’ offerings and capabilities.

Contact: Sydney Dare —  416-355-7427 —

* The Canadian survey – the 13th country – was conducted for Ketchum by Vision Critical. It was conducted later than the surveys in other countries and asked fewer questions, which may have affected results

Occupy Wall Street: You say you want a revolution

In Uncategorized on November 2, 2011 at 10:11 am

Part 1: Are we unhappy enough with

the status quo to pay the price for change?

This is Part One of a four-part series on the formula for creating change.

By Geoffrey Rowan

TORONTO – Changing the world is a messy business, and for the Occupy Wall Street group camped out in a Toronto park, it’s also a cold, damp one.  But it can be done. There’s even a pretty good formula for figuring out whether beating a drum and sleeping on the ground is likely to provoke change or whether it’s just so much earnest, feel-good street theatre – the Change Formula.

There are variations of “the Change Formula” but most are similar to this one favoured by the Harvard professors who teach at Omnicom University, the excellent leadership skills development program that Omnicom has been running for nearly 20 years.

It states that likelihood of creating change increases if the product of dissatisfaction (D) with the status quo, times vision (V) of the changed state, times the quality of the process (P) to achieve the changed state, is greater than the cost (C) to those who will be affected by the change.

In other words, how miserable are we, how attractive is the promised land, how hard is it to get there, and is all that more than what it’s going to cost the people who have to pay for it?  (DxVxP) > C.

The OWS movement seeks really big throw-the-bastards out change, fundamental change to our broad society.  This isn’t just a new strategic direction for a company. It’s a new vision for how society and most of its institutions function. It is change on the scale of the American and French Revolutions, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Cuban revolution or the Arab spring.

Are we as dissatisfied as those people were?

Is "mad as hell" mad enough?

Maybe,  says the movement. Their placards say 99 per cent of us are disenfranchised and downtrodden. If that’s true, then a political solution is a sure thing. We don’t need a violent revolution, like Libya, or a complete social and economic collapse, like the Soviet Union. What candidate for political office wouldn’t want to be on the right side of an issue that has the backing of 99 per cent of the electorate? Even motherhood, babies and singing high school vampires aren’t that popular.

Any candidate promising to use taxes to redistribute wealth, cut bank executive salaries to minimum wage, pay everyone’s university tuition and outlaw brogues wouldn’t even need the full 99 per cent of the repressed. Candidates polling a mere 90 per cent, or 80 per cent, or even 70 per cent of the popular vote would still be assured a cake-walk sweet enough to make their teeth ache.

The fact that no political candidate anywhere is stepping up to run on a “raise taxes” platform suggests either that 99 per cent of us have failed to adequately communicate our dissatisfaction with the status quo. Maybe it’s just poor communication. Or maybe the number is inaccurate.

So how dissatisfied are we? It’s undeniable that some people are dissatisfied with their treatment in our society. It’s undeniable that some people in our society make a lot more money than others, and undeniable that some people, because of their wealth have greater influence in society than others who lack wealth. Is that enough?

Can the Occupy Wall Street movement make a convincing case that these disparities are so unfair and so pervasive that we must have fundamental change? Can they connect to and amplify a vein of pessimism running through society – a belief that anyone engaged in commerce, unless it is commerce related to a popular product like an iPhone, is corrupt at the centre?

It’s hard to predict the future, but it’s easy to make the case we aren’t on the verge of a social collapse into abject despair. Consider just two of countless events in Toronto at the same time as the Occupy Toronto launched:

  • The University and College Fair at the Toronto Convention Centre attracted many thousands of students and their families, all looking ahead enthusiastically and optimistically toward a future in which they are enriched by education and become contributing members of our society.
  • The Toronto Waterfront Marathon attracted about 15,000 runners in what can only be described as an homage to hope and optimism. They were cheered on by many times that number of family and friends, who took joy in the accomplishment of their loved ones. Who trains for months and then gets up early on a chilly, wet Sunday morning to run 40 kilometres without being chased by corporate thugs after our flaccid wallets? Mostly optimistic and hopeful people.

Another hint that the 99 per cent of us who are disenfranchised may not be sufficiently dissatisfied with the status quo to be part of a major societal change movement: Apple sold more than four million of its 4S iPhones in three days after it launched the new device. And the outpouring of grief over the death of multi-billionaire Steve Jobs was many times greater than that for Mother Theresa, but only a tiny fraction of what we saw expressed for Princess Dianna; only a fraction of the interest we saw in the wedding Prince William and Kate.

You can argue that our priorities are all screwed up, but if OWS can only rouse a tiny fraction of the number of people who were willing to get up in the middle of the night to watch the televised wedding  of a couple of wealthy Brits, it’s hard to make the case we are highly motivated to change. Still, the Occupy Wall Street movement isn’t wholly lacking in credibility. Its argument that the current economic system is unsustainable is supported by a couple of severe global economic crises, and its argument that our social systems are failing is supported by lots of data and countless painful stories about real people treated badly. Its challenge is

What does the OWS promised land have to look like to get us to want to go there?

Two countries separated by the same language*? Welcome to Canada, Will and Kate

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Will and Kate looking forward to their Canadian adventure.

A guide to Canadianisms for William and Catherine’s first North American tour

 Toronto, June 28, 2011 – In welcoming the royal couple to our home and native land for their first visit to Canada, Ketchum Public Relations offers this helpful guide to Prince William and Duchess Catherine on some of the curious Canadianisms they may encounter.

“While Brits and Canadians share the English language, it might come as a surprise to the royal couple that Canadian English contains words, phrases and meanings that are unique and that don’t resonate with people from other English-speaking counties, including the Brits,” said Emma Capombassis, Senior Vice President, Ketchum Public Relations Canada and a British expat herself. “In the spirit of service, we offer this guide to enable the royal couple to be aware of the some of the language and cultural differences that will inevitability arise in their interactions with Canadian officials and the public. So, William, you can be safe in the knowledge that if someone happens to mention that they love your pants, they very likely aren’t referring to your underwear.”

The couple’s nine-day tour kicks off this Thursday in Ottawa. No matter where they find themselves during their Canada tour, it’s important to keep the following in mind:

  • Canadians have a fondness for Tim Horton’s coffee, so replace the cuppa and biscuit with a Timmy’s double double and a Timbit.
  • When we talk hockey, we’re referring to Canada’s official national winter sport played on a sheet of ice, not women’s field hockey (no disrespect to the Duchess of Cambridge, former captain of her field hockey team). In fact, in Canada the term “ice hockey” is redundant, and reveals you as a foreigner.
  • When you say football, we think of the game where passing is done with your hands, not your feet. We know that what you’re talking about is the world’s most popular sport, and we love it to. But we still call it soccer.
  • When referring to your friend as a “mate” Canadians will wonder if you’re referring to a classmate, housemate or lover.
  • Should your pants come up in conversation, the reference is to your trousers, not your undies.
  • When nature calls and you need to find the appropriate facilitates, forget about asking for directions to the “toilet” or “loo.” We speak in code of such things. You want the “washroom,” “bathroom,” “restroom,” or in cases of extreme social discomfort, “the little boys'” or “little girls'” room. Out west it might be “heifers” or “bulls.” In the east, “Mermaids” or “Mermen.”
  • Bonus points for ending a statement with “eh?” when seeking a response, whether it be one of confirmation or disagreement.

 While visiting seven cities across Canada, here are some regional tips to keep in mind:

 In between visits to the Museum of Civilization and Parliament Hill in Ottawa pick up a beavertail. But no need to suit up for hunting. Beavertails are a local dessert specialty made of fried dough, often topped with cinnamon and sugar. We’re told President Barack Obama loved his.

In Montreal and Quebec City feel free to practice the French you studied for your A-levels (no Canadian equivalent)  with French words such as “enchanté” for nice to meet you or “merci beaucoup” for thank you very much. The effort to parler Francais is much appreciated. It is also worth noting that Quebec employs much warmer greetings than the rest of Canada. Don’t be alarmed if kisses land on both cheeks even when greeting a stranger.

Before boarding the HMCS Montreal to set sail to Quebec City, pick up some snacks at the local depanneur, or corner shop. Lastly, no Quebec visit is complete without tasting poutine, a local delicacy of french fries covered with cheese curds and gravy. Bon appétit!

After visiting Charlottetown and arriving in Summerside by helicopter keep an eye out for PEI’s red sand beaches. Also have a listen for the East Coast way of referring to a guy or girl as a “feller or lad.” Maritimers are friendly, never in a rush,  very laid back, and well known for offering their homes to strangers.

Yellowknife.  In the summertime, the sun shines for nearly 24 hours a day.  If you find it hard to sleep with the sun shining be sure to bring an eye mask with you. July is the warmest month in the Northwest Territories. And did you pack your bug hats?

Be advised that there’s a saying in Calgary, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes,” which refers to the city’s extreme climate changes. Grab your cowboy hat (and a toque, just in case) as well as your cowboy boots when heading off to the Calgary Stampede parade. When departing Cow-Town if you are asked where you are headed next, reply as a Canadian would and say “the States” instead of “America.”

To the Duke and Duchess (though you’ll always be Wills and Kate to us), have a wonderful time, eh?

 * The quote, “two countries separated by the same language,” from George Bernard Shaw, was in reference to Britain and the United States, but it may equally be applicable to Britain and Canada.

About Ketchum

An innovator in communication since 1923, Ketchum delivers seamless service around the world through its 66 offices in Europe, North America, Asia Pacific and Latin America.  Ketchum was chosen as the PRNews “Large Firm of the Year” in 2010. Additional information on Ketchum and its award-winning work can be found at

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Leslie Jackson, Account Executive (416) 355-7421