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Dismantling the Culture of Complicity


Joanna Dodd Massey Ph.D., MBA


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With over 25 years of experience in the media industry at companies, such as Conde Nast, Lionsgate, CBS, Viacom, Discovery and Hasbro, Joanna Dodd Massey, Ph.D., MBA is a C-level communications executive and Board Director. She has managed brand reputation, corporate turnaround, crisis communications and culture transformation. Currently, Dr. Massey is a communications consultant, as well as Founder & CEO of The Marketing Communications Think Tank. She is a corporate speaker and trainer, as well as author of the books, "Communicating During a Crisis," and "Culture Shock: Surviving Five Generations in One Workplace" (TVG Publishing, 2020).

Peaceful protests, petitions, boycotts and calls for change are all effective ways of influencing governments and organizations to act. Anger, aggression, profanity and violence are not going to influence others to change their minds or shift long-held beliefs. The loudest voice in any societal debate does not have to be the person who rants and raves. It can be the sheer number of reasonable voices that drown out the small, angry mob on Twitter. (Racism in the United States is top of mind here, but this is true of all social issues.)

When I talk about crisis communications, I talk about the difference between people who communicate versus those who influence. Speaking clearly, using catchy slogans, or getting your point across, does NOT mean that you can also influence others to act. Being a change agent comes from using the key tenets of crisis communications and understanding how to influence others.

I will give you a quick look at a formula that works for influencing others.


First, let’s look at your communications.

Your message needs to be timely, transparent and truthful


Your tone needs to be calm, confident and compassionate



When it comes to influencing others, others have to respect you, believe you and trust you. If you are someone who is demanding, quick to anger and sews derision then you are not going to be as effective at influencing people as someone who is calm, trustworthy and able to engage people in dialogues as opposed to disputes.

In my book, Communicating During a Crisis, I laid out a simple, but not easy, three step process to influence others.

Understand where the other side is coming from: This requires asking someone about their position and being genuinely interested in who they are and what makes them tick. This is not about asking, so you can then talk AT them with your opinion. You want to talk with them, not at them.


Compliment and relate to them: Human beings are capable of very complex emotions that are often contradictory. We can love someone deeply and still hate them for something they do or say. When we relate to people, even compliment them on various points while disagreeing with others, it makes them feel less threatened and allows them to open up to you and your perspective.


Empower them to make their own decisions: People have to want to change in order to change. Telling them they have to change isn’t going to do the trick. Inspiring people to want to change is about understanding where they’re coming from, relating to what you can and then providing a different way of viewing it in a calm, confident and compassionate way that is truthful, timely and transparent.

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