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Written by Team Wizikey

November 3, 2022

Seeing the data points has actually been a strategy and a tactic that is working for us – Maxwell from Szabo & Associates

From working in DC to getting his law degree and becoming an Assistant District Attorney and the Director of Communications and Legislative Affairs for the District Attorney’s office. Max has led several successful reform efforts and successfully executed hundreds of high-profile initiatives for elected officials, agencies, non-profits, labor organizations, developers, and Fortune 500 corporations. Check […]

Seeing the data points has actually been a strategy and a tactic that is working for us – Maxwell from Szabo & Associates

From working in DC to getting his law degree and becoming an Assistant District Attorney and the Director of Communications and Legislative Affairs for the District Attorney’s office. Max has led several successful reform efforts and successfully executed hundreds of high-profile initiatives for elected officials, agencies, non-profits, labor organizations, developers, and Fortune 500 corporations.

Check out his story:

0:01I like to say that you can’t, you know, you can’t be a good manager without good data, you know, how do you how do you know what changes to make if you don’t know what the numbers are?

0:18I graduated from, from college.

0:21I got in the car and drove across the country with a good friend of mine and actually lied to my parents and told them I had a job and a place to live in Washington D.C.

0:29I was really interested in public policy and politics and I came to D.C.

0:35Just because for young people kind of looking to make a difference, there’s a lot of opportunity and so I you know, I worked in D.C.

0:42For a couple of years and I kinda got the bug and and stuck with it.

0:47came back to California worked on some campaigns working for some public affairs consulting firms, got some, you know, really felt like I was making some difference in the community and some folks kind of pushed me to sort of helm a political organization called the SAN Francisco young democrats.

1:07and that really gave me a lot of exposure to a lot of local leaders, local elected officials.

1:12and you know, I was doing a lot of, I was doing a lot of work around sort of community organizing and with community leaders and I didn’t really have a tremendous amount of community of communications experience.

1:25I had some I was you know, always people always regarded me as being a very good writer and you know I I gotta I’m still working for some consulting firms and the District Attorney in SAN Francisco who I had met through a variety of different things that I have been working on including a campaign asked me to come and work for him.

1:46His name is George Gascon, he’s certainly a bit of a firebrand and you know a figure that’s in the news quite a bit even more so these days he was the chief of police in SAn Francisco and then was appointed to be the District attorney in SAN Francisco after Kamala Harris was we had won her race to be attorney general obviously as we all know, she went on to do even bigger, greater things.

2:15so mr Gascon asked me to come and work for him and you know he was relatively new to SAN Francisco and I had a lot of community relationships and sort of strategic expertise and that’s where I you know, kind of my communications journey began.

2:32I you know over the years that followed I went back to school and got my law degree and I became an Assistant District Attorney and the Director of Communications and Legislative Affairs for the District Attorney’s office.

2:44So I was his spokesperson and I did a lot of tremendous number of interviews, television radio prints over the years.

2:55just got a lot of experience working with the local regional national media around criminal justice issues cases and policy as well around criminal justice reform, I think in sort of criminal, certainly there have been other ones, but I think where I really started to use communications as a data point or excuse me, data as a, as a communications tool and metric was, you know, a lot of things around criminal justice and public safety, is really driven by sort of, you know, fear narratives.

3:33Right?

3:33So the idea that the longer we put somebody in prison supposedly that breeds more safety and you know, the reality is actually largely been shown to be the opposite, right?

3:42That the more you put, the more that you use these sort of, you know, the tools of criminalization and prison, you actually tend to see larger, higher rates of re offense when individuals come out of prison in back into the community.

3:56And, so, you know, it’s a very emotional subject for, for people.

4:01But, you know, using data, we actually kind of flipped the script so to speak.

4:09And, you know, made people afraid of the existing criminal justice system because of its propensity to actually make us less safe in terms of the way that we have been doing business for as long as we have.

4:22So,, you know, using those data points to really push back on on the tough on crime narrative.

4:29it’s a challenge.

4:30And certainly, you know, people don’t necessarily always want to hear the data points, sometimes data is not very sexy, but you know with consistency and when you’re consistently, you know, highlighting what you’re doing, but not just what the why you’re doing it.

4:48you know that especially in places like san Francisco where you have a really, you know, a very educated electorate and constituency, we found that it was a very effective means to change people’s perceptions around, you know, a lot of people.

5:04Criminal justice reform is, you know, polls very, very well but very favorably.

5:11but you know, really kind of building support for some of these policies is challenging until people understand not just what you’re doing, but why you’re doing it.

5:21And so that’s something that we did when I was in the District Attorney’s office and it really continued into my you know, my career after working for the san Francisco district Attorney on some campaigns and and some other things that I’ve been working on as well.

5:42You know, there are times where I think data is really helpful, right?

5:46but we also have to recognize, I think especially in this, you know, miss environment in particular, I also have sort of the experience that data, you know, sometimes it’s it’s not, we we have to there’s a there’s a time and a place for everything right and certainly when you’re you know, there’s a lot of, you know, passion, especially on criminal justice, but using using data as a way to convince people and and some arguments can and with some audiences it’s very effective.

6:25So you know, if I go on, if I do a television interview for example, you know, if I’m throwing out a bunch of numbers, sometimes it’s difficult for people to follow.

6:35But I think that, you know, as a visual, right?

6:40When you actually provide a video and some sort of visual content that reflect that uses numbers, it’s easier for people to it’s easier to make a point.

6:49So I created at least an advertisement where we used you know, a number of data points and we put the the actual statistics on camera or on the screen while we kind of contextualize those statistics with a voice over in the background and that that together that made for a very compelling advertisement, right?

7:11Because people were seeing the numbers and they were hearing, you know, somebody basically provide the context of what those numbers mean in terms of policy position, why something is so important.

7:23So I think when you and and you know sometimes you know, especially if you have a very short amount of time, you can use a data point to make a point very quickly.

7:35But if you’re trying to use data in a larger sort of scheme I think a mix between providing that context verbally.

7:43So people are hearing you, but also seeing the data points has actually been a strategy and a tactic that is working for us, in some of the advertisements that we’re producing in order to make a compelling case to viewers.

8:03You know, when I talk to people, for example, we do a lot of work outside of the criminal justice space, but I think a lot of, you know what we a lot of sort of our criminal justice clients, you know, the data points that we highlight for folks is, you know, first and foremost, almost everybody that goes, that’s sent to prison comes back to our communities, about 95% of the people that we sent to prison across the country end up coming back to our neighborhoods and two thirds of those individuals commit new felony offenses within three years.

8:35So that means, that our criminal justice system is failing two thirds of the time.

8:41And I try and put that in the context for people.

8:43And I say, you know, would you get on an airplane if you knew it was going to crash two thirds of the time?

8:47And everyone looks at me like, of course not like there’s no way right?

8:50Like, well, why do we, you know, why do we keep on investing in, you know investing billions in a system that fails the vast majority of the time.

8:57Right?

8:58So when you provide that, you know, that anecdote and you provide that analogy that makes them sort of say, you know, Yeah, that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

9:11you know, that tends to be a pretty compelling, you know, way for people to sort of digest,, you know, the circumstances, that really kind of define our debate on criminal justice and criminal justice reform.

9:29I mean, those, those data points actually come from, you know, a number of published reports and studies from anywhere from the National Institute of Justice.

9:41and, you know, other, you know, public policy outfits that actually study the criminal justice system.

9:48but those are, those are sort of, that’s government data generally that those are generated from hone your skills, make sure that you’re as good as a listener as you are a speaker as you are a writer because if you’re listening to people who know what you’re doing, you’re gonna learn from them and you’re going to gain some experience and some insight into how it’s properly done.

10:14I also think, you know, look at, you know, especially in strategic communications, look at individuals and organizations that are doing it well, right?

10:24Look at the folks and you know, depending on the, you know, if you’re in tech versus if you’re in politics or healthcare, right?

10:33Look at the titans of those industries and the people who are doing really well on platforms like social media where, you know, that they are having to communicate, you know, you know, broad big concepts in a short, truncated amount of time and learn from them and how they’re doing it.

10:51and then, you know, put what you learned into action, I’d find ways to do so both, you know, whether it’s with your personal social media or you know, if you’re, if you’re looking to, you know, you know, get community awareness, something reaching out to your local community newspaper and and and communicating with you know, journalists and and learning how that, you know, learning how that process works.

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