The Secret PR Weapon

Maneuvering in major political campaigns is all about public relations. This campaign for President has yielded some fascinating PR strategies that have worked at times and more often backfired.

Chelsea ClintonRudy Giuliani’s strategy to fashion a stump speech that characterized the people of New York as slovenly, out-of-control, criminal liberals bore him the intense animosity of the New York media and the people of this city. Bad move.

Barack Obama has run a brilliant campaign that is patterned after John Kennedy’s run for the White House. Obama, like Kennedy, does not have a slew of concrete accomplishments to promote. He does have a message of hope, change and reconciliation, and a Kennedy-like way of delivering it.

Hillary has her daughter Chelsea.  Those of us who watched the sometimes gawky over-protected little girl in the White House blossom into this shy but poised beautiful young woman feel an instant connection to the candidate that goes beyond her husband.

When Chelsea, in her sweet, soft, authentic voice, speaks about why “my Mom” should be President how do we say no? Chelsea has been an effective campaigner. She is swaying the youth vote in the states where she has been deployed and she is now on the campaign trail full-time. Could she make the difference in this election?  

Valentine drunk email sex?!

New York Post 

Mandy Stadtmiller of New York Post is doing a story on drunk emailing just in time for Valentine's Day heartValentine’s Day. Apparently this is a real problem – at least a study reveals that finding.

Mandy seeks your best, funniest stories about drunk emails (can be one that you sent, one that you received) by noon tomorrow – Valentine’s Day. Mandy would take full name – but can get by with only first name if it’s particularly embarrassing, like the following example:

My boss and I have always had a pretty friendly relationship, but he’s still my boss. You know, like we talked about who I was dating, if I was single, etc. Then one night, at 1:30 a.m., after many many glasses of sangria, I decided it would be a spectacular idea to send him an email announcing, “I’m going to get laid tomorrow night! Many times probably! I CANNOT WAIT TO HAVE SEX!” It was the capital letters that was particularly humiliating. I mean, really, the sexual confession was one thing but the all-caps…that’s just sloppy. – Susannah, 31

NOTE: Doesn’t have to be in NYC! Just has to be a really great story.

Send the email to  

Hyper Local Talk #1

How do you get down in the fabric of the local community? How do you influence from the real grassroots, one-to-one? These are questions that rack the brains of marketers these days. The Internet is the great distribution pipe marketers and PR people could only dream about.  But hyper local marketing requires an authentic voice, tangible action that benefits the local community and most dauntingly, it requires time and patience.

Manhattan Times

An example of hyper local marketing that works. I live in Washington Heights on the upper west side of Manhattan.  On the corner of 157th street and Broadway I pick up a free copy of Manhattan Times from the box by the subway station. Washington Heights is predominately Latino with a heavy Dominican concentration, along with a growing minority of professional whites determined to gentrify every square inch of this island. This is heavy duty Hillary Clinton country and Manhattan Times is unabashed in its support of our Junior Senator.  

So in the Manhattan Times I learn about the Bizz&Buzz campaign . It started in 2007 to promote activities in Washington Heights and Inwood.  Says the Manhattan Times site: The campaign includes special events, a regular email blast of upcoming events, and the paper’s weekly “Shhhh!” column, which reminds readers of the business openings, celebrity spottings, and media attention in Northern Manhattan, the city’s best kept secret.

So I get on the weekly Bizz&Buzz email list, which alerts me to Annette A. Aguilar & the StringBeans performing Latin jazz at the Garden Cafe on 207th street and Braodway on Valentine’s eve. I Manhattan Times Bizz&Buzznever heard of the band or the club but I had been sweating to find the right place to take my sweetie on the special day. Bizz&Buzz only has 362 subscribers. If it is confined to two neighborhoods by nature it will not grow too big. But it is the arrow in the bullseyes when it comes to hyper local marketing combining traditional (newspaper) and 2.0 (web and email marketing).

Google goes local.  Type in your city or town name or zip code and you get news results with your local news at the top of the search. Google says that this promotes local news sources but I suspect it also helps them target ads more effectively.  

PR/Media Week in Review 02-10-2008

POLITICS: Obama to the wire

Mark Rose, Editor, PRBlogNewsWith Obama handily defeating Clinton in three primaries yesterday (Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington state), the two Democratic party front runners have nearly identical delegate counts. That means that late-stage primaries in Kentucky and Oregon, May 20, Montana and South Dakota, June 3, take on huge importance. The front-loaded Super Tuesday did not anoint the candidate.

In Obama’s victory speech last night in Virginia (primary this Tuesday) he concentrated on what sort of President he would be and his sharp differences with McCain. Both Obama and Clinton are transitioning into “Presidential” mode. Obama has momentum and money going into the next spate of primaries.  It is still hard to imagine him winning this thing despite his crowd-pleasing oratorical gifts

Author Doris Lessing, who holds the Nobel in literature, believes that Obama “would not last long” if he were President because somebody would surely assassinate him. See USA Today story. This is a story line not often mentioned these days but is certainly valid. Colin Powell refused to run for President because he believed he would be aggressively targeted for assassination.

WIRED BITCH RANT: Bruce Sterling Has Bad Hair Day & Bitch Slaps Flacks

What can you say to this blog post headline:

I’m Suffering An Evil Tidal Wave of Blogsurfing Public Relations Spam

WIRED reporter Bruce Sterling joins the Chris Anderson Support Group to Bitch Slap Flacks  with his post against publicists.  Sterling re-prints a media pitch with his own snide comments. Actually, the pitch is well-done and sounds relevant to me and it is Sterling who sounds like a whiner. It is definitely NOT spam.Solly Parton Comments are turned off for this post in case anybody has an opinion that may be contrary. Picking on publicists, especially when they pitch journalists with legitimate story ideas, is bush league, nasty and speaks more about the complainer. Did Sterling ever snatch a good idea for a story from a PR pitch, or find a source to flesh out a story?

MUTUAL SUPPORT: Dolly’s ‘Shock and Awe” 

Dolly Parton says her storied boobs, affectionately nicknamed “shock” and “awe,” belong to all of mankind. “They do seem like public property in a way. They served me well — I don’t know if I’m supporting them or they’re supporting me,” the country legend, 62, tells next month’s Ladies’ Home Journal. “I’ve always had nice ones but of course I’ve had ‘em jacked up a bit. And they’re part of the persona — it always takes a little pressure off me.”  

VIDEO: PRBlogNews VIDEO Hall of Fame

See that VIDEO tab up top. That’s where you can waste valuable time watching edgey arty newsy or fun videos instead of billing client time. Check it out.

The Power of PR

Thomas JeffersonThomas Jefferson is believed to be the first to coin the term “public relations.” It was 1807 during the seventh annual address to the joint session of the U.S. Congress. Jefferson faced rising aggressions with the British that would eventually lead to war and he was dealing with a “huge” budget of $16 million (that will buy you a decent apartment in New York City these days, considered “cheap” on the world market).

As the third President of a fledgling republic Jefferson understood that public perception was critical to success of a mass ideal. He understood that managing relations with constituents was a key component to his job.

The core tenets of “public relations” have not changed much in 200 years … except that the Internet has changed everything we know about communication. Many of the hot Super Bowl ads ended with a web site you needed to immediately visit.  A huge spike in web site traffic is a big measure of success of a Super Bowl TV ad. Can Thomas dig that?

And can he appreciate the titanic matchup today between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. There were no political parties in the days of Jefferson – you were supposed to serve the new-found republic, not a party – although Jefferson was a fiercely political iconoclastic animal. I don’t believe the “transformational” tag attached to Obama … but I do appreciate how we have mass hallucinated the new John Kennedy, as if only such a mythic savior can be the source of hope.

This country was born on hope and faith and unabashed idealism. The shining city on the hill.  

What we are witnessing is the re-birth of the Democratic Party. Obama was right when he said that Republicans were coming up with the good ideas and controlling the political intellectual dialogue for many years, even through the first Clinton White House.  This campaign, and eight years of Bush, is banishing that era. 

Clinton and Obama have tested, prodded and bettered each other, and us,  through an intense caldron of a modern day political campaign. Tonight’s results will surely heighten the dramatic pull to the convention. Maybe we will return to the conventions of old – unscripted and unrestrained, full of real drama. That would be fun.