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.


  1. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

    Jason Whitmen

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