Clinton-McCain ‘08

Senator Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been hard to figure lately, but today it did put out a well-crafted piece of political advertising.

The TV ad brilliantly plays to her biggest perceived strength, experience, and her opponent’s biggest perceived weakness, foreign policy experience. And it does so in an emotionally compelling kind-of-way, rather than the Clinton campaign’s typical 50-Point Plan kind-of-way.

This is a very strong piece of political advertising, maybe the best of any presidential candidate this season. And the only person happier than Senator Clinton about how the ad turned out is Senator John McCain.

– Loveland

payroll calculator kind

Do I detect a strategy here?

Could it be that Minnesota’s Democrats in the legislature are actually following a plan? How unlike us.

Today’s Minnposting by Sharon Schmickle on the upcoming stem cell debate certainly suggests that the Dems are trying to bring up a series of politically volatile issues that either 1) split the Republican party (the transportation bill); 2) embarrass Governor Pawlenty (the Molnau ouster), or; 3) force our VP-Wannabe-in-Chief to make unpopular vetoes (stem cells).

In the latter case, there’s unlikely to be enough votes in the legislature to override a veto but there is consistent support for such research among the general population (as high as 2-to-1 depending on the poll) and particularly among those oh-so-important “moderates” that Senator McCain is going to need to have a chance at winning in November. That might make it harder for Mr. Early Endorser to remain on the Veep short list.

Of course, in the topsy-turvy world of 2008 politics (to steal Loveland’s line), a stand against stem cell research probably makes the Guv more attractive to Senator McCain as a way to appease the right side of his party (which is putting a pretty good press on him to backtrack from previous positions). That way he could stick to his current moderate-pleasing positions while signaling to the right that their views would be represented at the table.

– Austin education funding kind

PRSA needs to diversify its view of diversity

I’m the new guy here, so let’s this out of the way: Hi, my name is Mike (“Hi, Mike!”), and I’m addicted to MSNBC.

I have a short bio here. OK, so let’s get on with it…

As a student, I served on the national committee for the Public Relations Student Society of America, the kiddie version of the Public Relations Society of America. I was lucky enough to almost literally stumble into this outstanding experience. I met some amazingly fun and talented people, and we worked with leaders from PRSA to make both organizations more meaningful to the industry they serve.

And I once stood next to James Grunig.

I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, but that’s not to say it was perfect. Even on the kiddie committee, we wrestled with some fairly heavy issues – one of which still nags me today, despite my total lack of involvement with the organization since my national committee stint.

PRSA and PRSSA shared the noble goal of improving diversity within the groups and the industry at large, particularly in terms of organizational membership and leadership but also in the educational sense, helping all members better understand the less familiar corners of world’s population. The nobility of the goal was complemented by the practicality of the idea that if a PR professional better understands, say, the Hispanic communities in the southwestern United States, he or she could better pitch stories to that community’s media outlets.

In many respects, PRSA has done well in educating its membership about a variety of specific communities who identify themselves with a common language, race, orientation, nationality, profession, political preference or mix thereof. For example, the July issue of Tactics, the association’s newspaper (the last one I received before my membership expired) featured an article titled “LGBTinos: a unique niche market effectively reached online,” which informs readers on the ins and outs of conducting media outreach directed toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Latinos. The next page has a similar article aiming to give readers a basic understanding of the disabled community.

These types of stories are helpful and interesting, often (thankfully) written by members of the very communities being discussed. I could complain about how most of these articles are the same and rarely go beyond generic, “PR 101” advice like read the publication before pitching the editor, know what they cover, know the audience, etc. – but I won’t. I have something else to complain about.

Another part of PRSA’s diversity initiative, arguably the more significant part, is improving the diversity of the organization’s membership and leadership while helping agencies and communications departments improve the diversity within. As the thinking goes, how can you communicate to diverse audiences without truly knowing, understanding, relating? Again, a noble goal, but it’s in this regard that I think PRSA’s efforts fall short.

In that same issue of Tactics, I read an article that sums up my experiences with PRSA’s diversity efforts: “Where are all the diverse PR practitioners?” laments the lack of diversity the author sees in his visits to PR classes “at several Midwestern universities,” making the not-unreasonable claim that this problem is reflected in the population of practicing PR professionals.

What’s the author’s evidence of the diversity problem? Too many Caucasians, apparently.

“Generally, only a handful of African-American students are in these classes, and even fewer Hispanics and Asians.”

I don’t disagree, speaking from my almost exclusively Midwestern perspective. But why the focus solely on race? I use this article as an example, but it’s representative of much of my experience with PRSA’s approach to diversity. We’re loaded with ideas for how to pitch stories to “diverse” media outlets, but when it comes to being more diverse, the solution is to be more epidermally colorful.

PRSSA wanted to improve membership diversity, so our committee discussed a plan that involved targeting HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities, a phrase I’m glad PRSSA didn’t invent). Discussions of diversity did often include mention of matters beyond race, but actions taken stayed squarely in the realm of skin tone.

Our committee itself was truly diverse. We were European and African and Asian and Mormon and Buddhist and Catholic and male and female and large and small and come from families of divorce and families of, well, not divorce and – you get the point. You’d think protestations of an incorrect focus with regard to diversity would have been acted upon. Nay.

I know many people have devoted much blood, sweat and tears to PRSA broadly and its diversity initiative specifically, and I know many of those people, and I love a few of them. I hope some of these people will tell me I’m wrong, that I’m not seeing a lot of other, better informed work going on. Or maybe that things have gotten better since I’ve faded away from the PRSSA/PRSA circle.

But I don’t hold out too much hope. After all, these are PR people. If they were doing something even remotely well, I’m pretty damn sure we’d have heard about it.


I’d argue the presidential candidate who runs with the most optimistic themes and tone usually wins. Compassionate Conservative/Uniter W ran as more of an optimist than Gore in his robotic phase or Kerry being Kerry. Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow Clinton ran as more of an optimist than Bush the First stuck in a recession or Dour Dole. Bush the First in the after-glow of Reagan ran as more optimistic than technocrat Dukakis. Morning in America Reagan ran as more of an optimist than Jimmalaise Carter and mundane Mondale.

And Yes We Can Obama is running as much more of an optimist than Senator Hillary Clinton. This is not an especially difficult thing to do. Senator Clinton apparently doesn’t read the trend the same way, since her campaign now seems positively fixated on mocking Obama’s message of hope. All the while, her once huge lead in Texas and Ohio continues to shrink, just as it has in state-after-state.

The last few days have been truly bizarre, as memorialized last night in brilliant fashion by John Stewart. Stewart sums up Senator Clinton’s latest campaign message as being “The world is a shithole, people. No, we can’t.” Then he shows a satirical Clinton yard sign with a new tagline, “Hillary Clinton for President. Because a deaf God ignores our pleas.”

I submit this may not be a winning key message.

– Loveland

small business association kind

“That’s An Interesting Idea, But…”

A few posts back, my friend Loveland wrote about PR people playing the role of Chief Wet-Blanket Officer (CWO) for their organizations — dampening expectations so that reality, when it arrives as it inevitably does, doesn’t disappoint by comparison.

I’d extend the duties of the CWO to include the occasional gentle handling of an idea that comes from within an organization that 1) someone thinks would make great PR while 2) we lofty PR professionals don’t.

Today, Starbucks is closing almost all of its U.S. locations, more than 7,000 of them, for three hours to do employee training. It’s the kind of thing I could see the PR/CWO hearing about and naysaying — “Interesting, sure, but not a lot of PR ammo here, really. Next agenda item.”

But, as it happens, I’ve been hearing about this story all day. A nice coverage coup for Starbucks, and a reminder, perhaps, to encourage the keeping of one’s wet-blanketing reflexes from becoming too smothering.

– Hornseth

The Cheerioization of Journalism

When the cereal behemoth down the block encountered higher raw product costs, it lowered retail prices while also moving to smaller boxes, leading to a net price increase, on a per Cheerio basis.

Another staple on the breakfast table is headed in the same direction. The Pioneer Press hasn’t changed its price , but then again it has, on a per scoop basis. First, it has dramatically slashed the size of its newroom over the last couple of years. And today, it announced that it has also General Millsed us:

The paper is narrower. You’re not imagining it. We’ve changed to a page width that is becoming the newspaper industry standard, allowing us to use less paper.”

Look for a narrowing of bird cage floors to follow.

– Loveland
sample invoices kind

“Cult” Bursts Into the Political Lexicon

When you type “cult and Obama” in Google, you get 430,000 hits.

Think about that. That’s remarkable, because “cult” is darn strong language, and a term I don’t remember ever being applied to a political campaign before this year. Yet, now the use of the term is absolutely rampant.

If a foreign visitor oberserving American politics heard the use of this term in a political context, he or she might turn to a dictionary, and discover that a cult is “generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.”

As unusual as the Obama campaign is, is that really an apt description for it?

The Obama campaign seems to have been given the title by his opponents because opponents’ crowds are much smaller and less enthusiastic than Obama’s, and a disproportionate number of the attendees at Obama’s rallies are not the partisan activists who typically populate political rallies.

But really, just how different are Obama’s supporters? With the exception of the occasional rally fainter – and what is up with that? — they aren’t the kind of glassy eyes automotons we associate with followers of Jim Jones, Sun Myung Moon or David Koresh. But there are many more participants than usual, and they aren’t all familiar faces to the political hacks. Perhaps that is the part that feels so “bizarre” and threatening to the kingmaker class.

A confession: Hi, my name is Joe, and I’m an Obamaniac. I don’t go to rallies or have Obama posters in my bedroom. I don’t write love notes to Barrack (I swear, he doesn’t even know I’m alive). I don’t faint when he comes on the telly. I do think oversells his ability to bring people together, and has an arrogant streak to rival his opponents. But I do think he’s right on most issues and is easily the most gifted Persuader-in-Chief of my generation. So I have a bumper sticker on the minivan, and I actually give a damn this year. A pretty big damn actually.

So does that make me a cultist? Am I only a normal American if, to borrow the country music lyric, “my give a damn is busted,” and I subsequently leave the political game to the political regulars?

The Google search indicates that the pundits view it as bizarre when a leader inspires previously under-active Americans to greater levels of participation. But really, is that reaction an indictment of Obama and his supporters, or of the sorry state of democratic expectations?

— Loveland tax prep kind