Tag Archive: Fleishman Hillard


What’s easier, attacking or explaining?

Ever hear the old saying that allegations make news, rebuttals don’t?

Do “nuances” lend themselves to 140-bite “tweets?”

If these truths are self-evident then who has the advantage: challengers or incumbents?

This week’s Economist analyzed how politicians around the world from Venezuela to Japan and from Greece to Chile are using Twitter social media tools to get out their messages to constituents and voters. By extension this also applies to those who aim to unseat them. In fact, the insurgents may have a clear advantage. http://www.economist.com/world/international/displaystory.cfm?story_id=16056612

The trend toward quicker and faster political dialogue accelerated from radio fireside chats and televised presidential debates with the birth of “USA Today” in 1982. Fourth Estate purists ripped the new publication as “Journalism Lite” for its practice of synthesizing news down to easy-to-read-and-comprehend stories. The editors of USA Today laughed last as the format meets the needs of the populous with ever-shrinking attention spans to the tune of 1.8 million copies daily as of last March. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USA_Today.

Coupled with the introduction of “Journalism Lite” has been the growing reliance on the 20-second sound bite and the 30-second spot to move the opinions of an increasingly distracted and information-overloaded general public. This is particularly true in multiple-market, mass-media states such as California, New York, Texas, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, where retail politics are not possible and not even practical.

Political purists have long denigrated reducing complex policy choices, such as health care, immigration, national security, energy, to quick 20-second earned media sound bites or the reach and repetition of paid media 30-second radio and television spots. Even with the growing reliance on digital tools including the Internet and social media neither the 20-second bite nor the 30-second spot is going away anytime soon. http://newteevee.com/2010/02/08/advertisers-look-beyond-the-30-second-tv-spot/

Now add into the mix prominent social media sites including Facebook with its 400 million viewers, Twitter, 100 million, and LinkedIn, 65 million. The Economist concluded that: “As well as boosting the profile of individual politicians, Twitter may be better designed for campaigning and opposition than for governing. ‘We’ll change Washington’ is easy to fit into 140 characters. Explaining the messy and inevitable compromises of power is a lot harder.”

The Economist noted a January study by Fleishman Hillard, a Washington PR firm, http://fleishmanhillard.com/ that discovered that Republicans in the House of Representatives twittered more than five times as often as Democrats.

And which party is the out party? The Republicans. Who is playing offense and leading the fight against incumbents? The Republicans. Who are the incumbents that are playing defense having to explain the inevitable nuances of government and policy development? The Democrats.

Of course, the direct opposite was true back in 2006 as the incumbent Republicans were back on their collective heels against determined challengers, the Democrats. Certainly, Internet organizing was a significant factor in the Democrats taking over both houses of Congress that year and Barack Obama being elected president two years later.

Considering that LinkedIn.com was established in 2003, Facebook in 2004 and Twitter in 2006, the 2010 campaign can effectively be seen as America’s first true social media electoral cycle. Whether the GOP uses these tools to their maximum advantage or whether the Democrats figure out how to employ social media to explain incumbent policies and rally their base will be analyzed in-depth following the November elections.

One thing is certain: Just as radio was harnessed to the advantage of FDR, and television for JFK and Ronald Reagan, we will soon learn who are the first big political winners of the social media age.

The recession of a lifetime followed by the gradual, mostly jobless recovery has been particularly brutal on follicly challenged senior PR professionals, some who even remember JFK’s assassination being announced on school loud speakers and the Beatles on the “Ed Sullivan” show.

Please don’t ask, “Ed, who?”

The crippling downturn that prompted corporate and agency chieftains to cut back on SG&A expenses in the face of declining top lines and deteriorating bottom lines, prompted many displaced high-priced communicators to put out their own shingle.

And yes, there is a certain glamour associated with being your own boss, setting your own hours and commuting from the master suite to your home office or the local upscale coffee parlor with a laptop under your arm. And with it has come a directly related cottage industry of IT professionals charging three-figures per hour to keep home laptops, monitors and docking stations humming along.

There is also the nagging reality associated with incorporating the business, indemnifying the business, finding the business, servicing the business, invoicing the business and nagging the business to pay you…followed by quarterly payments to the IRS.

LinkedIn.com http://www.linkedin.com is loaded with oodles of individual practitioners with impressive corporate sounding names and LLPs, but how many will actually survive? How will they compete against each other, internal communications departments, boutique PR agencies, let alone the big multi-nationals such as Weber Shandwick, Fleishman Hillard, Edelman, Burson-Marsteller and Hill & Knowlton?

The answer is that some will ultimately thrive in an improving economy, but most will struggle to simply pay ze mortgage. This brings up another question: Is there another way of turning adversity into opportunity?

Two weeks ago, I took the GRE…the dreaded Graduate Records Examination http://www.ets.org/gre/. Why would I put myself through weeks of masochistic prep work to endure 3.5 hours of essays, critical readings and verbal/math multiple-guess questions? The answer is there is another way of setting your own course than starting your own business.

Personally, I am contemplating mentoring the next generations of strategic communicators. At least four of my colleagues are now teaching at USC, Santa Clara, Arizona State and Michigan State respectively. Why can’t I do the same?

One of them chose academics in part because as the political editor of a major metropolitan daily he grew weary of “having to layoff my friends.”

My PR career has spanned 28 years, including service in the public sector, two trade associations, one publicly traded technology company and an international public relations agency. The purpose of this recital is not to boast but to ask a vital question: What am I accomplishing if I extend this track record to 30 years? Or 32 years? Or even 40 years?

I have been accepted to both the University of Oregon Graduate School and the Graduate School of the UO School of Journalism and Communication http://www.jcomm.uoregon.edu/. A huge decision faces me around May 1 and that involves picking up stakes and moving my lounge act from Northern California to Eugene, Oregon in time for the first classes on September 27. The goal is to receive a master’s degree in “Communication and Society” and eventually to serve as an associate professor/instructor in strategic communications.

Certainly, I have been repeatedly warned about the corresponding loss of income and academic politics; how they eat their own (e.g. you can’t teach at the school in which you received your master’s degree). After years of state government and corporate backroom wheeling and dealing, a little academic politics sounds like more of the same just in a different locale.

We have all heard the homage that “Those who can’t, teach.” To those who want to attach that moniker to me, I simply say, “Bring it on.” More importantly, can senior communicators apply our energies, knowledge and experience to helping the next generations of strategic communicators in this rapidly changing digital age? And how many more would like to join me in this (hopefully) noble quest?

We may look back years from now and realize that the economic downturn (being charitable here) was just the kick in the-you-know-where that many of us needed. It may prompt us to do what we want to do rather than what someone else wants us to do.

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