Category Archives: public relations

The 2010 Democratic Primary Best and Worst Communications Spin Job

The Dan Hynes-Pat Quinn race for the Democratic Gubernatorial nomination produced one of the most interesting communications stories of the 2010 primary race.

By now, we’re all familiar with the Hynes’ Campaign ad showing Harold Washington discuss his regret hiring Pat Quinn in the 1980’s, pointing to Quinn’s incompetence.

The message was pretty hard to argue with – coming straight from Democratic and progressive icon Harold Washington’s mouth that Pat Quinn is unqualified to handle budgetary matters.  At first, it helped to bring Hynes up in the polls with Quinn.

But then something remarkable happened.  To the Quinn campaign’s credit, the Governor was able to turn the Washington ad into an issue of race and M achine politics where Dan Hynes and the Hynes family stood on the wrong side of that debate.  This was a good and pretty predictable response from the Quinn camp.

The Hynes response to this was deeply flawed.  Hynes could have distanced himself from the Quinn attacks, stating his father’s politics was ancient history and that his father was not running against Pat Quinn.  He could have voiced disagreement with the race wars of the 1980’s and Tom Hynes’ role.

Instead, Hynes fell off message, defending his father and allowing Quinn to shift the conversation that previously focused on job performance to a much more emotionally-charged issue of race.  There was no doubt that Quinn worked for progressive candidates and causes and he was able to use the Hynes attack to his advantage to demonstrate solidarity with minorities and middle class voters.  The message completely escaped Hynes.

The timing of course was critical.  This all took place a few weeks before Election Day.  Leading in to this period, a candidate wants to be focused on their message.  The Hynes defensiveness was very costly communications hiccup.

Israel Hurting Herself During Obama’s First Mideast Speech

Reading the Israeli dailies on the eve of President Obama’s policy speech at Cairo Univeristy, I was shocked and saddened at the extremism – and tolerance of that extremism – by the right wing in Israeli society.

Posters are being placed around the country depicting Obama wearing a kaffiyeh and shaking hands with Iranian President Ahmadinejad (allowing Iran to build nuclear weapons).  Furthermore, these posters and the official reactions given to the press by these right wing leaders after Obama’s speech consistently call the American president “Hussein,” suggesting that his Muslim middle name reveals Obama’s “true identity” and favoritism of the Arab world over Israel.

I could talk about how ridiculous these communications are and how President Obama is actually very pro-Israel and committed to Israel’s security and peace prospects more than his predecessor, but instead I am saddened.  I am saddened because I am a strong supporter of Israel, her people and her chances for peace.  I am saddened because the way in which Obama is being depicted in Israel shows an ignorant, extremist and immature view of Israel’s leadership.

The sentiment directed towards President Obama gives exceptional insight into the Israeli mentality.  Attacking Obama for being pro-Arab demonstrates an extreme lack of confidence and weakness on behalf of Israelis.  Instead of giving this president a chance to work with Israel, they are quickly retreating to a circle the wagons strategy.  It’s almost as if Israel still believes the Jewish people are living as guests in other countries instead of their own, where they have defended themselves against warring enemies for six decades successfully.  While the rest of the world sees Israel as the most powerful country in the Middle East who holds the majority of cards for diplomatic and military initiatives, Israel’s right-wing still sees itself as weak and threatened whose imminent demise is only moments away.

Furthermore, and most troubling, Israel’s right wing has shown a disgusting double standard.  Jews around the world have fought against anti-Semitism and bigotry seemingly forever.  They have achieved such gains in defeating widespread anti-Semitism and achieving tolerance, which makes Obama’s depiction as wearing a kaffiyeh and calling him Hussein even more disgusting.  What can be more intolerant and prejudiced than that?  What if Obama was depicted with a kipah, a beard and sidelocks?  Wouldn’t the Jewish people be calling that anti-Semitism?  I think so.

If there’s one thing the Israeli right has done well, is testing the limits of free speech.  Now they’ve done it too well.  They are becoming so extreme and dominating Israel’s political conversation that it will no doubt hurt the country and damage any government’s ability to govern.  I hope, for Israel’s sake, that these element of society can look itself in the face and see/hear itself for what it is actually saying.

Google News and PR

I read a great article this morning that all PR and strategic communication pros need to be aware of.

Rachelle Money interviewing Greg Jarboe makes the case that good content takes into account key words.  Why key words?  Because all media ends up online today and for online users to be able to find your article, they must contain the right key words.

Greg Jarboe, President and co-founder of SEO-PR

Greg Jarboe, President and co-founder of SEO-PR

Essentially, folks in the public relations field must take a step back from their work of creating what they believe is the most compelling copy and actually think what readers and therefore journalists want to know and want to publish.  This means as PR pros, it is up to us to create compelling content utilizing the right keywords and understanding the reference points in which content is read.  Without these considerations, it is likely that published content just won’t ever be found.

Jarboe talks about using Google News, which aggregates news from just about every online source imaginable, and starting a strategic PR effort by searching the site.  The lesson is to try a variety of searches on the topic and find out what returns the most relevant and impactful results.  That’s where you want to be.

Jarboe explains good keyword use is the starting point for creating the right pitch and the right content.

This is great advice.  I know I could mix keyword searches better in the work I do and help my clients manage their repuations and messaging more effectively.  I’ll start now.

Social Media Campaign vs. Long-Term Commitment

I’ve written before that there is no such thing as a social campaign.  Campaigns suggest there is a beginning and an end to the social media effort.  But, organizations must realize that unlike most traditional advertising that is inherently a one-way communication experience, social media enables two or more way communications.  Therefore, to think of social media as a campaign, is counterproductive.  Organizations who involve themselves in social media must be in it for the long term because communication from target audiences is ongoing and social media represents an important space to build and evolve brands.  The beautiful and unique thing about social media is that this tool allows for more stakeholders to have a role in shaping the brand and therefore bringing more value of that brand to stakeholders’ lives.

Eric Lander of Search Engine Journal gets it right when he says organizations must be proactive rather than reactive when using social media.  It’s one thing to for an organization to say they want to fight attacks on them made on social networks.  But, the best way to do that is not through a campaign that may very well achieve desired results.  In the long run though, the attacks will come back.

Instead, organizations need proactive and sustained social media marketing.  Social media represents one of the best and dynamic places to build brands.  It’s one of the few places that actively involves stakeholders in the brand building experience.  Therefore, a long term commitment has to be made to social media marketing.

The best point Eric makes though is the role agencies play in advising clients on social media.  If an agency talks about running campaign, then they don’t get social media.  It’s up to us agency people to right the ship and direct organizations to align resources to make social media marketing part of an organization’s strategy.  Otherwise, it’s like using a band-aid in open heart surgery.  At some point you’ll need to make the investment and have the procedure.

Non-Profits Using Social Media

There’s a lot of blogs discussing the best practices of non-profits using social media.  I’ll try to use this post to offer something different.

First, I want to share a really good social primer written by Jocelyn Harmon, a non-profit marketer, that I recently used to guide me with a client.

What I can offer is possibly the way to think about non-profits’ use of social media.  Many organizations will see social media success stories and want to jump on the bandwagon.  That’s all good but I caution against using social media without an integrated approach.  Social media marketing is a great tool but it must be executed like any other media strategy.

That means there is no such thing as a social media campaign.  Social media is an ongoing activity for the long term.  Community building takes time and for your audience to be active and respond positively to your social media outreach, organizations have to build trust and must demonstrate they are serious about using social media.  An organization cannot just open a Facebook page and say, “We’re here.”

Organizations have to ask:

-how can social media help us reach our marketing objectives

-how does using social media relate to our brand?

-how can we use social media to deepen engagement levels in areas that we are strong in and build our capacity in areas that we need work on?

Asking these big questions can help a non-profit use social media strategically.  Organizations who carefully plan and build their social media marketing will be the most successful.

When a Leak Can be a Good Thing

Google has demonstrated its mastery this week of using public relations to create lots of buzz and excitement for its new product launch.  In Google’s own blog post from Sept 1, the internet giant announced it “hit the ‘send’ button a little early” when announcing Google Chrome – Google’s own web browser (which I’m trying out as I write this).  

Why would Google leak this information and why were they so successful?

Often, public relations is the choice tool in the marketers toolbox to first inform the public about a new product or service (followed by paid advertising).  That usually entails media pitching aggressively to get their story published.  But in Google’s case, all it had to do was blog about it – on it’s own blog nonetheless. It’s a great case of less is more…give people less information to peak curiosity and get people talking.  


This is a fine strategy when you’ve got a company that has built one of the strongest corporate reputations for its committment to innovative web-based products that have transformed personal computing.  It already has the trust of consumers.  So, when Google drops some news, people anxiously await.  

It’s no surprise that Google doesn’t use paid advertising.  They don’t need to.  They’re so good at what they do, they let their applications work and then let people talk about it non-stop.  

Google, congratulations on a well-executed strategy.  I don’t believe the “leak” was unintentional for a moment.