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Posts Tagged ‘dirty politics’

Last Night’s Loser: Big Money

From a PR perspective, we’ve already established the winners of last night’s election: no-frills, on-brand messaging and basic math. The loser, in our humble opinion, was big money.

After the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision, quite a few observers began to freak out over the growing power wielded by well-funded Super PACs and advocacy groups.

These fears may well be justified; 2012 was the most expensive election in history, with spending on presidential and congressional campaigns amounting to approximately $6 billion, and we can’t quite see that as a positive thing. Still, this year’s contests brought encouraging signs hinting at the fact that “a whole lot of money” just isn’t enough to win an election in this country today.

Take, for example, the unsuccessful Connecticut Senate campaign of former WWE head Linda McMahon. Over three years and two different races, the wrestling executive spent $100 million of her own money, easily breaking all records and providing a nice boost to the Connecticut economy. Yet Chris Murphy defeated McMahon by a healthy margin last night despite the fact that she spent twice as much as he did while eschewing divisive social issues to run as a moderate business reformer.

What does this tell us?

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Last Night’s Winner: NYT’s Nate Silver

This afternoon we offer a semi-apology to those who follow American politics closely, because you’re going to see a whole lot of headlines like this one today and in the weeks ahead.

There’s a reason for that, though, and it needs to be covered: Nate Silver of The New York Times scored this election’s biggest branding win. He made a large portion of the  media’s pundit/PR class look ridiculous, and he did it using the most basic public relations strategy: honesty, consistent messaging and confidence in his clearly defined brand.

The fact that his book, The Signal and the Noise, quickly climbed to number 2 on the Amazon sales list today is no coincidence.

Some very quick back-story: Silver was a sports statistician who blogged electoral politics as a hobby, and in 2008 people started noticing how accurate his predictions turned out to be. The New York Times hired him as a regular contributor and began to host his blog on its main site. His audience quickly grew; he provided approximately 20% of the NYT‘s traffic in the days leading up to the vote.

For the past three weeks, Silver predicted a small but decisive Obama win despite the pundit class’s insistence that the race was “a toss-up”. Quite a few media folk lashed out, calling him partisan and insisting that his numbers were meaningless–but he never wavered. The only time Silver came anywhere close to damaging his brand was a few weeks ago, when he responded to the taunts of talk show host and former congressman Joe Scarborough with the offer of a bet–if the president lost, Silver would donate $1000 to the Red Cross on Scarborough’s behalf. NYT  public editor Margaret Sullivan questioned whether this wager was appropriate, but Silver’s fans jumped in to defend him—and we don’t think we’ll see too many criticisms coming from the management team after last night.

This is a big story—and we have confidence that it will change the political PR game in this country.

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Voters: Don’t Instagram Your Ballot (It’s Probably Illegal)!

If you have an internet connection and a social media account, you’ve already read about quite a few of your friends voting today. “I voted” is not real news (just like 90% of the tweets and status updates we see every day), but we still think it’s a good thing: Voting is the ultimate sign of participation in our fragile democracy; we need to encourage more people to vote because turnout rates are depressingly low; et cetera, et cetera.

Most social media outlets directly encouraged users to somehow document the act: All sorts of related videos will soon flood YouTube, and an election day window hangs atop all personal Facebook pages instructing users to click in order to find their polling places or identify themselves as voters.

But we do hope our readers reviewed their state laws before documenting this proud experience today because…well, you read the headline.

Most voters probably don’t realize that several states expressly prohibit all recording inside polling places–and a clear majority prohibit the act of producing “photos or film of [your] own marked ballot”. A quick Instagram search for the hashtags #vote or #ballot reveals that quite a few voters have, in all likelihood, already broken the law this morning.

Will states crack down on these obscure prohibitions? Probably not. Will the laws prevent voting photos and videos from overwhelming social media today? Definitely not. But all voters should be cautious: While Ohio allows smartphones in polling places and some voting booths, one early North Carolina participant already had his device confiscated–and in Wisconsin the act of tweeting a completed ballot is a felony!

Well then. The more you know!

(Oh, and go vote if you haven’t already. You have no good excuse!)

Americans, Annoyed By Voting, Voice Outrage on Twitter

What, you thought we wouldn’t post any more election stories today? To all our readers who already voted: how annoying/rewarding was the whole process? Was it worth the “voter’s high”? Is that even a thing?

Reminder: We live in a democracy, and just as we have a right to vote we also have a right–nay, an obligation–to bitch about it! Or to celebrate it! We can’t seem to decide! Here, then, is a collection of fun/inspiring/informative/borderline offensive tweets from Americans who just can’t help but express their complex relationship with the act of voting.

How about some light humor?
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Should Journalists Abstain From Voting?

In case you haven’t noticed, professional journalists have a PR problem. The public’s opinion of their craft and “the media” they inhabit hit an all-time low last year. This finding reflects an increasingly polarized electorate filled with fed-up citizens who often retreat to openly partisan news sources because they believe all other media outlets to be tainted by bias in some form.

The fact that a healthy, functioning democracy needs journalists to survive should go without saying–and despite working in public relations, we’re a little disturbed to learn that PR professionals currently outnumber them 4 to 1 in this country. So how can journalists improve the public’s perception of the work they do?

For some, the answer is clear: don’t vote.

This is not a new debate. In fact, the issue arises during nearly every election cycle. Austin Business Journal editor Colin Pope believes that the act of choosing a candidate or privately voting on any given issue affects his ability to inform the public as a reliably objective voice; in his opinion, he essentially forfeited his right to vote when he decided to report on the news for a living.

We think it’s safe to say that most journalists do not agree.

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Should NYC Postpone the Marathon? (UPDATED)

Today a battle wages on Twitter over what most would probably not consider a pressing issue: whether New York should proceed as planned with the ING New York City Marathon, currently scheduled for Sunday morning. The debate has turned bitter and divisive as pro and con camps make their cases.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others who think the race should happen argue that a postponement or cancellation would be devastating to the NYC-based businesses that bring in hundreds of millions of dollars each year thanks to the Marathon (this year’s race will include approximately 50,000 runners). Bloomberg pointed to the city’s quick rebound after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 as an example of crisis recovery, saying, “The city is a city where we have to go on.”

Anti-marathoners essentially argue that the race, which is a massive undertaking, will divert crucial resources from the city’s Hurricane Sandy clean-up efforts–and that travel disruptions will depress participation rates anyway. Quite a few suggested that runners should boycott the race and volunteer to help Sandy survivors instead–and they’ve even set up a Facebook page.

The latest spat concerns the generators required for the race–and the power they could potentially provide to homes devastated by wind and flooding. Some have predictably turned the issue into a partisan bludgeon to use against Bloomberg, who broke character yesterday to formally endorse President Obama for re-election. Drudge Report deemed the headline “Bloomberg Diverts Critical Supplies from Sandy Aid to NYC Marathon” worthy of a siren, while the New York Post ran with “Abuse of Power”. Coincidence?

Another complication: The race starts in Staten Island, one of the areas hit hardest by the storm (at least 19 dead, many homes destroyed, thousands without power). Postponement advocates argue that starting the race there belittles SI residents, many of whom already feel ignored by city and federal authorities. Yet Bloomberg insisted that the race will go on, and today he doubled down on that promise.

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PAC Ad: Black Americans Should Vote Republican Because…Abraham Lincoln

Yes, yes, we know we shouldn’t delve too deeply into the shady world of politics, especially in the week before the election, and especially when reporting on news related to last-minute advocacy ads. But what are these new Super PACs (political action committees) if not temporary PR firms promoting a very small range of clients? Creating a group specifically to improve public perceptions of a particular candidate or party via assorted messaging efforts is very much PR.

We felt the need to highlight this new ad, which was created by the Empower Citizens Network PAC to air in the crucial swing state of Ohio, because it is truly baffling.We can’t get into the details because there really aren’t any, so we’ll just lay it out its message: Black Americans should vote straight-ticket Republican on Tuesday because Abraham Lincoln was a Republican in 1865, and a larger number of Democrats opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which was sponsored by John F. Kennedy and signed by Lyndon Johnson, by the way).

Honestly, now–will this ad convince anyone of anything other than the fact that the person or persons who paid for it just wasted a lot of money?

Sandy Twitter Troll Outed and Shamed

To the unfortunate few who pay attention to online flame wars: the nightmare is over. ComfortablySmug–the Twitter “troll” who posted false messages during Hurricane Sandy claiming that Con Ed was about to shut off power to all of Manhattan and that the New York Stock Exchange had experienced severe flooding–has been named and shamed. Get ready for some huge surprises:

  • He lives in New York
  • He works in finance
  • He doubles as a political consultant
  • He has trouble maintaining serious long-term relationships

After a Buzzfeed post revealed the offender’s name, he disappeared, only to pop up again with what amounted to an apology combined with a press release promoting Christopher Wight, the Congressional candidate whose campaign he managed until his abrupt resignation this week:

Well, at least he doesn’t stray off-message. Once a flack, always a flack.

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PR Win: Governor Christie Officially Postpones Halloween

In case you didn’t notice, this has been a tough week for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, he of the quick wit, sharp temper and big ambitions.

His state was hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy, and we’d say it’s safe to assume he hasn’t gotten much sleep over the past three or four days: You may have watched him berate the mayor of Atlantic City for encouraging residents to stay at city shelters despite an earlier evacuation order; you may have heard him uncharacteristically praise President Obama’s storm response as “outstanding”; you may have seen footage of him together with the President this afternoon as the two surveyed the storm’s damage by helicopter.

This was all well and good, but today marks a far greater achievement for the Governor: he was won the week’s “best PR stunt posing as a government order” contest by officially postponing Halloween.

What does this mean, exactly? Let’s read the end of the official release, complete with charmingly arcane language:

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Chrysler CEO Contradicts Romney Outsourcing Ad

We’re all a little obsessed with the after-effects of Hurricane Sandy right now, but our last post reminded us that there will be an election one week from today—and that its winner will be the nation’s next president.

The latest election-related PR news centers on Ohio, a land forever competing with Florida for “most important state in the nation” status. Here’s our (very quick) summary of the moment’s hottest topic:

The 2009 government bailout of the auto industry affected an estimated 1 in 8 Ohio natives’ jobs, and Mitt Romney understandably wants to convince these voters that President Obama didn’t help them out at all (and encourage them to forget that he wrote an op-ed arguing against government intervention on the auto industry’s behalf).

In an effort to turn the issue to its advantage, the Romney campaign created an ad playing off Chrysler/Fiat’s plans to begin manufacturing more of its iconic Jeeps in China, which happens to be the world’s fastest-growing automobile market.

The ad implies that these new overseas manufacturing operations will come at the expense of American jobs and vaguely pins responsibility for the supposed job loss on President Obama. The general response within Ohio has been swift and decisive—nearly every significant local paper (even those papers whose editors endorsed Mr. Romney) questioned the ad’s accuracy  this week. Some pundits now speculate that the campaign’s bold move could amount to a PR fail.

Today brought the most decisive statement on the issue to date:

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