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Why Uber Chose Obama’s Campaign Manager to Run Comms and Strategy

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Yes we can…connect you to an unlicensed driver using his personal vehicle to transport people around town for tips.

On one level, it makes sense that David Plouffe, Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign manager and one of the hottest speakers/strategists on the circuit, would join the “sharing economy” company that everyone’s falling over themselves to cover.

Still, the match strikes some as odd given the recent decision of the Republican National Committee to promote Uber as the prime example of business free from government regulation — regulation best embodied by the man Plouffe helped win the White House.

The answer lies in crisis communications and political infighting.

From CEO Travis Kalanick:

“Over the years, what I’ve come to realize is that this controversy exists because we are in the middle of a political campaign and it turns out the candidate is Uber.”

Its enemy is the industry it seeks to “disrupt”. While Airbnb hired a hotel veteran to be its point man, Uber apparently recognized that it will probably not win unless its message rises above those of the taxi industry and local/national governments worldwide while earning the support of the people on the ground via social media and other outreach efforts. Plouffe seems to fit the bill.

As he did with Obama, Plouffe will seek to better define both the company itself and its opponents. From The Washington Post:

“What’s the motivation of those who are trying to protect the status quo? Where’s that coming from?”

The status quo in this case comes from established law and a hesitance to upend it, the businesses it touches and the millions who rely on that model to make a living. No company is in greater need of PR assistance than one that threatens an established industry, but Uber and Airbnb both came to that revelation late in their development — hence their ongoing problems with lawmakers in New York, San Francisco, Berlin and Madrid.

Anyone who has followed Obama’s campaign and subsequent administration can tell you that change — even modest, incremental change — can be endlessly complicated and frustrating. That’s especially true when it involves a series of interlocking laws and public perceptions that vary wildly from place to place and from person to person.

Do we even have to say “Obamacare?”

Now let’s see Plouffe work with the Republican National Committee on some messaging efforts.

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