Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide

Yesterday, I commented on two politically themed blogs that seemed to have found a business plan that works. Today comes word that one of the oldest, Salon, is back in a place it knows well — financial trouble. PaidContent has the details.

After a busy couple of weeks, I’ve finally hit a bit of a lull — time to catch up on a couple of things I’ve been meaning to write about…

The following news item broke late Friday — no, not Obama’s “bitter” comment that promises to make the Pennsylvania Democratic primary interesting again (more on that below). Here it is, courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter (with a hat tip to TV Barn).

Okay, not earth shattering…but at least it made me smile for reasons expressed earlier. The NFL Network has overplayed its hand in a number of ways and having to admit that it made yet another mistake can’t make Jerry Jones and other owners happy.

While many may think this is an irrelevant battle, it goes to the larger issue of how sports fans will view coverage in the future. NFL Network has had the most aggressive stance in regard to the cable and broadcast networks by deciding to ignore big bucks and shift actual game coverage to its own network. Other sports have used their nets to supplement what goes out on traditional sports outlets. Given the relative paucity of games compared to other leagues (yesterday, NFL Network reaired its entire coverage of the first day of the 2007 NFL Draft — pure filler), this was a high risk strategy — one that I don’t think is succeeding…

I don’t have a lot to say about Sen. Obama’s “bitter” quote that wasn’t said on the Sunday talking head shows, except to add one small item — the source of the story being the Huffington Post. The Post has gotten a lot of good news recently based on its increased page views and its desire to turn more into a newspaper on the Web. Although I rarely agree with much that I read on the site, I do find myself reading more and more often as we get closer to the election. I do, however, find myself asking two questions — what is the future of the HuffPo (as they call it in conservative circles) if the Democratic candidate wins in November and what happens to it if this story (with audio) turns out to be Obama’s “Macaca” moment?….

Update…Just saw this on Politico. I agree with almost every word.

Speaking of liberal blogs, a very belated congrats to Josh Marshall and the staff of Talking Points Memo for winning a George Polk Award back in February for its coverage of the Gonzales attorney general scandal. I’ve met Josh several times through a mutual friend and actually was interviewed by him once for a story when he was a dead tree journalist. With little more than that to go on, I have to say I admire him, not just because I’ve always heard he is a decent human being, but because, like Huffington, he seems to have found a business model to produce original reporting on the Internet that works….

There are two new advocacy groups out there with big bucks that want to make a big splash in the political arena. The first is Al Gore’s $30 million “We Can Solve It,” an initiative sponsored by the Alliance for Climate Protection. It seeks to convince politicians that Americans want action on global warming. The other is a new four-month, $40 million campaign headed by David Brock and Paul Begala to go after John McCain

These two interest me for different reasons. Gore, through “An Inconvenient Truth” did a fine job of raising the issue in the minds of many Americans, but as recent polling shows, it has begun to slip as an issue as Americans are more concerned with the economy, health care and other pocket book related issues. Moreover, there is both a partisan and gender split on the issue. The folks at the new energy and environment blog at The New Republic have some interesting focus group research done by the Rasmussen Group regarding the Gore campaign’s first ad that is worth a look. There is no doubt that the next president will have a different view on global warming that the current Administration, but will it be at the top of his/her list?

The other group, which is named Progressive Media USA, interests me for different reasons. First, will his role in the campaign mean that we will see less of Begala on CNN? Next, given the fact this could be a watershed moment for Democrats, why did existing groups fail to raise the money that said they would to do the same thing? (Of course, this is apparently not unique to Democrats.) What does this mean to MoveOn.org and its strategy of raising money from small contributors? If Clinton and Obama keep up with their march to Denver and keep getting hurt by self-inflicted wounds, how many people will pay attention to an anti-McCain ad campaign? Finally, who will have the inevitable hit cover story on the group first (including references to how George Soros is trying buy another election) — The National Review or The Weekly Standard?

I was interviewed by Communications Daily in regard to the deal between Comcast and BitTorrent. My quotable quotes are below.

Comcast’s announcement probably won it public relations points, Ogilvy Public Relations Vice President Greg Stanko said. “It was a short-term success for Comcast,” he said. “Certainly it removes a lot of the attention that reporters might pay to the Stanford hearing.” It gives Comcast a chance to claim that as the largest U.S. cable operator it already has dealt with the problem, likely spurring similar actions by cable industry peers, he said: “It sort of defangs the issue, at least in the short term.”

Comcast probably acted to blunt the threat of regulation, he said. “Comcast saw the handwriting on the wall, decided it was probably easier to make an agreement with BitTorrent, and let the FCC commissioners know that something was coming,” said Stanko. That way, the commissioners wouldn’t be blind-sided and were more likely to react positively, he said. “By the looks of it they were partially successful.”

Thanks to a friend, I got tix to tonight’s Os vs Nats exhibition game at the new Nationals Field. Since tonight was the in-town try-out and tomorrow is opening night, I wanted to post a few thoughts since the stadium is the local politicians’ answer to the question of, “What did we get for $611 million?”

Okay, the stadium is really nice. Nice, but sterile. Outside of MLB’s first HDTV video scoreboard, the stadium could have been just of easily been built elsewhere. (See below). Yes, they solved a number of problems that plagued the experience of the old RFK — too few ATMs, lousy lighting — but they still have a lot of work to do.

Tonight’s game versus the Baltimore Orioles was the chance to work out the kinks in a controlled environment. Based on tonight’s experience (the stadium was deliberately half full), they have a long way to go.

Start with the fact that the team is relying on Metro to funnel fans to the game. While tourists think the system is the “bee’s knees,” most Washingtonians know that the system is on the brink of crashing on a daily basis. Tonight was a good test and Metro (at a minimum) had huge problems. While having staff give conflicting instructions in the Navy Yard station was bad enough, the inability of Metro to get the escalators at Navy Yard to work an hour before game time was a huge black eye. Moreover, there were news reports that Metro bus drivers who were shuttling fans from the old RFK to the new stadium didn’t know where to go. Given the deliberate lack of parking, the stadium will live or die based on how Metro does its job. Based on last night, Metro, whose motto should be “we apologize for the inconvenience” based on how often it is heard over the intercoms in stations and rail cars, has a long way to go.

And then there is customer service…. The old administration at RFK Stadium got by — running out of food was a common occurrence — since there was no expectation that the service at the ball park would be better than at the DMV or other local government bodies known to be incompetent. Based on tonight’s show, things haven’t gotten any better. (How many people does it take to stand in the background and do nothing while I order a $7.50 beer? About five based on tonight’s showing.)

The final reason why I think the stadium is a disappointment…. Other than the scoreboard, other new stadiums have something interesting in their architecture. Camden Yards has the warehouse. There is something similar in San Diego and Cleveland. Pittsburgh has the open part of the stadium that shows off the confluence (thanks to Beano Cook for making confluence a part of my vocabulary), while Cincy’s Great American Park has the view of the mighty Ohio. Reliant Park in Houston has the train. Heck the Texas Rangers even have a little league stadium just outside the main gates where games go on even during the Big League games. Nationals Stadium has nothing distinctly local about it — even the Wall of Fame, a list of DC sports stars that was so prominent at RFK is largely hidden.

Pretty as it is (and the score board is pretty), Nationals Stadium was a disappointment. Maybe they can solve some of the opening night problems, but I doubt it. Frankly, I expected a lot more.

Our colleague Dave Tamasi had the following piece in the current issue of PR Week.


Tailor approaches to clients’ traits

David Tamasi

March 24 2008

When former Sen. George Mitchell released his anticipated report on steroid use in baseball this past December, it included Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte.

Clemens and Pettitte have been teammates and friends for years. Their on- and off-the-field styles, however could not be more different. Clemens is the hard throwing, intimidating hurler, while Pettitte has made his living painting the corners, patiently waiting for the game to come to him. True to their form, Clemens aggressively denied the allegations through high profile public appearances, while Pettitte remained quiet, only commenting when necessary.

Watching Clemens defend himself in the media is like seeing him on the mound: high heat and plenty of it. First, he issued a video statement through his Web site denying that he had ever used steroids, followed a few weeks later with a highly publicized appearance on 60 Minutes. The next day, he held a Houston press conference, where he alternately scowled and ruminated aloud about why his former trainer Brian McNamee would suggest such allegations. Now he faces possible perjury charges from his testimony before Congress last month.

In comparison, Pettitte made himself available to the press for one hour after he gave his testimony to Congress and upon his arrival at spring training. Pettitte was forthright and direct, acknowledging his use of human growth hormone (HGH) and the desperation that drove him to use it in the first place.

For the crisis communications pro, the lesson of L’Affaire Clemens is clear: Know a client’s communication strengths and weaknesses, and set strategy accordingly. When representing a client with a reputation for being difficult, consider these issues:

Never depend on the individual. Since the release of the Mitchell Report, the media focus has been on Clemens. Recruiting and mobilizing third parties to deliver the message can lend greater credibility to the campaign, and [in this case] could have shifted the spotlight from Clemens’ less than stellar public performances to McNamee’s possible motives.

Lawyers are not third parties. Clemens has relied exclusively on his attorneys to publicly defend his case. Who can forget the image of Clemens before the House Oversight Committee – with his attorneys standing, gesticulating behind him? Compare it to Pettitte’s press event where he was greeted with a bear hug from the uber-popular Derek Jeter.

Resist the combative element. Clemens did not earn the nickname “The Rocket” overnight; his nature is to challenge and intimidate. But when on the defensive from allegations of wrongdoing, conveying an even tone is essential. Raising your voice, interrupting the questioner, and acting dismissive do little to reassure the public that you are telling the truth.

Actions, not just words. It is an oft-used phrase, but it’s true. Clemens participated in a number of media engagements. But missing was a signature event that could have showed Clemens as selfless or cognizant – such as funding an anti-steroid public awareness campaign. Instead, we were left with Roger being Roger.

For Clemens, the next act of this story has yet to play out. As the stakes get bigger, he may want to take a page out of his fellow Texan’s playbook, alter his delivery and throw a curve.

David Tamasi is an account director in public affairs practice at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide in Washington, DC.

Coming up…While most people will be spending next Tuesday learning whether Sen. Hillary Clinton’s firewall in Texas and Ohio will hold, I’ll be watching for two other results.

Next up on the endangered incumbents’ list are two names that used the Internet to fuel their long shot presidential campaigns and make themselves nationally known, but are now facing challenges in their home congressional districts. On the Republican side, it is Rep. Ron Paul of Texas; on the Democratic side, it is Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio.

In both cases, their primary challengers will argue that the former repeat presidential candidates have forgotten their responsibilities to their home districts in order to bathe in the national spotlight.

Paul, who used the Internet to raise large amounts of money, is facing a tough primary battle in his Houston district. According to broadcast reports, he’s being forced to spend some his presidential cash haul to beat back a challenge from Chris Peden, a city councilman from Friendswood.

Kucinich pulled out of the presidential race to concentrate on a stiffer than expected reelection challenge, according to The Politico. For example, the Mayor of Cleveland has endorsed his opponent, City Councilman Joe Cimperman.

Looking back…

A final yoi and double yoi! RIP, Myron Cope — 1929-2008.

Before Myron (no last name necessary) became a Pittsburgh broadcaster, a local legend and a Hall-of-Famer, he wrote for publications such as the Saturday Evening Post and Sports Illustrated and had the distinction of authoring what SI said was one the 50 best written pieces of the magazine’s first 50 years (interestingly, it was on another unexpectedly popular TV sports journalist by the name of Howard Cosell).

Although he spent 35 years behind the Steelers’ microphone, Myron actually missed the biggest play in Steelers’ history, the Immaculate Reception. That said, he named it (or, at least, made it popular) and, in this New York Times piece from 1997, he tells the story of how he knows how the referees made the right call.

Oh yeah, there was this one other thing he did

It wasn’t until I read my friend Steve Clemons’ post on The Washington Note late Tuesday night that I was reminded about the other endangered incumbent in last night’s Potomac Primary — Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD). I had read about his main challenger, state Sen. Andrew Harris, in The National Review, but didn’t really give the challenge much credence. (Won’t be the first time this season, I’ve missed something big.)

It turns out both Gilchrest and Rep. Al Wynn lost in their respective primaries last night — and big (don’t let the margin in the Gilchrest race fool you, it was a three way race). The Washington Post has the details on Wynn’s loss to Donna Edwards in MD4, while, not surprisingly, The Washington Times has a better write up on the race in MD1.

In both cases, the challengers portrayed the incumbent as out of touch with the majority of the district and had the support of key activist groups (organized labor, EMILY’s List and MoveOn.org for Edwards; conservative groups, such as Club for Growth and National Right to Life for Harris) that helped raise the money necessary to win — including the ability to run TV ads. Moreover, The Post endorsed Edwards and The Times endorsed Harris.

MD4 is a safe Democratic seat, so Edwards should be a shoe-in in November. The Maryland Dems are making noises about MD1, but the district should be safe for the Republicans.

A few items that I’ve been thinking about, but too busy to blog on…

In my first post, I noted that the Democratic NetRoots would be targeting Democratic House incumbents who they deemed not sufficiently orthodox to their positions. According to the Politico, nearly 40 sitting Members of Congress are on the hit list. The first major race in this campaign was IL-3.

Although MoveOn.org did not make an endorsement in this race (much to the consternation of DailyKos blogger peteb2 and others), others were pushing the candidacy of Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney General Mark Pera over so called Bush Dog Democrat Rep. Dan Lipinski. According to Congress Daily, Lipinski won easily 53-26.

Next up is a rematch in Maryland (suburban Washington, DC’s Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties) where Rep. Albert Wynn is in a rematch with Donna Edwards, a challenger he defeated in 2006. Here, MoveOn.org has come out in favor of Edwards — including running tv ads since at least Super Tuesday — pointing to Wynn’s acceptance of PAC contributions and initial support for the war in Iraq. If Wynn is on the air, his ads aren’t running here in Virginia. We’ll know the result in that race after Tuesday’s Potomac Primary (or as WTOP radio calls it, the Chesapeake Primary).

I’ve seen Wynn and Edwards debate earlier this week on “Fox 5 Morning News” and she’s a good candidate. She’s definitely trying to be the Democratic Barack Obama-esque change candidate, portraying Wynn as the establishment “Hillary” candidate (both candidates are African-American). The District is safely Democratic, in keeping with the MoveOn.org strategy, so the race for the seat will be decided on Tuesday.

Will MoveOn.org and the Democratic NetRoots get their first scalp of 2008? Stay tuned….

National Journal’s late and lamented Technology Daily reported before Atlantic Media pulled the plug that Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) is searching for a Republican co-sponsor of a new net neutrality bill. Reps. Heather Wilson (R-NM) and Chip Pickering (R-MS) are reportedly the targets. Keep this one on your radar screen even though the chances of this passing this year are slim and none…

Is it just me or are you also surprised that MSNBC, of all of the cable news nets, has been the network that has been the subject of the Clinton campaign’s wrath? First Chris Matthews and now former Fox News reporter David Shuster. If Keith Olbermann, MSNBC anchor and DailyKos blogger, is next in the cross hairs, then it is “the world turned upside down” (as the British Army played after surrendering at Yorktown)….

This is REALLY late, but…. a little news show called “ABC’s World News Now” celebrated its sweet 16th anniversary last month. While the show is best known for its humor, quirkiness and (most importantly) Barry Mitchell’s polka, it has also been a training ground for a number of network producers, anchors and reporters such as Aaron Brown (the Dean of Overnight Anchors), CNN’s David Bohrman and Anderson Cooper, CBS’ Thalia Assuras, ABC’s Juju Chang, David Muir and Dan Harris, NBC’s Mark Mullen, Kevin Newman and Lisa McCree (once anchors of Good Morning America — Kevin is now the anchor of Canada’s Global TV’s early evening newscast) and NPR’s Alison Stewart. Throw in WABC’s Bill Ritter and Liz Cho, WNYW’s Ron Corning, WPVI’s Tamala Edwards and WUSA’s Derek McGinty, too.

Okay, I’ve been a fan since the Thalia/Boyd Matson days sometime in mid-1990s, have an original WNN mug proudly displayed in my office (thanks again Sheilah!) and a subscription to the WNN List. I don’t watch regularly anymore (despite the ongoing Scooby Doo pajamas comments and ongoing references to Pravda Online from Managing Directors Rob Mathias and Jamie Moeller, I usually am asleep when the show airs). However, to quote the question and answer bit by former member of the legion of substitute anchors, Bill Greenwood, “Will World News Now be on for another five years? Of course it will. Our bosses at ABC don’t know it’s on now.”….

NASCAR 2008 starts tonight with the Bud Shootout. May your favorite driver win the Sprint Cup.

In my first job at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee back in when George H.W. Bush was president, one of the interesting things to do was read the foreign press. Our tool to do so was FBIS — the Foreign Broadcast Information Service. While the fun part was reading the latest from North Korea, it was often more useful to read how the Nicaraguan press covered the presidential election that toppled the Sandinistas or how the German press covered all of the European companies that helped Saddam Hussein build his chemical gas facilities that were used against the Kurds. Fortunately, via the Internet, you no longer need to subscribe to FBIS to read what the international press thinks.

I came across this interesting take on the ongoing debate within the Democratic party from Der Spiegel, the German version of Time, which makes a lot of its print and online coverage available in English.

For those of you tired of that debate, here is the latest from North Korea.

Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that a liberal advocacy group, Americans United for Change, launched a $8.5 million campaign to remind Americans of all of the reasons that should hate President Bush.

The campaign, which will launch with an ad prior to next week’s State of the Union speech, seeks to prevent a “repeat” of 1988, when President Reagan’s approval ratings bounced from a low of 42 percent in 1987 after Iran-Contra to hit 63 percent right before he turned the keys to the White House over President George H.W. Bush (a.k.a. 41) for four more years of Republican control.

In addition, AP reports the group “plans to unveil a bus that will travel the country carrying an exhibit that portrays Bush’s tenure in office — mementos from Iraq and flood ravaged New Orleans as well as symbols of the economic downturn.”

My guess there will some sort of online component to appeal to the Democratic NetRoots (who prolly need no prompting).

The group’s theory is that as the second Bush era ends, people will forget why they dislike the him (current approval rating 31% according to the latest Wall Street Journal poll released in today’s paper) and his approval ratings will also rebound, helping the Republican Party at the top of the ticket (McCain? Romney?) and in congressional elections.

So will the campaign be necessary or do the donors need to have “SUCKER” tattooed on their foreheads?

I vote for the latter.

With the economy close to or in a recession — the strange thing about recessions is that you never know when they began until you are usually well on your way out of them due to statistical lag times — I doubt Bush’s numbers will rebound significantly. And, unlike 1988, Republican are running away from President Bush, as opposed to embracing President Reagan’s legacy as they did 20 years ago.

That said, it also shows that liberal advocacy groups are more than just a little bit paranoid that they will “slip up” (the words of the American Prospect‘s Paul Star in last Sunday’s Washington Post) and squander the opportunity they have to realign American politics to their advantage for the first time since 1980.

Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide