Monthly Archives: October 2009

Facebook Friend the GOP (Expect Request Confirmation in 6-8 Weeks)

Republicans dip their toes into social media, and still manage to drown

I’ve learned my first lesson as a blogger: a two-week hiatus is too long.  I’ve finally surfaced, having been bogged down by projects, PR campaigns and committee work.  Now, I’m playing catch up, reviewing the stories and controversies that came and went without my commentary.  I’ll have to let most of them slide, but there is one story that surfaced about two weeks ago that I’ve been chomping at the bit to tackle.

GOP 2.0 (still loading…)

Earlier this month, the GOP launched its redesigned Web site.  After seeing the role social media played in the Democrats success this past election, Republicans realized their campaign/communication strategies weren’t only outdated…they were artifacts.  With a focus on incorporating social media into their design, the Republicans took to the drawing board.

The GOP's redesigned Web page

So how did the launch go?  Just ask the Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor and the Washington Post.  To use a term popularized by my social media brethren, the Web site was an “epic fail.”  Below is a list of the more egregious slip-ups:

  • The “Future Leaders” page was initially left blank.  In an effort to remedy the error, the site designers replaced the void with the word “You.”
  • Jackie Robinson is listed as a prominent Republican.  Too bad Robinson described himself as an Independent in his autobiography after he left the Republican Party when it failed to incorporate civil rights issues in its social agenda.

    Jackie Robinson

  • Chairman Michael Steele’s Gmail account login and password were accidentally posted on the New York State section of the site.  Administrative passwords and instructions for GOP.com were also posted on the page.
  • An achievement from 2004 is the most recent triumph the GOP lists on its achievements page (Bush was reelected in 2004 – this might have been intentional).
  • A Hispanic woman asked why the GOP did not offer a Spanish-translated page in the conference call section.  The respondent suggested she visit the White House Web site, informing her that they have translations there.
  • Michael Steele’s personal blog was initially called “What Up?”  Steele’s first post started with “The internet has been around for a while, now.”  Way to arrive late to the gravy train.  The blog has since been renamed to “Change the Game.”

 

Michael Steele on Meet the Press

Just how deep is that hole, Michael?

Excusing Steele’s apparent racial identity issues, the Web site’s problems transcend technical glitches.  The GOP has been two steps behind for a while now, and trying to catch up isn’t easy. The page actually crashed the day of its launch because of the influx of traffic from people visiting to make fun of the site.

I applaud the GOP for making the effort to become web-savvy, but find myself troubled that they were ever so far out of touch.  Steele’s acknowledgment that “the internet has been around for a while now” speaks volumes.  The party has been beleaguered by criticisms of being too set in its ways.  It has been accused of being the party of old white men.  While these claims are unfair, and for the most part untrue, more has to be done to break the stereotypes than giving us a malfunctioning Web site.  Championing Michael Steele, Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin in an effort to diversify doesn’t help much either.

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A Prize for America

Courtesy of WWJ.950 DetroitFriday’s announcement that President Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize seemed to take everyone by surprise. Cynics scolded the Nobel Committee, claiming the freshman President has not done enough to earn the prize. Numerous Obama supporters even found themselves a bit perplexed as to how the President managed to sweep the ballots. Some suggest there were no strong candidates this year. Others propose that Oslo was jealous that Copenhagen, Denmark, scored a visit from President Obama, and giving him a Nobel was the only way to get him to Norway. I don’t subscribe to any of these theories.

Read about the only other sitting Presidents to receive the award

I believe the Nobel Committee used the prize to send the United States a message. Simply put, the world was sick of America’s “we know what’s best for you and we’ll ram it down your throat” attitude. We have come across for far too long as a war-mongering, ethnocentric nation that uses military might as a diplomacy tool. What Obama represents is a wave of change in our relations with the rest of the world. The Nobel Committee may have awarded Obama the Peace Prize but it was the American citizens, by virtue of their support of the change of direction offered by Obama, who earned it.

A President for ALL the people

The Norwegians are sending a clear message to America. Too often, our government fails to recognize that its publics go beyond our nation’s borders. We flaunt our title as “a preeminent world power,” yet fail to act in a way that appeases our international audience. In PR, every key public deserves consideration—a lesson the Bush Administration could have better remembered.

In his short tenure, Obama has already shown that he is capable of working for the best interest of humanity. “Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future,” said the Norwegian committee. Obama realizes that our international reputation has been hurting, and with so much of our current policy focused around international relations, it would be difficult to get anything done without changing our tone.

War is never popular.

It is even less popular when you don’t have a good reason for waging it. Iraq was clearly mishandled. We went in claiming Saddam Hussein violated U.N. sanctions by possessing weapons of mass destruction and that these weapons directly jeopardized the safety of the international community. This explanation would have worked fine…had it been true. Every organization needs to value honesty and transparency above all else in its public relations.

“His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population,” said the committee. Courtesy of the Huffington Post

When you lie, your credibility is shot, and so is your reputation. For Bush, there was no recovering. After it was discovered that there were no weapons of mass destruction, the international community became distrustful of the United States. Our leader didn’t ascribe to the “basic values and attitudes” shared by most of the world’s population, so the assumption was that we didn’t, either. Obama values honesty and transparency, and the worldwide community has clearly shown that it appreciates his candor.

A new style of leadership: We’re all in this together.

Ignore the fact that Obama was nominated for the award just eleven days after the election. Rather, be proud that the world considers our most prominent person a missionary for peace. As the old adage goes, you attract more bees with honey than with vinegar. Obama has incorporated this philosophy into his international public relations strategy. I think his being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize indicates that it’s working.

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Public Trust/Private Lust

The Impact of Extramarital Affairs on Political Careersjohn-edwards-092109-main

In August 2008, John Edwards admitted to having an extramarital affair with a campaign staff member.  Today, more than a year later, the implications of the affair and its effect on Edward’s marriage are still front page news.  Granted, this story of adultery is especially juicy because it involves a two-time presidential candidate, and may have resulted in a love child – but are these stories of politicians being unfaithful ever not juicy?  When a politician cheats, the affair comes to define his entire political career, no matter how great his achievements.  But here is the question: should it?

A disturbing trend

Since 2007, there seems to have been never-ending procession of cheaters exposed in Washington:

■March 10, 2008: Eliot Spitzer admits to having repeatedly paid for sex with prostitute Ashley Dupre.

■August 9, 2008: Democrat John Edwards admits that he repeatedly lied about having an affair while campaigning for president.

■September 4, 2008: Democratic Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick resigns from his position after he lied under oath about his affair with his chief of staff, Christine Beatty.

■June 16, 2009: Republican Sen. John Ensign of Nevada admits during a news conference that he had an affair with a campaign staff member.

■June 24, 2009: At a press conference, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford admits to having an affair with a woman in Argentina

Click here for a more complete list of offenders

What are they thinking?

There is one common characteristic that all of the aforementioned men share – an affair effectively ended their tenure in politics.  Most attempted to save face by shamelessly forcing their dejected wives to stand next to them while they described every painful detail of their “mistake” to the media.  Some tried to excuse their actions while others accepted responsibility for them.  No matter the strategy, their careers were as good as dead.  That is because there is no recovering from an affair.  Let’s examine this from a public relations perspective.

Why do politbclinton-lewinsky2icians get only one strike before they’re called out?

“When Clinton lied, nobody died…”  That slogan has become popular in recent years.  It touches on a legitimate point, but fails to give sufficient credit to Clinton’s mistakes.  (I will preface this point by acknowledging that Clinton is among my all-time favorite presidents).  Conservatives and liberals who were outraged by Clinton’s actions had every right to be.  That goes for everyone who disapproved of Mark Sanford’s, John Ensign’s, Elliot Spitzer’s and John Edwards’ trysts as well.

Our public officials are elected with the presumption that they will act ethically and morally while in office.  This is a principle that cannot be adulterated (no pun intended) if our politicians hope to retain America’s faith in government.  I consider infidelity to be one of the most immoral acts a person can commit.  Although I realize it is a transitive argument, I believe that the ability to commit one particularly immoral act indicates you are capable of committing others.

If a politician is being disloyal to his wife and family, how can we presume he will be loyal to us when he is legislating on our behalf?  Isn’t it reasonable for us to believe him capable of other immoral acts like money laundering, unfair lobbyist treatment and general corruption?  After all, the victimized constituents aren’t going to be sitting across from him at the dinner table when that scandal is uncovered.  If a politician is narcissistic enough to believe he can get away with an affair, why would he not exhibit the same confidence when committing other heinous acts?

The best way to handle this crisis – don’t cheat

I mentioned in last week’s blog that credibility is everything in public relations.  In politics, it’s even more important.  As President Grover Cleveland once said, “A public office is a public trust.”  Deception and lies destroy credibility.  No matter what PR strategies a disgraced politician uses to try to salvage his career, there is no denying the fact that he has forsaken the public’s confidence, and can no longer hope to have the people’s faith.

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