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President-Elect Barack Obama

President-Elect Barack Obama

There are many who view the election of Senator Obama (now, President-Elect Obama) as the seminal event in a world changed for the better.

Well, maybe.  I believe history is a better judge of things this monumental.

As as professional communicator, I was excited to read a couple of fellow bloggers who have tried to capture their thoughts on this time of change.

In a recent blog post at Harvard Business review, Umair Haque, a strategist at the Havas Media Lab, proclaimed that, “Barack Obama is one of the most radical management innovators in the world today.”  Haque was clearly excited (posted on November 5, 2008), but he cleverly ties Obama’s election back to his “Seven Lessons for Radical Innovators.”  A fascinating and very intellectual read.

Max Kalehoff of Online Spin discusses Haque’s post and summarizes,

“I believe we’re entering an important period of business cleansing and rebalancing. There’s too much clutter, waste and distrust. Now, more than ever, it’s important to focus on fundamentals, especially deeper purpose. What is your business existence really all about? Value and meaning are not only longed for — they’re now necessary to compete and win in the marketplace.”

It is clear to me as a professional communicator that we are in the midst of great change.  From the optimism over the election of America’s new President, to Black Friday and the greed it represents, to radical Islamic extremism such as witnessed in Mumbai in the last 48 hours, many people are assessing the purpose in what they do.

Corporations are doing the same.  Companies are concluding that having a purpose is not only inherently good, but can be good for business … the elusive but important win/win.

From a strategic communications perspective, this is also very good.  Doing good requires the development, establishment and management of relationships.  Relationships are at the core of any value exchange, whether the purchase of a product or service or the donation of time or talent.

Strategic communications is all about relationships.

Coming from a person who tries to live for a purpose and full of purpose, I am encouraged that these times of optimism (the election of a new President) and extremism (greed and terror) can lead to a new realism full of meaning and purpose.

Post by Nick Vehr – 11.28.08


From all of us at Vehr Communications … Happy Thanksgiving

The Pilgrims Came

The Pilgrims came across the sea,
And never thought of you and me;
And yet it’s very strange the way
We think of them Thanksgiving day.

We tell their story, old and true
Of how they sailed across the blue,
And found a new land to be free
And built their homes quite near the sea.

Every child knows well the tale
Of how they bravely turned the sail
And journeyed many a day and night,
To worship God as they thought right.

~~Author Unknown.~~

Every professional communicator is challenged each day with the impact of social media on traditional journalism … the process of gathering, verifying and reporting news.

Several months ago, the Cincinnati Enquirer offered buy-outs for senior employees and several dozen signed on.  Trusted and long-term names left that newspaper (some of us fear some part of our local newspaper’s heart and soul walked out the door).

Gannett (Enquirer owner) announced a 10% cut for all of its properties recently and we expect more announcements soon about Enquirer reporters and editors leaving the industry, or at least the paper.

It’s nothing new.  It’s happening everywhere.  It is driven, of course, by the migration of advertising revenue online from the printed page. 

So, the question is, if advertising revenue funded the news gathering, verifying and reporting process, and advertising revenue is migrating online, who is doing the news gathering and verifying before it is reported online?

Today’s NYT reports that the Kaiser Family Foundation is starting a news service (Kaiser Health News) to produce in-depth coverage of the policy and politics of healthcare.

In Cincinnati, an online publication titled “Soapbox” publishes weekly “good news” stories primarily focused on capital projects and community development. 

There are many other examples of user-generated or semi user-generated news.  These sources are hardly unbiased, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are not good sources of information.

I struggle, though.  I still believe that if it’s printed (online or offline), someone smarter and more independent than me checked it out.  I still may not agree or enjoy what I read, but I likely consider it a valid point of view.

I refuse to silo and self-select only the type of news I want to read, or just the news with which I intend to agree.  I fear, though, that I am in a growing minority of news consumers.

My only point to this post is that I, too, am challenged with how to provide the best advice to our clients in light of the lightning pace of change. 

Post by Nick Vehr – 11.24.08

There are some really incredible examples in the news in recent days and weeks about C-suite executives not appreciating the ramifications of their decisions on corporate reputations.  Lots of PR blog chatter on the same issues, as well.

First, the issue … transparency.  Especially in the case of public companies, what the muckety-mucks do and say matters to the reputation of the company.  As we all know, corporate or brand reputation translates into stock value. 

While there are lawyers and investor relations professionals who know precisely what is required to be disclosed and when, it’s usually a disconnected corporate common sense bone that ends up causing all the ruckus.aig___r350x200

Take the news of AIG’s conference at a resort in Phoenix just two weeks on the heel of being skewered in the media for a conference at a swanky resort in California, all after reporting billions in quarterly losses and accepting billions in favorable government loans.

It was bad enough that the boss didn’t have the brains or courage to say ‘NO’ to the Phoenix event.  It was worse that there apparently was a well-considered, carefully-designed plan in effect to shield AIG’s name from the media.

Well, it didn’t work!  Check out this blistering post from Shel Holtz on his blog.

Chrysler's Nardelli and Ford's Mullaly on Capital Hill (CNN Photo)

Chrysler's Nardelli and Ford's Mullaly (CNN Photo)

Now come the CEOs of GM, Ford and Chrysler.  In the past several days, the “big three” CEOs sat in front of various Congressional committees seeking billions of taxpayer dollars to save their troubled companies.  They were clearly struggling with their pitch, but had key congressional leaders as allies.  Even President-Elect Obama (while not directly engaging) was sending signals that Congress should do something.

Then, some pretty basic media work confirmed that each executive had flown to DC on private corporate jets.  When asked about the incongruity of seeking tax dollars and while spending lavishly on big, fancy corporate jets, they seemed incredulous.  They were unprepared. 

Of course, there are legitimate explanations for CEO private travel.  That’s not the point.  Somehow the corporate commone sense bone was disconnected on this one.  They should have either been prepared (or their people should have been prepared) or they should have flown commercial, at least just this once.

Reputations are tricky things.  They can take years to shape, form and build, and just minutes to damage or destroy.

Transparency is about valuing and respecting relationships.  Strategic communications is about developing, strengthening and building relationships.  Most of this is all about corporate commone sense.

Post by Nick Vehr – 11.21.08

News this a.m. on the front page of the Wall Street Journal (page 1 – Ellen Byron) about a P&G / Google employee swap that has been going on for months.  Fascinating story.P&G and Google Employee Swap discussed in 11.19.08 Wall Street Journal (Page 1)

At Vehr Communications, we’re primarily B2B, for now.  However, any news about P&G, the world’s leading consumer products company, in this town (Cincinnati) is, well, news.  When it involves an innovation with Google, it’s really news. 

This is a must read for professional communicators with a deep interest in the Web 2.0 world and its influence on what we do every day for our clients. 

For those of us who like to think we know it all, or at least a little, it is refreshing to read about how some Google staffers were surprised at things P&Ger’s considered marketing basics, and vice versa.

Of course, the big long term play here is what it means for the world’s largest advertiser to be co-learning, co-cultivating, co-mingling and collaborating with the planet’s online advertising behemoth. 

From the P&G perspective, former P&G global marketing officer, who was involved in starting this swap program, summed it up in the article when he asked, “How does a brand morph from one-way to two-way communication with the consumer?”

All professional communicators either are, or should be, asking that same question.

Post by Nick Vehr – 11.19.08

Another tougradio-interviewh reminder in today’s NYT for corporations and organizations of the near impossibility to protect some intellectual property in a Web 2.0 world.

The Times reports on a taped radio interview between a talk radio host and Sentator Christopher Dodd that became heated.  Apparently, the radio host was released (read, fired) after the interview and the station decided not to air it. 

Somehow, a day or two later, the interview turned up on a local Internet site and things were off to the races.  It was downloaded time and again and began showing up all over, despite the radio station’s decision not to air the interview and initial efforts to limit its airing by others.

I’m not so interested in the content of the interview.  I don’t know the interviewer, and I may be wrong, but it just feels like another shock jock picking a fight with a public figure to drive up ratings.

That’s not the point of this post.  Corporations, organizations and their professional communicators need to understand that whatever they put in writing, send in an email, say in an interview or post in a blog can be in the public domain in a matter of seconds.  No “cease and desist” letter can stuff the contents back into Pandora’s box.

That certainly doesn’t mean stop communicating.  It does mean that understanding and awareness of the rules, or lack thereof, of today’s Web 2.0 world is important.  It may also mean (in some circumstances) that transparency and openness with most corporate matters trumps the ways we used to do it.

When some major corporations, that just a decade ago would have gone to the mat legally in certain IP matters and trade secrets, are now comfortable open-sourcing some of their R&D, we know the world has changed.

Post by Nick Vehr – 11.17.08

crisis-communication-book1It can take a lifetime to build a reputation and minutes to destroy one.  All PR professionals know this.  Most business owners do as well. 

Sadly, too few are as prepared as they should be to deal with that crucial moment, that pending or actual crisis, that can jeopardize a reputation.

A new book will be released in the U.S. next month titled, Crisis Communication … practical strategies for reputation management and company survival.  It is available at

I’m still pouring through it, but it shares case studies by many of my colleagues at IPREX firms around the world.  I strongly recommend it.

IPREX is a global partnership of nearly 70 PR firms.  It exists to enable global expertise to be applied locally.  This soon-to-be-published book is a great example of the benefit of shared experiences.

Post by Nick Vehr – 11.15.08

I was gobama-posteretting ready to post this morning about matters of interest for professional communicators – crisis communications, branding, use of social media, you know, that kind of stuff.

Then I read this article in this a.m.’s NYT (“How Obama tapped into social networks power” – David Carr), and I just had write about politics again. 

Well, sort of.  It’s still about what we do as communicators … how we use tools available to us to develop and manage reputations, build and strengthen relationships, all to deliver results that matter. 

Importantly, it’s also about how social media will help, and can hurt, just how we do that.  The Obama/Biden campaign was a tutorial, an open classroom, for all of us.  The article raises the specter that an Obama presidency may be another tutorial as well, but of a different sort.

Read this article.  We all know that the Obama/Biden campaign used social media to forever change presidential campaign politics.  It is expected that President Obama intends to use social media to govern as well.  

As we all know, relationships in today’s online world require nurturing, attention and speed.  Today’s online crowd can turn quickly on President Obama if promised change doesn’t come fast enough, at least fast enough for impatient online enthusiasts who signed on to the Obama/Biden campaign juggernaut.

“The mob, flush with victory, is at hand, but instead of pitchforks and lanterns, they have broadband and YouTube.  Like every other presidency, the Obama administration will have its battle with the media, but that may seem like patty-cake if it runs afoul of the self-publishing, self-organizing democracy it helped create – say, by delaying health care legislation or breaking a promise on taxes … That’s the thing about pipes today: they run both ways.”

In closing, and with deference to the Pogo cartoon of an earlier, pre-Internet era, “Yes, we have met Big Brother, the one who is always watching.  And Big Brother is us.”

NOTE:  After reading the NYT this morning, I sat down this afternoon with today’s WSJ.  In L. Gordon Crovitz’s Information Age column (“Can We Trust Anyone Over 30?”), he made essentially the same point as David Carr in the NYT article referenced above.  Among other insights, he adds, “…young people’s expectations also reflect digital values, which can include fast rejection of anything that smacks of spin or hypocrisy.”

This is all going to be fun, and educational, to watch.

President-Elect Barack Obama in CHicago's Grant Park Tuesday evening

President-Elect Barack Obama in Chicago at Grant Park

Dramatic history was written by American voters last evening.  President-Elect Barack Obama represents so many firsts.

In the context of this blog, with its focus on local, national and global trends that influence the communications profession, one merits particular mention.

Prez-Elect Obama is the world’s first new media U.S. President. 

No one may ever know how many tweets were twittered last night (just as interesting is that we now use words like “tweet” and “twitter” without giggling uncontrollably.)

The “Flat World” proclaimed by Tom Friedman in his 2005 best-seller became even flatter last evening as network, cable and online news broadcast live reactions from all corners of the globe. 

By 8 am Wednesday morning, 536 videos were posted on YouTube of President-Elect Obama in Grant Park last evening with thousands upon thousands of views.

That things have changed forever in U.S. Presidential campaigns is assured.  How big the change is an open question; another is how new media’s influence on the Obama campaign’s voter education and activation strategies and tactics will influence consumer and business strategic communications applications.

Consider just these few applications and let your mind wander a bit:

  • One Million Strong for Barack on Facebook has nearly 1 million members
  • (campaign Web site) enables visitors to join a local group, find an event, donate or blog.  It also lists, under the “Obama Everywhere” header, social media connections to: Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, Digg, Twitter, Eventful, LinkedIn, BlackPlanet, Faithbase, Eons, Glee, MiGente, MyBatanga, AsianAve and DNC PartyBuilder. (Phew!)
  • This article also talks about how the Obama campaign used embedded advertising in EA Sports video games to geotarget specific swing states (Colorado, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and others).
  • The Obama campaign even offered a specific application for the IPhone designed to enable campaign organization and information-sharing to maximize turnout and motivate volunteers.

There is so much to learn.  Applications will only be limited by imagination and creativity.

Before we begin learning, though, maybe we should take a few seconds in our quickly moving and very connected flat world to simply appreciate the history made last evening.

voters1It’s Election Day in America.  Finally.  By the time the day ends, we’ll have a new President. 

Many project record turnouts.  Long lines for voting (see left).  History in the making.  It sure felts that way to me when I voted this a.m. 

The impact of the Presidential Election down-ballot will be fascinating.  This Election’s long tail may dramatically and historically influence local and statewide races.

Today’s lead story in the New York Times (11.04.08) (Adam Nagourney) has much for professional communicators.  In reference to the 2008 Presidential contest, the second para. of the article reads:

“It has rewritten the rules on how to reach voters, raise money, organize supporters, manage the news media, track and mold public opinion, and wage – and withstand – political attacks, including many carried by blogs that did not exist four years ago.”

This is a must-read for all of us. 

Early voting in Ohio is a new phenomenom; first used earlier this year in the Primary Election.  It appears as if 30% (+/-) of votes were cast in this Election before today, beginning as early as September 30. 

The implications of this on campaign messaging (read: cost of campaigning) will be dramatic.  I, for one, will be very interested in learning more about who voted early, when they actually voted, whether they voted by mail-in ballot or went to an early voting location and, of course, for whom and what issues they tended to vote.

Election Day is always exciting for me.  None has been more exciting than this one.  The importance of the Presidential Election cannot be overstated. 

What we can learn about new ways to influence behavior and action through communications cannot be overlooked.