“Wisely invested”

PARK CITY, Utah — Mitt Romney’s campaign held its daily strategy session Saturday 2,076 miles from its Boston headquarters. And this time it had some very special guests.

Eight hundred top donors gathered in the ballroom of a resort here to watch the presentation: the Romney campaign for president is organized, efficient and run like a business. In other words, their money is being wisely invested.

Figuratively or literally.
Advertisements

Poltical tweeps under the microscope

Nice post from Nieman Lab on how people are acting like journalists on Twitter. Caught my eye because that’s exactly what I do. This is basically the concept of content curation in PR, a role established enough now that people can list it as previous experience on their resume and apply for jobs that request it.

Here’s what they’re doing:

Now, Metzgar and Ibold are still in the process of evaluating tweets — 250 so far, but ultimately 2,500 — for journalistic behaviors. For example, do these Twitter users verify the information they’re sharing? Do they simply assert information? Do they affirm preconceived notions? Or do they demonstrate some other special-interest approach?

Former Nieman Foundation curator Bill Kovach and Project for Excellence in Journalism director Tom Rosenstiel developed this evaluation framework — verification, assertion, affirmation, and special-interest —  in their book Blur. (For the purposes of their study, Metzgar and Ibold added a “none of the above” category.)

Researchers are also evaluating tweets for political rhetoric using three categories: attack, acclaim, and rebuttal. Their early findings have yielded some interesting results. Metzgar and Ibold find the most prevalent journalistic mode among their politically-oriented sample is assertion, which Kovach and Rosenstiel characterize as placing the “highest value on immediacy and volume and in so doing tends to become a passive conduit of information.” (Sound familiar, web users?)

… cool. But pretty limited. I’d like to see a more comprehensive study of the sharing and fact-checking methods that the various tribes use on Twitter. It’d be interesting to have someone steeped in online blog reading (like many of those adorning my roll to the right) check how different readers of different sites interact and promote information. This is only a preliminary study (from “30,000 feet”) as the article notes, so I’d love to have a look at what it’s like when they get more time and data.

Also, this made me smile:

Regardless of political orientation, tweets were likely to be “scandal-oriented with emotional charge.” (Again, sound familiar, web users?)

As did this, though for a different reason:

What may be more telling is how both of these highly engaged Twitter groups — in addition to an “overall disregard for verification” — ignored traditional media, and one another. In instances when Twitter users did attempt to provide verification, it often came in the form of a link to an outside source. But rarely was that source a traditional journalistic outlet.

Given how ‘traditional’ journalistic outlets have failed us during the past couple of decades, I’m OK with that.

You’d agree with Randolph Scott

Interesting post from Justin Fox over at Harvard Business Review. He cuts right to the chase:

We all like to think we can evaluate information and arguments rationally, regardless of where they come from. But we don’t.

No. We certainly do not. Fox quotes Yale Law School Professor Dan Kahan, who notes that:

People feel that it is safe to consider evidence with an open mind when they know that a knowledgeable member of their cultural community accepts it.

Fox then says:

Kahan is most concerned about scientific issues (climate change, HPV vaccines) where he thinks group identities get in the way of reasoned discussion. But the same tendencies can be seen in pretty much any case where there are conflicting opinions — which ought to make them of interest to anybody in a management or other decision-making role.

There’s probably some sophisticated PR insight that can be drawn out of this but I don’t have it right now. Other than arguing with people in a respectful way and trying to acclimate yourself to their predispositions and speech conventions, I dunno. No deep thought for today.

Just got my deep thought. I wonder how true this is for political discussion. Obviously, if you’re dealing with one person and your job is to convince him/her, then you have to be accommodating and understanding and non-snarky and never condescending and all that.

But what if we’re talking about political persuasion? Basically half the people in the country don’t vote. I’m not sure why (that’d be an interesting study but I imagine they might be hard to get hold of). Would using intentionally inflammatory rhetoric, designed to catch the attention of other people who weren’t paying attention, be a better strategy? Because remember: the people you’re attempting to convince probably won’t listen to you anyway for the very reason that Fox outlines.

I feel like the equation has to change when you’re switching from a one-on-one conversation with a committed, opposed person to a series of messages that appeal to millions of people, some of whom are already on your side, some of whom aren’t and around half of whom aren’t even paying attention. Is it worth catering your argument to the delicate sensibilities of ideologically hostile people in the hope that they see the light? Or are you better off torching those people and crossing your fingers that your tribe gets riled up while the unaware half takes a few minutes to stop watching porn and check out what’s going on? Another question to which I don’t have the answer.

And yes:

Great moments in political PR

The Heartland Institute, which is one of the leading “think tanks” producing “research” about the lack of effects/irrelevance/non-existence/shut up, hippies of global warming, has put up a few billboards to try and raise awareness of their position (via). Here’s one:

You may or may not remember the Heartland Institute for working with Philip Morris to call into question the legitimacy of research that documents the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. Charming.

Mediacentrism

My thoughts return to the PR blogosphere and its substantive commentary (or lack thereof) on political matters. I think I have found a serviceable, though imperfect, analogy to sum up my beef.

Brian Solis, who is generally acknowledged to be a leading writer in ‘big think’ PR pieces and an overall pretty sharp guy, writes a lot of stuff on the intersection of business, the ever-evolving digital age and how that affects organizations. I was not a huge fan of his writing early on but the more that I’ve read, the more it’s grown on me.

One of Brian’s pet points, and one that I’ve seen him make several times in writing, is that often people focus on digital media and social platforms as ends in and of themselves rather than a tactics that fit into a preexisting business model and organizational ethos. Now, if you made it past the embarrassing number of buzzwords in that last sentence, here’s what I’m getting at:

Brands and their marketers suffer from what I refer to as medium’alsim, a condition where inordinate value and weight is placed on the technology of any medium rather than amplifying platform strengths and ideas to deliver desired and beneficial experiences and outcomes.  Said another way, businesses are developing for the sake of development and establishing supporting presences without regard for how someone feels, thinks, or acts as a result. In doing so, “engagement” programs are calculated, brought to life in the form of an editorial calendar that, by its very nature, isn’t not designed to really engage people at all.

Emphasis mine. I misremembered the term he cam up with, which caused me to waste a good ten minutes on Google searching for a combination of ‘Brian Solis’ and ‘mediacentrism’, failing at that, cursing at Google and then even considering using Bing. But no matter. My moniker is ‘mediacentrism.’ It’s the exact same idea and, I have now realized, it’s one of my chief complaints about how PR types write about politics online, if they do write about it at all.

So often, political posts are focused on the delivery mechanism. Here’s a post from Dan Zarrella about how the leading GOP contenders’ Twitter stats. Here’s a David Meerman Scott post about how Obama’s video is a great example of content marketing. Here’s an InkHouse post about the optics early on in the primary process. Etc, etc.

Again, I stress, there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with these posts. They can be interesting. I’m aware that it’s not the job of PR folks to analyze policy. I’m aware that much of their professional work does concern image-managing, so this emphasis makes enough sense. But, nevertheless, I think there’s a lost opportunity to look at the way information is disseminated and rejected received. Plus, let’s not kid ourselves: Jeff Zeleny and Ashley Parker spend almost all of their time writing about trivial, optical stuff. PR people could look elsewhere. And yes, because I am ever the thoughtful and substantive blogger, I’ll give you an example.

Greg Sargent had an interesting post a few days ago. An NYT/CBS poll asked about tax fairness in the context of growth, to steal Greg’s wording, and here’s what happened:

Which do you think is the best way to promote economic growth in the U.S.? 1.Lower taxes on individuals and businesses, and pay for those tax cuts by spending on some government services and programs, or 2. Spend more on education and the nation’s infrastructure, and raise taxes on wealthy individuals and businesses to pay for that spending.

Lower taxes, cut spending: 37

Spend more, raise taxes: 56

And here are a few more figures:

The poll also finds that 67 percent say the government should do more to help improve the situation of middle class Americans; 52 percent say government shold [sic] do more to improve the housing market; 57 percent think the wealthy pay less than their fair share in taxes; and that 51 percent think capital gains should be taxed as ordinary income. People say they dislike government in the abstract, but when the talk turns to specifics, suddenly active government doesn’t look so bad.

Emphasis all his. And wow. Sounds like good news for the Preznit, eh? Except there’s also this:

But a whopping 55 percent are confident in Romney’s ability to make the right decisions about the economy. If Romney clears the basic competence threshold with voters, as seems likely, it could be trouble for Obama.

Waitwaitwait. The public supports, by twenty points, raising taxes on the wealthy and spending more (Obama’s plan) as opposed to cutting spending and lowering taxes (Romney’s plan). 67% say the government should do more to help middle class families, which Romney’s economic plan will not do (see previous link). 52% say government should do more to improve the housing market, an area in which Obama has been quite poor but it stands to reason that Romney would be worse. And 51% think that capital gains should be treated as income, a change which the Buffet rule would mostly accomplish. Romney, if you haven’t been up on it, does not support the Buffet rule.

So: the general public opposes Romney’s general economic plan by 20%. On each discrete issue, the public is more aligned with Obama’s policies than those of Romney. And… wait for it… 55% of Americans claim to be confident about Romney’s ability to make the right decisions about the economy. Now, that’s interesting.

How to succeed in journalism

Came across this the other day, via Driftglass. The entire piece is worth reading just to remember how egregiously, arrogantly, dismissively, entirely wrong these people were, especially the NYT’s Most Reasonable Conservative™. But of all the howlers in the piece, this graf still takes it:

My third guess is that the Bush haters will grow more vociferous as their numbers shrink. Even progress in Iraq will not dampen their anger, because as many people have noted, hatred of Bush and his corporate cronies is all that is left of their leftism. And this hatred is tribal, not ideological. And so they will still have their rallies, their alternative weeklies, and their Gore Vidal polemics. They will still have a huge influence over the Democratic party, perhaps even determining its next presidential nominee. But they will seem increasingly unattractive to most moderate and even many normally Democratic voters who never really adopted outrage as their dominant public emotion.

In other words, there will be no magic “Aha!” moment that brings the dream palaces down. Even if Saddam’s remains are found, even if weapons of mass destruction are displayed, even if Iraq starts to move along a winding, muddled path toward normalcy, no day will come when the enemies of this endeavor turn around and say, “We were wrong. Bush was right.” They will just extend their forebodings into a more distant future. Nevertheless, the frame of the debate will shift. The war’s opponents will lose self-confidence and vitality. And they will backtrack. They will claim that they always accepted certain realities, which, in fact, they rejected only months ago.

It just defies words.

Oh hello, it’s you again

Guest post today on Spin Sucks from Molli Megasko. Molli writes about how people have stereotypes about Millenials and often times those stereotypes are wrong and stupid. Makes sense to me. I am a Millenial and I’ve seen this dynamic at work in various places, if never actually at a work site.

Here’s where we run into trouble:

I’ve been pretty pissed off about this recently and finally felt empowered when I saw this quote posted on the Newera Social Marketing Facebook page:

I’m part of that generation known as Millennials, and even if we don’t know whether social security will be around when we retire, or if we’ll be able to retire, or if we’ll even have jobs to consider retiring [from], we know this: We are hustlers.

– Taken from a Good Culture post titled What Generation Overshare Can Learn from Biggie.

No. No. No no no no. From the Trustees Report summary:

After 2020, Treasury will redeem trust fund assets in amounts that exceed interest earnings until exhaustion of trust fund reserves in 2033, three years earlier than projected last year. Thereafter, tax income would be sufficient to pay only about three-quarters of scheduled benefits through 2086.

Or put another way: Social Security, if we do nothing, will still be able to pay out three-quarters of its benefits by the time Ms. Megasko is 102. And no, I did not miss the irony of this comment being approvingly quoted on a blog called ‘Spin Sucks.’