Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hell Freezes Over: In Which I Called The Election in 2006

Proving the old saw that politics makes strange bedfellows (even stranger than McCain and Romney), I discovered with horror that economic creationist Barbara Ehrenreich is also an Obama supporter.

If Obama can bring capitalists and communists together, surely he can help heal the partisan divide.

By the way, how's this for a prescient comment, from back in November of 2006:

Despite my disappointment with Barack Obama's recent stance on Wal-Mart, I still think that the Democrats would be insane not to run him in 2008. When people like Steven Levitt are swooning over his eloquence, you know you're on to something. Besides, monkeys would fly out of my butt before Hillary ever won a national election. The entire religious right is convinced that she IS Satan, you don't think they'd turn out in an election?

Not to jinx things, but I think those monkeys are still being held at the gate.

To Sell Your Story, Be The Story

One of the major advantages that Barack Obama currently holds over Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination here in the United States lies in how his campaign has managed the media.
Clinton's campaign has complained that the media coverage is more sympathetic to Obama (which is pretty evident to anyone who watches CNN or MSNBC), but a bigger issue is simply the volume of coverage.
In political contests, pundits often refer to the "air war" and the "ground war." The air war consists of media exposure (either paid advertising or press coverage) to drive awareness, while the ground war consists of the door-to-door organization to get out the vote.
In many ways, this division resembles the classic divide between Marketing (air war) and Sales (ground war) in business.
When it comes to the air war, the key is to drive awareness. As I'm fond of saying, your most potent competitor is generally ignorance.
Because Barack Obama has become a magnet for free press coverage, he has a significant advantage over Hillary Clinton in the air war. Every time he holds a 15,000-person rally at a sports arena, with thousands more spilling out into the streets, it's a newsworthy story that can draw national coverage, and perhaps even more importantly, local news coverage in both print and TV.
It's possible to substitute money for coverage by blanketing the airwaves with paid advertising, but as Mitt Romney has demonstrated, pound for pound, paid ads are less valuable than free coverage.
The advantage that free coverage brings can be seen in the relative fortunes of the Obama and Clinton campaigns. While both have raised roughly the same amount of money since 2006, Obama's press advantage also allowed his campaign to spend more on the ground game than Clinton, while still maintaining a larger warchest.
The same principle applies in business. If you can get the press to do your job for you, why spend money buying ads? What's more valuable, a 1-page ad in Fortune, or a glowing article? And don't forget, that article didn't cost you $25,000.
The key question then is, how do you get that press coverage?
You can spend a ton of money ($20,000+ per month) on high-priced PR agencies, but as the example of Hillary Clinton shows, the best spin machine in the world can't help much if you don't have a story people want to write about.
Barack Obama has been successful during the nomination battle not because of his spinmeisters, but because he successfully embodies a story that people want to hear and retell. What American doesn't want to believe that anybody (including an African-American with a Muslim name and father, raised by a single mother) can grow up to be president? And if people want change and a break with the past, there is no way for Hillary Clinton to argue that she is best positioned to deliver it.
Great marketing isn't about selling your story. It's about being the story.
The same applies to the business world. Google famously refuses to spend any money on advertising. Guess what? They don't have to, because they are the story.
Microsoft can spend far more money than Apple on ads (and it does). But Apple always wins the air war (at least during the iPod era) because it is the story.
To sell your story, be the story.
P.S. Thanks for reading my 1,000th post! In case you're curious, here's post #1, from almost exactly 7 years ago.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Jerks of the Week: Clemens, Clinton, and Shaq

While I like to be a positive person, sometimes folks are so hypocritical or loathsome that ya just gotta say something. Normally, I'd put this on Ramit's hate blog, but since he's busy right now, you'll just have to bear with me.

Roger Clemens:

I think the great Tom Tolbert put it best--Clemens is asking us to believe that he alone out of the players named in the Mitchell Report was listed incorrectly. That his personal trainer injected his best friend and his wife with HGH, but injected him with B-12 shots (what, did his doctor think he was showing signs of anemia and dementia?). That his personal trainer would lie under oath to incriminate him, when the other athletes he admitted to dosing with drugs (teammates Andy Pettite and Chuck Knoblauch) had already confirmed his story. That his best friend Andy Pettite would lie to Congress incriminate him.

Give me a break.

If Clemens had just come clean and apologized, he could have gone on with his life. Do you see anyone calling for Andy Pettite's head?

Instead, he decided that the great Roger Clemens could use PR and doubletalk to clear his "good name" and in the process probably perjured himself while testifying before Congress.

While you may avoid the big house, Roger, I hope you enjoy waiting for your Hall of Fame bid. Maybe you can get together with your pals Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro and become celebrity endorsers.

A special wag of the finger to the Republican committee members who tried to defend Clemens. I always thought that a level playing field and equality of opportunity were a core value of the Republican Party (a core value I happen to agree with). Since when did cheaters deserve our sympathy?

Hillary Clinton:

It's no secret that I think Barack Obama is a better choice for the Democrats, but desperation seems to be bring out the worst in the Senator from New York.

After getting smoked in the Potomac Primaries, Senator Clinton showed her class by failing to congratulate her opponent. (Though she finally did so a day later)

With it nearly a mathematical possibility to overtake her opponent, it now appears that her nomination hopes rest on getting the DNC to reverse its decision on seating delegates from Michigan and Florida, and then working the superdelegates to cobble together a majority that goes against the popular vote.

If you are a Hillary Clinton supporter (and I do know some people who are), how does it sit with you that your candidate plans to win an election based on changing the rules after the fact and relying on party activists to go against the wishes of the electorate?

Let's not forget the logical contortions involved in arguing that caucuses are undemocratic, but that unelected superdelegates are perfectly legitimate.

If Hillary Clinton came roaring back in the polls and overtook Obama in the pledged delegates, but the superdelegates chose Obama because they thought he had a better chance to defeat John McCain, would her supporters still agree with Clinton's statement that, "superdelegates are by design supposed to exercise independent judgment."?

It's not about winning and losing, it's about right and wrong and knowing the difference between the two.

Shaquille O'Neal:

I love Shaq. I even own two Shaq jerseys. But it's time to show some class or we'll have to refer to you as the Big Jackass.

The pattern is simple. Shaq comes to town. He wows people with his generous, fun-loving personality. He achieves success. But eventually, he decides that there are greener pastures elsewhere, and he blows out of town, burning all his bridges on the way out. He might as well be Homer Simpson leaving Springfield and saying, "So long, Stinktown!"

The Magic fans supported him for years, and he called them a Mickey Mouse organization.

Lakers fans took his side in his battles with Kobe, and he called us "fakes".

Miami fans cheered him on as he won a championship, then watched in dismay as he malingered his way out of town, claiming to be too injured to play, only to turn around and promise to win a championship with the Suns. This didn't come as a surprise to Laker fans, who recall when Shaq waited until right before the 2002-2003 season began to get foot surgery, so that he wouldn't have to interrupt his usual summer vacation of hanging out at Krispy Kreme.

As a final insult, he recently praised Steve Nash by saying, "As I was telling Steve, I haven't got an easy bucket in six years."

I wonder how Dwyane Wade and the referees who gave the Miami Heat (and a clearly declining O'Neal) the 2006 championship feel about that statement? Or how about Kobe Bryant and the 2002 championship he helped deliver for Shaq?

Bluster and bravado are fine when you deliver, but not so cool when you get tooled by the likes of Joel Pryzbilla.

Maybe if you had worked at your craft and stayed in shape, you wouldn't have squandered so many of what used to be your unprecedented physical gifts and talents. But if that were the case, we wouldn't have such gems as Kazaam and Steel.

There's a reason that Heat fans are overjoyed to be rid of the artist formerly known as The Diesel, and that Laker fans are falling over themselves to praise Mitch Kupchak for turning Shaq into Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, and Jordan Farmar.

You're not what you were. So get over yourself, get into shape, and shut your trap and be grateful if Steve Nash can help get you another championship ring. And I'd better not hear any whining when Phoenix loses because you couldn't match up against Duncan, Bynum, Gasol, or God forbid, Eric Dampier.


So what have we learned today (besides the fact that I still sometimes write blog posts even when I should be sleeping)?

Learn to accept reality. If you took steroids, 'fess up. If you're losing an election, show some class. And if you're washed up because you squandered your talents, try to show a bit of remorse.

Sure, you can keep trying to bluster and brazen it out, but sooner or later, reality is going to bitchslap you with a perjury charge, a series of 30-point losses, or a four-game sweep at the hands of your arch-enemy.

PBwiki at the NBA All-Star Game

Seldom if ever does my love of basketball intersect with my professional life, so when it does, I get super excited.

Uber-blogger Henry Abbott of TrueHoop (now part of ESPN) is heading to the NBA All-Star Game, and he’s taking PBwiki with him.

Henry has asked TrueHoop’s tens of thousands of readers to join with him in creating a wiki for the All-Star Game which will include articles, posts, videos, and other original content. And he’s chosen PBwiki. Here’s what Henry had to say:

Let’s use that wiki to assemble, starting now and running all weekend, all of the best articles, blog posts, video, and original anecdotes about what’s happening all over the city. Not just the stuff that’s in press releases, but what’s really happening on the ground.

If you’re from New Orleans, and have a story to tell about having the All-Star game in your city, please share it here. If you find a great article or video about New Orleans, this is the place for it.
Basically, I am hoping that with your help this can become a go-to resource of the best real New Orleans information as All-Star Weekend rolls on. It’ll take a lot of you pitching in with thougtful contributions. But if you do, this’ll really be something.

Also, I’ll be honest, in the past I have found wikis kind of hard to operate. Not this one. It’s really simple. Try it. (emphasis added) Here’s the link again. Thanks.

Sure, I've had mentions in the New York Times and the Financial Times before, but this is the NBA All-Star Game we're talking about here! That's pretty cool.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

It's hard to win with low expectations

One additional thought on expectations: Part of the danger in setting expectations too low is that at the end of the day, moral victory is no substitute for real victory.

I've read a lot of stories reporting that Hillary Clinton's campaign is trying to set expectations that Barack Obama will win every single primary and caucus in the month of February (some 10 contests in all).

I know that this theoretically makes it look like a big win if Clinton manages to go, say, 1 for 10 or 2 for 10, but there is a limit to pursuing the strategy of relative versus absolute expectations.

If you're trying to win, predicting that you're going to lose seems to be a rather dangerous tactic--just ask Rudy Giuliani.

If I were Maggie Williams, Senator Clinton's new campaign manager, I'd have my people focus less on why they didn't win previous elections, and more on why people should vote for Hillary in future ones.