Showing posts with label Beers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Beers. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 5

Losing Truth: When Astroturf Wins


While the nation celebrates the victory of President-elect Barack Obama, Nevada is already lamenting the unintended consequences that came with his victory. Two respected state senators, one of which I worked with this cycle, lost their seats to campaigns best described by the only paper to endorse those who benefited.

“Don’t look to Allison Copening, who defeated Beers, or Shirley Breeden, who defeated Heck, to become a driving force during the next legislative session. The candidates relied on outside expenditures that hammered the incumbent with negative ads, a national Democratic wave, and ducking debates and tough questions,” wrote Cy Ryan with the Las Vegas Sun. “Now, they’ll have to navigate the politics of Carson City. And their positions on the issues, from renewable energy to higher taxes, will be on the record.”

The surrogate smear campaigns against Beers and Heck, which exceeded the early estimates of $1 million against both to be closer to $1 million against each for races that usually require around $100,000 to run a substantive campaign, included lies about their records, their characters, and their professions.

Specifically against Beers, the mailers and television advertisements eventually claimed a fictitious ethics charge and accused him of “making up” a law enforcement endorsement that he had. In one of the television commercials, they included a four-frame fraction-of-a-second image of a gun pointing to his head. The owners of that advertisement said they stood by it.

Where was the media? For the most part, the newspapers were there. The more conservative Las Vegas Review-Journal, the more liberal Las Vegas Sun, and the liberal alternative Las Vegas CityLife all vetted the false claims, damned the smear campaigns, protested the refusals to debate, and demonstrated direct ties from the candidates to the surrogate attacks. The latter of the three papers ultimately joined the more conservative first to endorse Beers.

Yet, with print circulations declining and mostly unanswered anonymous comments attached to those articles online, the weight of independent or even biased journalism is waning; something that needs to concern us all. Even when budget-crunched newspapers are not resorting to "he said, she said" reporting that masquerades as objectivity, fewer people are reading. Instead, they only rely on whatever can be burped out by black hat public relations professionals and political spinsters.

Ultimately, two well-funded Astroturf campaigns carried the day in both races, backed by Obama-led straight-ticket voter turnout and diminished Republican turnout that left even Richard McArthur, candidate for the more conservative Assembly District 4, vulnerable for most of the evening against an opponent who did not campaign at all. McArthur won by a small margin.

As for the state senate races, the losers are Nevadans. In Beers, they lost the only accountant in the state legislature, who even his adversaries agreed knew more about the state budget than anyone serving in the state senate and credited with being a champion for the underdogs, even if it meant going against his own party. In Heck, they lost a smart legislator, emergency room doctor, and U.S. Army Reserve colonel.

What is the cost? Considering, before the ink was even dry on the morning newspaper, some of the would be winners who promised no “new taxes at this time” are already saying they feel pressured to raise them, which reminds me of a fitting quote from American writer and economist Thomas Sowell:

“If you have been voting for politicians who promise to give you goodies at someone else's expense, then you have no right to complain when they take your money and give it to someone else, including themselves.” — Thomas Sowell

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Tuesday, October 21

Astroturfing: Las Vegas Police Protective Association


In one of the most fierce and costly state senate races in the history of Nevada, dishonesty has reached epic proportions as The Las Vegas Police Protective Agency (LVPPA) risks losing all credibility as an endorser.

In the LVPPA's latest mailing to discredit Sen. Bob Beers, the association calls the state senator's law enforcement endorsement false, even though it is undeniably true. Sen. Bob Beers posted a copy of the endorsement letter from the Peace Officers Research Association of Nevada (PORAN) on his Web site.

It's not the first erroneous attack by the LVPPA, but it does demonstrate why one local retired police sergeant, David A. Freeman, was prompted to write a letter:

"During my 30 years with the Las Vegas Protective Police Association, I can't remember a time when they ever polled members and asked for their opinions; most decisions were made by a select few who never sought the approval or disapproval from the men and women who guard and defend our communities," he said.

Given that fact, it seems to me that this might be a good time for rank and file officers to review the charter. When organizational leaders resort to mailing blatantly false accusations, they do more to damage the credibility of the people they serve than anyone else. But that tends to be the way it is with short-term smear campaigns and emboldened rhetoric: Any short-term gains tend to have long-term consequences.

The same holds true in the national races. I've seen several bloggers jump the shark this election cycle, never appreciating that their short-term fervor for one candidate or another could have long-term consequences in how people perceive them. And from a communication standpoint, that is always something to think about.

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Thursday, October 16

Advertising Negatives: From Soup To Nuts


Almost every editorial on the final debate between U.S. Sen. Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. John McCain leads the same way. It only took 20 minutes before both candidates forgot about the issues and shifted toward political campaign ads.

They were kidding, right?

No, no, I suppose not. While the last reason I would elect a president is based on the prowess of their television production teams, most political talk seems to be all about the ads.

Some are even arguing over which side has more negative advertisements than the other. The University of Wisconsin Advertising Project says Obama airs the larger percentage of negative ads. The Nation says that is not true and McCain ads are much more negative. Has everyone forgotten grade school?

When Billy lies about Sally twice and Sally lies about Billy once … Ms. Clark made them both clean erasers after class.

So let's talk soup.

When it comes to negative advertising, there is no clear winner in another brand battle taking place across America. There are only losers.

For several weeks, Campbell and General Mills have been in engaged in an ongoing soup battle. Cambpell launched the first attack ad in The New York Times, claiming General Mills' Progresso soups are made with MSG. They are. General Mills fired back, saying some Campbell soups have MSG. They do.

So Campbell counted all of its soups to conclude that 124 soups have no MSG.

"The pot can't be calling the kettle black if it has the same problem itself," Laura Ries, president of Ries & Ries, told Brandweek.

So let's talk nuts.

One would think that after noted author Geoff Livingston wrote that astroturf comes in a variety of colors, including blue, someone might get the hint. Not so with Allison Copening and crew. They are dead set to stay the course with a $1 million smear campaign against State Senator Bob Beers — a campaign that almost everyone calls pathetic.

Their solution? Allison Copening's backers, who admit that the negative advertising has backfired because some residents "have stopped opening election mail” are now moving their lies onto television. Some estimate they will spend up to $500,000 on television, splitting the figure between attacking State Sen. Bob Beers and State Sen. Joe Heck, who is another elected official targeted this campaign cycle.

Given the size of the media market in Las Vegas, the television buy is equivalent to tossing a glass of water into a swimming pool and hoping to splash a few people. If it does splash some people, one can only hope that those splashed will know that most messages move beyond distortion and are of the plain old-fashioned lie variety.

As it turns out, it would not be the first time Copening has played a PR spin game. She was once a marketing director at PurchasePro, a company charged with stock fraud. She also worked as a public relations specialist for a homebuilder when it dealt with rat infestations and home fire sales that left new residents with mortgages higher than their assessed value.

She claimed that the rats were part of the allure of the desert. She rebuffed reporters when the homebuilder cut home values by simply saying they were too busy with other things.

Ironically, she claims it is Sen. Bob Beers who makes up stories. For his part, Sen. Beers has remained focused on campaign issues. In one case, he criticized a third party mailer that attacked his opponent's math skills and called them below a fourth grade level. As it turns out, he is not the only one tired of campaign ads that deviate from the truth.

Several states away in Minnesota, U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman recently said his campaign would halt negative advertising in a race recently dominated by it. "I want folks to vote for me, and not against the other folks," he said.

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Friday, October 3

Walking For Arthritis: Arthritis Walk 2008

My daughter is only two years old, but she wants to walk for arthritis on Saturday, Oct. 25 in support of the Southern Nevada Arthritis Foundation.

How do I know she does?

You’d never know to look at her, but she is one of the 46 million Americans living with arthritis, the nation's leading cause of disability. She has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in both ankles and one hand, a bitter reminder that underneath her firecracker smile she’s always had to fight a little harder. There are no free rides.

What’s worse for us is that Nevada is only one of nine states in the U.S. that doesn’t have a pediatric rheumatologist. In lieu of seeing the specialist she needs to, we take her to a clinic that specializes in children with cancer. One of the doctors there flies in from Calif. four days a month.

We’re just grateful she was diagnosed. The quick care doctor who initially saw her rejected the obvious: the first ankle had swelled to twice the size of the other. He thought it was a hip infection. (The misdiagnosis might have been worse had some legislators not fought for tort reform.)

Tort reform in Nevada.

A few years ago, Nevada was facing a very real medical crisis. Doctors and nurses were being squeezed out of state as the cost of malpractice insurance continued to rise and health insurance companies added more hurdles than help. (Health care premiums for families here have increased 54.6 percent in the last seven years.)

State Sen. Bob Beers led the fight for tort reform in the state of Nevada and continues to fight for doctors and nurses, which is one of several reasons that the Nevada State Medical Association, the Clark County Medical Society, and Southern Nevada Medical Industry Coalition endorsed him.

It’s very sobering when you can make personal connections between your life and state government. For the three plus months we lived in Summerlin Hospital NICU, rarely did a day go by when I didn’t wonder what might have happened had the doctors and nurses who saved my daughter’s life moved on to greener, more doctor friendly states.

She won’t walk alone.

Two years later, add my daughter to the list of his endorsements.

Sen. Bob Beers told us yesterday he would take a few hours off the campaign trail to help her raise money for arthritis. In fact, since his father also suffers from arthritis, he asked that we set up my daughter’s page under the Team Beers banner. His campaign will be jumpstarting my family’s modest $5,000 fundraising goal with the first $1,000.

For more information about the walk, visit the 2008 Arthritis Walk schedule. And if you’d like to help us reach our goal, you can find the Team Beers page here.

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Wednesday, September 17

Communicating Politics: Has The Bar Dropped?


It’s a good thing I watched the John Adams miniseries this summer because I might otherwise believe it when many news outlets call the 2008 elections the dirtiest, ugliest, and meanest in history.

Somehow, for me, being reminded that Jefferson vilified his longtime friend and colleague Adams in 1800 or that Jefferson himself was later vilified by his political opponents, helps keep things in perspective. Joseph Ellis, in his book The Revolutionary Generation called this rivalry unequalled in terms of “shrill accusatory rhetoric, flamboyant displays of ideological intransigence, intense personal rivalries and hyperbolic claims of imminent catastrophe.”

Although, when you think about it, Ellis really could be writing about 2008, with the only notable difference being that many poorly executed ideas like Obama Waffles or the now debunked claims by the DailyKos that Sarah Palin faked her pregnancy are often beyond either campaign team’s control.

Much more manageable are the messages being put into play by both campaigns. Obama’s claim that McCain votes 88 percent of the time with President Bush is disingenuous at best, given that the reality is Obama and McCain voted together nearly as much. And, I’ve already commented on the McCain team’s silly Obama is like Paris Hilton comparison ad. Both were wrong. Both were ineffective. Both backfired.

The excuse? Everywhere I look, “they’ve” lowered the bar “first” seems to be the prevailing mantra. Yet, nothing could be further from reality. Somebody, eventually, has to be the better person and not expect voters to ferret out the truth on their own, just as I’ve been advising closer to home. As expected, the nasty national tactics have been spilling over into local and state races.

“The Nevada Democratic Party is showing an analogous moral bankruptcy in its effort to oust state Sens. Joe Heck and Bob Beers because it must believe the end — returning the upper house to the Democrats for the first time in 18 years — justifies the execrable means.” — Jon Ralston, Las Vegas Sun

Ralston is referring to a smear campaign being promoted by the Nevada State Democratic Party to help lift up their candidate who professes not to know who is behind the campaign (um, the same people financing her). yet, she is more than happy to benefit from it. You can find one example of the fictitious campaign claims on another local blogger’s site. You can find the truth here or here.

Since the campaign was launched, several communicators have asked me what do you do when the opposition intends to spend $1 million on a mountain of lies? Don’t you hit back?

Sometimes you want to, but that’s no answer. Reactionary communication is not very effective communication. So as much as the media loves to cover such conflict, there is only one remedy for political campaign lies, in my opinion. It requires more and more truth. And that is what Sen. Beers is doing.

Now, only if national campaigners would learn, because they have set the bar lower and some local campaigners seem to have set the bar even lower than that. Enough so, that I’ve already told most of my friends that I’m not making any national election decisions until after the debates and asked some not to subscribe to or promote sound bites from either side until it can be verified as fact.

Otherwise, we risk making liars of ourselves, even if it seems justified by the audacious notion that the sun will not rise on Nov. 5 if the other candidate is elected. On the contrary, the sun will rise.

The sun will rise on Nov. 5 just as it did on July 4, 1826, after two longtime adversaries realized that for all their wanted differences, the rest of the world perceived them to be largely the same. And “Thomas Jefferson survives.”

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Friday, August 29

Mocking Politics: Adweek & Agencies


Adweek recently challenged several creative directors to sell the next president of the United States. According to the special report, several declined and some took to tongue-in-cheek humor.

After the fine folks at The Rosen Group brought the special report to our attention, my team thought it might be fun to review some of these faux campaign concepts (here). After all, I’ve often felt that not all advertising agencies are cut out for political campaigns — the work sometimes leans too creative to really resonate with voters. Am I right? Let’s find out.

Mike Byrne, Anomaly: Disqualified

It’s not that we don’t like Byrne’s industry twist on the assignment that pits McCann Erickson against Obamaly (as opposed to McCain vs. Obama). We like the "agency as opposed to politics" spoof as well as well as the obvious old vs. new parallels that drives it. Unfortunately, it veers too far off from being applicable for this post.

John Butler, Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners: Below Average

Butler’s first contribution borrows the well-known 1984 re-elect Ronald Ragan spot and points out that Obama doesn’t have to run against John McCain. I’ve always had mixed feelings about the "choose a different opponent" approach. Why? “Running against others” has a relatively low success rate. Much funnier (though neither would make it) are his billboard contributions: the McCain billboard that declares “God is my running mate” while Obama’s reads “It’s Obama Time.”

Peter Nicholson, Deutsch: Not Good

Nicholson tosses in a refreshed “I Want You” poster with McCain playing the part of Uncle Sam. The supporting copy reads: … to feel sorry for my POW ass. While the Obama campaign team would have to pass, it might fly as an independent expenditure. Nicholson seems to have caught that McCain’s POW experience isn’t resonating with voters this cycle as it did when he ran against George W. Bush.

Jamie Barrett, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners: Average

Barrett doesn’t pick sides, except the one against political advertising. He positions McCain as the 174-year-old candidate and Obama an as the “?” candidate. He makes the right point, but without the payoff. What we do like, however, is Barret’s conclusion that “maybe, just maybe, they [voters] should pay less attention to half truths they see on commercials and think a little more for themselves.”

Tom Amico, The Kaplan Thaler Group: Above Average

Amico comes to the same conclusion as Barrett. For Obama, the contribution reads “I’m black” over and over again. For McCain, it reads “I’m old” over and over again. Both posters are summed up "If this is all you're hearing, you're not listening." Sure, the conceptual behind the ad has been done more than once, but it still edges out Goodby, Silverstein & Partners because the point he’s making seems to stick with us long after the ad is over.

Nick Law, R/GA: Good

Law’s motion billboard gives people a “Make History” message for Obama and a “Repeat History” message for McCain. It’s amazingly effective at targeting the emotions of those unhappy with the administration while driving home the point that McCain might represent more of the same. Law doesn’t let Obama off the hook either. He turns Obama into a Macy’s parade blimp, reading “Overblown.” I didn’t like the Obama take at a glance, but it starts to stick after repeated viewings. We have to give it up for Law. Both ads have the potential to work.

Scott Duncan, T.A.G.: Below Average

Duncan shoots for simple with both campaign ideas. He suggests placing a straightforward “Obama” billboard in key locations, like a steel factory setting. I liked the idea at first, but pulled back from it after it started to resemble a foreshadow of things to come. Likewise, dropping the “Mc” from McCain and running with the ‘Cain seemed okay. But over time, the initial attraction wears off and you start to wonder whether the new brand name will break down.

Rob Schwartz, TBWA: Average

Schwartz has a somewhat subversive idea by asking the world to vote for president of the United States, playing off of Obama’s global momentum. Is that a good thing? He does the same with McCain, making McCain a global action figure. Is that a good thing? The sad reality is Americans would likely be as mixed on these messages as they seem to be on the candidates. I give Schwartz some props; his additional ideas are worth the read.

So there you have it. Advertising can amuse us about the political process, but the industry doesn’t always translate well for politics. Somehow, political campaigns are different. Of the creative directors brave enough to have some fun, only Law seems to come close to a deliverable. And that makes me wonder too. Was any of this fun worth any of the comments that concluded every campaign a disappointment. I don't know.

Las Vegas Agency Example

But what I do know is that we recently found a local advertising agency attempting to play politics with equally disappointing results. After going to great lengths to hide their ownership of a smear blog aimed at State Sen. Bob Beers, Drex in Las Vegas outed itself after accidently posting the blog's project files on their agency site (right alongside a client roster that includes Sen. Bob Beers supporters).

Considering the secret campaign is reported to be a $1 million attack fund against Sen. Bob Beers (so his opponent does not have to attack him), we thought it was an amazingly amateurish mistake. It was also amateurish for Drex to reinforce its first half-truth post with an anonymous comment written by the same writer who wrote the post.

I guess that gives a lot of weight to speculators who said that advertising agencies would have a hard time resisting black hat social media. Comments by anyone else are, naturally, moderated.

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Monday, October 15

Winning & Losing: Al Gore


As part of Blog Action Day, I’m adding a communication bent to environmental awareness as some inconvenient truths are being reported about An Inconvenient Truth. (Hat tip: State Sen. Bob Beers).

The Credibility Question

The timing of Justice Burton’s ruling — that British teachers showing the film must tell their pupils that Gore makes several false or unsupported claims (although the work is broadly correct) — could not come at a worse time. After all, Gore and the United Nations Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) just received a joint winner of the Nobel peace prize for educating the world about climate change.

After possibly overreaching on some points, Gore has succeeded in fueling additional conflict over his message of environmental crisis. According to Times Online, the court ruling is the first of many battles ahead. The campaigners who supported the court case will now send copies of The Great Global Warming Swindle, a counter claim funded by Viscount Monckton, to these schools.

The Communication Considerations

What is most interesting to me is how Gore will handle what is his greatest triumph and looming crisis over the same work at the same time; whether the topic of global warming will become even more polarizing for British students than it already is for world leaders; and will this impact the public’s belief in global warming? As the story unfolds, we will begin covering these questions as part of a living case study.

The Environmental Considerations

Recently, I participated in a discussion that accepted the premise that global warming was beyond our control. My point in this discussion was simple enough. Regardless of global warming, we still need to consider alternative fuel sources.

Unless we change current fuel usage in the United States between now and 2030, one-third of the world’s population will be using unhealthy and environmentally damaging fuels to meet their daily energy needs. As it stands now, 1.6 billion people do not have access to electricity, 2.4 billion people rely on traditional biomass such as wood and dung, and 99 percent of these people live in developing countries that will need energy.

As these countries develop, demand will increase at exponential rates, making our traditional model too expensive to maintain anyway. Not to mention, China’s continued development is having an increased demand on the world market (faster than the U.S.) and oil remains one of the most unstable fuel sources for our country with 37 percent of all imports currently being supplied by OPEC.

As I mentioned in January, the debate about global warming, and add to that the need for alternative fuels, is over. Everybody lost. And now that it has been over for some time now, it still seems to me that people need more saving than the planet. Here is one way to help both.

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Friday, December 29

Remembering Top Posts Of 2006

With the new year upon us next week, we would like to say goodbye to 2006 with a recap of our five most popular communication-related posts, based on the frequency and the immediacy of hits after they were posted.

Wee Shu Min’s Post Impacts Economic Reform

When Wee Shu Min, the teenage daughter of a Singapore member of parliament, stumbled across the blog of a Singaporean who wrote that he was worried about losing his job, she thought she’d give him a piece of her mind. She called him “one of many wretched, under motivated, over assuming leeches in our country” on her own blog and signed off with “please, get out of my elite uncaring face,” a post that received international scorn and had such an impact that the Singapore government paid out S$150 million to about 330,000 low-income workers five days before its recent election.

Links: Wee Shu Min, Wee Siew Kim

Jobster Loses Control Of A Blog Rumor

After starting a rumor that 2007 would mean more profitability for Jobster, the rumor runs away from the company as bloggers speculate whether that will mean layoffs at the young, but fast growing online recruitment company. The outcome leads to one of the worst public relations and internal communication nightmares in recent memory. From the net to mainstream media, the Seattle Times picks up on what continues to be an interesting communication case study. A few more days and Jobster might have overtaken Wee Shu Min’s post. Go figure.

Link: Jobster

Wal-Mart Fires Julie Roehm

Julie Roehm never intended to gain her most fame for being fired by Wal-Mart, but that is exactly what happened after Wal-Mart allegedly grew uncomfortable with her friendly connection to Draft FCB, which she had pushed for to become Wal-Mart’s agency of record. Draft FCB was fired three days after Roehm. Still spinning an upbeat message, Roehm told Advertising Age she would take “60 days to find out exactly what I want to do and take advantage that people want to talk with me…” Her other alternative, she said, is to open her own shop.

Links: Roehm, FCB Draft

Jim Gibbons Elected Nevada Governor

Fueled largely by last minute assault allegations made against Jim Gibbons by Chrissy Mazzeo, a 32-year-old cocktail waitress at Wynn Las Vegas, the governor’s race in Nevada became a hot topic nationwide. Eventually, Gibbons overcame the obstacle after video evidence proved he was not in the location where the incident supposedly took place. Gibbons won over Dina Titus, 48-44. For our part, we worked on Gibbons mailers for the Nevada Republican Party’s Victory 2006 campaign after working with State Senator Bob Beers on his spirited policy-changing primary.

Links: Jim Gibbons, Gibbons Wins

Miss USA Crowns In Turmoil

The Miss USA pageant scandals remind us that all of us have personal brands. Donald Trump capitalized on the publicity by teasing Miss USA Tara Conner with the statement, made days ago, that he would be "evaluating her behavioral and personal issues and would make an announcement within the week." He forgave her, but Miss Nevada, Katie Rees, did not fare as well when 3-year-old photos surfaced on the Internet. The decision prompted many to ask whether the Miss Universe Organization had double standards in regard to ethics rulings.

Links: Rees, Conner

Those were the top five topical posts in 2006, followed closely by predictions for YouTube, e-mail disasters, Stoern’s publicity stunt, business card techniques, and Sam Sethi’s dismissal from TechCrunch.

Links: YouTube, E-mail, Stoern, Business Cards, Sethi

Let us hope 2007 brings more attention to the best practices as opposed to the biggest mishaps. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, August 16

Gaining From Every Experience


On election night, Congressman Jim Gibbons may have won the Republican primary for governor, but the disproportionate amount of media coverage seemed focused on state Sen. Bob Beers, even as early returns demonstrated the election would not go his way. A few of the people standing in the ''war room,'' a few floors up from the gathering of family, friends, and supporters at Arizona Charlie's in Las Vegas, wondered why.

Perhaps columnist Jon Ralston wrote it best a few days ago. ''No one has ever run an insurgent campaign against a well-financed front-runner better than Bob Beers.''

Bob was the people's candidate and he carried with him the people's message. In the months ahead, many voters, even those who threw their votes toward the frontrunner, will miss the fiery, honest, straight talk from the one candidate who stood unafraid to speak the truth. Enough so, that members of the media, former elected officials, and political consultants speculated, with hopeful tones, that Bob Beers would run again in 2010.

Whether that is something he will seriously consider or not is hardly known at the moment, not even by Bob. It would certainly be good for Nevada, especially as reports surface that our state has the biggest declines in existing home sales in the nation, down 23.5 percent. It's one of several economic indicators that show how our increased cost of living is starting to overshadow the benefits once associated with relocating to our state. Although some may argue otherwise, government spending remains one of the catalysts for a downward trend.

That was also one of the many messages Bob carried with him as he traveled the state.Though it may not be the message some people wanted to hear, they knew in their hearts he was right. Sure, it was not politically expedient, but then again, Bob Beers never wanted to be a career politician. He was more interested in setting forth with the impossible and improbable goal of running a campaign based on the voice of the people of Nevada with his first priority to make government listen. Based on the numbers, he did that. He was down only 4 percent in Clark County, the most populated area in the state.

That decision, to speak for Nevada voters rather than the status quo, made it nearly impossible to raise enough funds from special interests. In the end, his campaign was outspent 4-to-1, but he still managed to carry 30 percent of the vote in a three-way primary. I'm proud of him for that because he made campaigning more about what could be done to make our state a better place with a more promising future.

Voters still have another shot to control state spending in November. Although Bob Beers will not be in the general election, his Tax and Spending Control (TASC) initiative will be. It remains the most important ballot question this year. Beyond TASC, Bob still has four years of service ahead of him as a state senator who has earned the endearment of the Nevada. After that, we can only hope.

Personally, I would do it all over again as there is no doubt we delivered the right message with a clean issue-central theme. Sure, I would have liked to have expanded the platform earlier, but post-show commentary is always easier that actually taking the risks associated with performing the show. In sum, I would be there for any future Bob Beers run and next time I won't hesitate to step into the position of campaign chair. Likewise, if Bob wanted to pursue something in the private sector, I would be there for him too.

As for me, I'm still satisfied with the miracle that took place for us this year. Our daughter is still doing well and we are hopeful to finally welcome her home come September. (Perhaps two miracles in one year was too much to ask for.)

I'm also looking forward to getting back to the business of Copywrite, Ink.'s 15-year anniversary. In addition to helping re-spark some growth in several advertising agencies, I'll be traveling to northern California in the weeks ahead to develop a strategic communication message that works; our success rate with core message development remains 100 percent.

Wednesday, August 9

Marking A Campaign Moment

Anyone who has ever worked on a campaign has at least one experience during the race that they consider the "most memorable moment." No, I'm not talking about election night or debate wins, though I have fond memories of those too. This time, I'm talking about something much more personal.

You'll probably never read about it in any newspaper, but during the 2006 gubernatorial race in Nevada, my most memorable moment will be standing in the hospital where my wife had just given birth to our daughter, three months early. Within an hour after the delivery, I received a call from State Sen. Bob Beers, Republican candidate for governor, after he'd received a head's up from campaign manager Andy Matthews about the unexpected news. I had called Andy a few hours prior to our daughter's birth, before we even knew how the events would unfold, to tell him that I may be out of pocket for an unknown amount of time. He, in turn, touched base with Bob Beers, who was touring rural Nevada.

Bob: Rich Becker? Bob Beers.
Rich: Hi, Bob.
Bob: How's Kim?
Rich: I'm with her now; she's doing fine. She just came in and is recovering from surgery.
Bob: Your son?
Rich: He's good. He knows what is going on … he's at his grandparents right now.
Bob: And the baby?
Rich: A girl. Two pounds. 13 1/2 inches.
Bob: Is she going to be okay?
Rich: She came out crying. That has to be a good sign. She's in the NICU right now. We're confident everything will be okay.
Bob: Good. Good. Andy just called me a few minutes ago. I had to hear for myself. What's her name?
Rich: Well, we considered Bobweena but decided on Jenna Elizabeth instead.
Bob: (laughs) Your daughter will no doubt thank you for that decision. So what happened?

After explaining the circumstances leading up to the early arrival, we chatted briefly about the gravity of the situation. I remember offering up some last minute campaign notes that I hadn't had time to share with Andy, but he said not to think twice about it. There are more important things right now, he said.

Bob: I hope you know you can call anytime if you need anything. Sarah and I will be happy to help.
Rich: I know that, Bob. You always have.
Bob: Is there some way we can help. Is there anything we can do for you?
Rich: Yeah, you can win this thing.
Bob: (laughs) You know I intend to. Give my best to Kim. You take care of her and your baby. We'll be praying for her.
Rich: Thanks, Bob. I'll call you in a couple of days when things settle down.
Bob: Sounds good. Take care, Rich.

As of today, the race remains a dead heat with a mere two points separating Bob and his opponent. It's a huge jump from the polls conducted earlier this year, which originally gave Bob's opponent a 40-point lead. Sure, anything can happen come election night and some people have already said that Bob's win will be a miracle. Yeah, I know something about those. For the last seven weeks, I've seen a miracle in the corner of NICU every day.

Saturday, August 5

Racing With A Baby In NICU

Copywrite, Ink. should be rolling out a new Website, celebrating our 15th anniversary this month. But we're not. We've put our plans for promotion on hold for two very good reasons. Sometimes priorities change and we have time to do it right.

The first is a new addition to my family. Jenna was born three months early in June, weighing a mere two pounds and measuring 13 1/2 inches, which is about the size of a water bottle. She's doing better today, fighting off new challenges like infections and development concerns. It's okay. We have a lot of faith to bring her home, spurred on by the enthusiasm of our son Griffin. My wife and business partner at Copywrite, Ink. has been back in the office, full time, for several weeks. For both of us, work has become a tremendous benefit in between hospital visits.

The second, though overshadowed by the first, is our involvement in our state's race for governor. Since January, we have had the distinct pleasure of working on our fifth campaign with the always compassionate State Sen. Bob Beers. I say compassionate because Bob Beers might be an accountant, but he has proven once again that he puts people first. Almost every conversation begins not with barking campaign orders, but with "how is your daughter today." I neither solicit it nor expect it. And I only share this bit of trivia as an observation of his character.

For anyone tracking the race, Beers has doubled in the polls while his primary opponent has plummeted 20 points despite spending almost $2 million. His opponent's weakness, not surprisingly, is communication. Anyone interested can easily read the numerous news commentaries on why his opponent, once the frontrunner, has lost so much ground. Or, you can visit Bob Beers for Nevada for examples of better strategic communication at work for the Beers campaign.

In the weeks ahead, I'll certainly offer up where Beers' opponent went wrong in the primary, but I'm happy to allow him to make the same mistakes over and over again. Some of them, but not all of them, were cited in an Associated Press column by Kathleen Hennessey.

What I can share now, however, is that I'm a bit disappointed in the opponent's campaign advisor. Unlike the campaign advisor I went head to head with in Beers' successful state senate race (where we were outspent almost 10 to 1 but still won handily), I've always had a certain amount of admiration for the one our Beers team is facing today. It saddens me to see him make such surprising slips and deliver what appears to be extremely poor strategic positioning. Even on the off chance they pull it out in the end, which I've recently had some indications will not happen, this race will certainly be his worst case study.

Giving credit where credit is due: I'm not the only one in a senior advisory position like I was in the state senate race. Advisor Todd Schnick at The Strategum Group and campaign manager Andy Matthews have done an amazing job. I'm happy to be working with them, especially given those occasions when my schedule changes up for hospital visits, which brings me full circle to the point I wanted to make with this post.

Lately, my wife and I have often been asked "How do you do it? How can you have a baby in the hospital, maintain your business, meet non-profit obligations, and work on a campaign?"

I won't lie and say it's easy, because it's not always easy. But what I will say for anyone facing a personal (or even professional crisis), it always pays to count your blessings and not your problems. We have a daughter who has survived some pretty serious stuff and will be home hopefully sooner than later, clients who have faith we will meet deadlines and still produce top quality work, non-profit community and professional colleagues who frequently offer support, and a candidate who is not only compassionate, but also the only candidate who can ensure our children have the same promising future that my wife and I have been afforded here in Nevada.

The way I see it, our son and daughter, especially after everything she has gone through, deserve the best education, better opportunities, and future in our state without the hinderance of big government like the one the primary opponent is promoting. I know Bob Beers can deliver, which is precisely why I elected to forgo self-promotion plans to put a few more hours in on the campaign.

Thursday, July 14

Running For The Right Reasons

Somewhere in between fighting off a summer cold and keeping pace with our company's out-of-market growth, last week I took time out to have breakfast with longtime friend and legislative representative State Senator Bob Beers. I've known Bob for some time. He was the second candidate that now retired campaign guru Benay Stout recruited us to work with in 1998.

Since that first campaign, which resulted in Bob's election to the Nevada Legislature in 1999, I've played varying roles in every Beers race. The most notable, perhaps, was last year's run for the state senate against longtime incumbent Ray Rawson. Often working without a title, we used to joke that most volunteers considered me either the lead strategic director or resident patsy, which would depend largely on the outcome of the race. Beers won with a respectable 8-point margin, 56-44.

What struck me most about the senate race was that Bob Beers never planned to run. On the contrary, he was compelled to. Senate District 6 residents were disenfranchised with their representative after the unnecessary $833 million tax hike in 2003. Bob, who was serving an assemblyman for District 4 at the time, was one of the few legislative representatives willing to put his own political career on the line and be labeled an 'obstructionist' because he was willing to work tirelessly to dispel the popular doomsday message that Nevada was in trouble without the tax increase. Nowadays, most Nevadans know better. They only need to look at the size of the state surplus to summarize that those taxes were not so necessary after all.

Today is no different. Although openly admitting that they made a mistake and have placed too much tax burden on the backs of Nevada families, the popular position among many legislators is to allow government to grow at a rate two and one-half times faster than the state population. Maybe it's because I'm reading David McCullough's bestselling book "1776," but there seems to be a connection to our country's history and state's current events.

In 1776, Americans were considered to have the best quality of life in the world. They had nicer houses, more opportunities, and bigger fruit tree fields. The English parliament, somewhat disgruntled that their constituents might be able to attain a class reserved for noblemen and their associates, thought to levy tax after tax on the colonies to keep them in check. (Case in point: some members of parliament proposed repealing all those colonial fees and taxes because they knew they were unnecessary.) Some would argue that the same state of affairs exists in Nevada. Many people consider Nevadans to have nicer houses, more opportunities, and bigger fruit tree fields than the rest of the country. Thus, as citizens, the popular view among some in Carson City is that we should not complain so much about the ever-increasing taxes imposed on us.

Right. Most people don't mind taxes provided they are collected to improve our overall quality of life. However, there is a line between taxes levied to improve quality of life and taxes levied that impede your pursuit of it. In Nevada, it seems clear that we have crossed that line. The tax dollars that have been collected seem to have added few tangible benefits.

This is also what struck me upon receiving the pre-announcement head's up that Bob Beers would make a run for governor. He never planned to run. On the contrary, he is compelled to. He knows, as most Nevadans know, that the current direction of our state government needs adjustment before the damage of fiscal irresponsibility cannot be reversed. It's also for this reason that I'll play a role in his race.

Of all the candidates that have surfaced so far, Bob Beers is running for the right reasons. He is running because he wants to preserve a state government that is for the people as opposed to one that is for a few politically correct members of what sometimes appears to be a modern parliament.
 

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