Booze, Barack Obama and Social Media

Photo-illustration by James Porto (Photo: From left to right: Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP; Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP; Kristoffer Tripplaar/Sipa Press; Lawrence Jackson/Landov; Joshua Roberts/UPI/Landov; Courtesy of the White House; Lauren Victoria Burke/Courtesy of ABC News)

This week, I read two very different, but two very fascinating, articles that have more in common than you would think: engagement.

No, not the type with rings and vows-to-come, but engagement: the relationship between messengers and receivers.

The first article, from the Miami Herald, interviewed local bartenders here in South Florida about people going out during a recession and how to be a good customer.

The second article, by US News and World Report, was about “Brand Obama.” Basically, what did David Plouffe create (even though they didn’t use his name, we all know who the “brand” stemmed from) that made it so successful?

Bartenders are receptive and enjoy polite, repeat customers. Notice how I didn’t mention the highest tippers? This is engagement.

If you can’t afford to tip a lot, tip what you can, but keep coming back. The more they see you, the more they get to know you, the more likely you are to get free drinks, discounts and still only pay what you can afford.

Don’t give a bartender attitude. Be friendly like these guys sitting here. They’re so patient. I should be taking care of them, but instead I’m talking to you! They’re smiling, so they’re getting a little extra in their drinks. Maybe they’re getting a buyback.

“Brand Obama” is “Brand Obama” because of two very important things: communication 2.0 and community involvement. This is engagement.

If you have a question, ask and keep asking. Someone will answer you because they want to answer you.

According to a recent story in New York Magazine, Obama “has hosted 15 town-hall meetings; appeared in more than 800 images on the White House Flickr photo-stream; and held four prime-time press conferences, the same number held by George W. Bush in his entire presidency.”

But why is engagement so important? What is it about this ‘e’ word that makes it so necessary?

It’s the fact that we are human.

Some of us don’t have to be warm and friendly, or the smartest pickle in the jar, even the fastest runner on the field. As humans we want acknowledgement; we want to get our thoughts and ideas out there. We want to learn, even if it’s for our own survival, and we listen because we need to learn.

We like to feel that we exist.

That’s the beauty of social media. It’s communication 2.0 and an engagement merchant. It’s the swapping of information to create new information; new information then used to create more.

Do you see a pattern?

According to Accuracy in Media, Obama is spending $5M a year alone on staff salaries devoted to communications with great emphasis on internet driven communications (Facebook and Twitter), minority-targeted communications, town hall meetings, press conferences and television appearances.

…Obama’s approach won’t be the new norm for communications; it IS the new norm for us all.

Something so new (“Brand Obama”) and something so old (the patron-bartender relationship), who would have ever thought they had something so simple in common?

Whatever the other links are,  they are here to stay, because it’s quite obvious engagement will stand the test of time. But how will it evolve and us with it?

Most of all, what can we, as public relations professionals, learn from these old trends, as well as, the new?

–

Sasha Muradali runs the ‘Little Pink Book’ . She holds a B.S. in Public Relations from the University of Florida (’07) and an M.A. in International Administration from the University of Miami(’08). She loves Twitter and all things social media, so you should find her @SashaHalima.

Copyright © 2009 Sasha H. Muradali. All Rights Reserved

Comments

  1. Interesting post, Sasha.

    Surely engagement is critical in today's Web 2.0 world, and on the surface, it appears that President Obama and Team Obama get this.

    However, in light of the recent rollout of the President's efforts to institute a new National Health Plan make me wonder if Team Obama is truly into two-way engagement with its constituents, which is all Americans, regardless of their political stripes.

    Engagement explicitly demands listening, inclusiveness, and two-way communication, with two-way being the operative phrase. Unfortunately, I don't know that I'm seeing a lot of engaging going on when it comes to Team Obama, especially when dealing with individuals and organizations with opposing views.

    Landslide election victories notwithstanding, we still live in a representative democracy, and in that regard, President Obama is the President of our great country, whether one voted for him or not. Ergo, I will support him in his role as President, even while I may find myself disagreeing with some of the things he is trying to do.

    But engagement by President Obama and the Obama White House? I surely hope so, but for now, I think the jury is still out on this decision.

    Keep up the good work, Sasha.

    Dave Politis

    c/o Politis Communications
    “Maximizing corporate value
    thru strategic communications”
    801-523-3730: Work
    dpolitis@politis.com: Email
    http://www.politis.com: Website
    http://www.TheBettyFactor.com: Blog
    @dpolitis: Twitter Account

  2. @mikeschaffer says:

    It's funny to think that the same principles that apply to a bartender and their customers also apply to the president and the nation.

    Yes, engagement is about making everyone feel that they are a part of the process and can help determine the outcome.

    Some Presidents left engagement on Election Day. It is the struggle all elected officials face: Do I use my best judgment, as I was elected to do, or should I keep asking my constituents what they want?

    While it takes more time and energy, I think more is gained from involving people on a regular basis, even if it interrupts prime-time programming!

    Just last night, I went to one of my favorite restaurants. It was 8 times more crowded than I have ever seen it…to the point where they couldn't seat my party of six. I made a point to commend the new management on turning the restaurant around and that in my year of going there twice a month, I'd never seen it so full. The owner introduced himself to our party, deeply apologized and offered to buy us a round on our next visit. Turns out it was his father's birthday and their friends and family took over the place.

    We didn't eat there that night, but it will always be a go-to on a regular basis…the owner engaged my party, even when he couldn't accommodate us.

  3. Interesting post, Sasha.

    Surely engagement is critical in today's Web 2.0 world, and on the surface, it appears that President Obama and Team Obama get this.

    However, in light of the recent rollout of the President's efforts to institute a new National Health Plan make me wonder if Team Obama is truly into two-way engagement with its constituents, which is all Americans, regardless of their political stripes.

    Engagement explicitly demands listening, inclusiveness, and two-way communication, with two-way being the operative phrase. Unfortunately, I don't know that I'm seeing a lot of engaging going on when it comes to Team Obama, especially when dealing with individuals and organizations with opposing views.

    Landslide election victories notwithstanding, we still live in a representative democracy, and in that regard, President Obama is the President of our great country, whether one voted for him or not. Ergo, I will support him in his role as President, even while I may find myself disagreeing with some of the things he is trying to do.

    But engagement by President Obama and the Obama White House? I surely hope so, but for now, I think the jury is still out on this decision.

    Keep up the good work, Sasha.

    Dave Politis

    c/o Politis Communications
    “Maximizing corporate value
    thru strategic communications”
    801-523-3730: Work
    dpolitis@politis.com: Email
    http://www.politis.com: Website
    http://www.TheBettyFactor.com: Blog
    @dpolitis: Twitter Account

  4. @mikeschaffer says:

    It's funny to think that the same principles that apply to a bartender and their customers also apply to the president and the nation.

    Yes, engagement is about making everyone feel that they are a part of the process and can help determine the outcome.

    Some Presidents left engagement on Election Day. It is the struggle all elected officials face: Do I use my best judgment, as I was elected to do, or should I keep asking my constituents what they want?

    While it takes more time and energy, I think more is gained from involving people on a regular basis, even if it interrupts prime-time programming!

    Just last night, I went to one of my favorite restaurants. It was 8 times more crowded than I have ever seen it…to the point where they couldn't seat my party of six. I made a point to commend the new management on turning the restaurant around and that in my year of going there twice a month, I'd never seen it so full. The owner introduced himself to our party, deeply apologized and offered to buy us a round on our next visit. Turns out it was his father's birthday and their friends and family took over the place.

    We didn't eat there that night, but it will always be a go-to on a regular basis…the owner engaged my party, even when he couldn't accommodate us.

  5. Interesting post, Sasha.

    Surely engagement is critical in today's Web 2.0 world, and on the surface, it appears that President Obama and Team Obama get this.

    However, in light of the recent rollout of the President's efforts to institute a new National Health Plan make me wonder if Team Obama is truly into two-way engagement with its constituents, which is all Americans, regardless of their political stripes.

    Engagement explicitly demands listening, inclusiveness, and two-way communication, with two-way being the operative phrase. Unfortunately, I don't know that I'm seeing a lot of engaging going on when it comes to Team Obama, especially when dealing with individuals and organizations with opposing views.

    Landslide election victories notwithstanding, we still live in a representative democracy, and in that regard, President Obama is the President of our great country, whether one voted for him or not. Ergo, I will support him in his role as President, even while I may find myself disagreeing with some of the things he is trying to do.

    But engagement by President Obama and the Obama White House? I surely hope so, but for now, I think the jury is still out on this decision.

    Keep up the good work, Sasha.

    Dave Politis

    c/o Politis Communications

    “Maximizing corporate value

    thru strategic communications”

    801-523-3730: Work

    dpolitis@politis.com: Email

    http://www.politis.com: Website

    http://www.TheBettyFactor.com: Blog

    @dpolitis: Twitter Account

  6. @mikeschaffer says:

    It's funny to think that the same principles that apply to a bartender and their customers also apply to the president and the nation.

    Yes, engagement is about making everyone feel that they are a part of the process and can help determine the outcome.

    Some Presidents left engagement on Election Day. It is the struggle all elected officials face: Do I use my best judgment, as I was elected to do, or should I keep asking my constituents what they want?

    While it takes more time and energy, I think more is gained from involving people on a regular basis, even if it interrupts prime-time programming!

    Just last night, I went to one of my favorite restaurants. It was 8 times more crowded than I have ever seen it…to the point where they couldn't seat my party of six. I made a point to commend the new management on turning the restaurant around and that in my year of going there twice a month, I'd never seen it so full. The owner introduced himself to our party, deeply apologized and offered to buy us a round on our next visit. Turns out it was his father's birthday and their friends and family took over the place.

    We didn't eat there that night, but it will always be a go-to on a regular basis…the owner engaged my party, even when he couldn't accommodate us.