Archive for January, 2012

Gingrich Taps Emotions, Reason Says Romney

Here’s a column I wrote for today’s, a web site that focuses on political commentary

When the subject is Newt Gingrich, the news media just don’t get it.

They keep pointing out his character flaws, his hypocrisy, his deal-making, his ego — outlandish even by Washington standards.

The Republican base doesn’t care. They’re hotter than Satan’s teapot and they see that his enemies are their enemies – the news media and all the establishment Republicans who didn’t deliver on all those Republican promises when George W. Bush was president.

So they snort when establishment Republican pundits like George Will and other pooh-bahs tut-tut about Gingrich’s long, well-documented history of bad behavior and bad ideas.

The Republican base — ultraconservatives all — positively love it when Gingrich smacks down TV guys like CNN’s ruggedly handsome John King, who had the temerity to start a recent Republican debate with a question about a report that Gingrich’s second wife said that not-so-cute Newt asked her for an open marriage.

It was dumb of King to start the debate with such a question, but it shows just how much the media are slavering for a shot to take down Gingrich.

King overreached and Gingrich sent him backward with a blast of the bombast that has been burning bridges all around Gingrich for years.

That was a morale-booster for the base because they finally have a Republican who stands tall, unlike meek Mitt Romney, the epitome of establishment Republicans.

Many voters are mad, mad, mad, and they don’t want to be diverted by facts that would make them dread the prospect of a country led by Gingrich, a career politician with a positively messy personal life and a history full of lucrative insider deals even as he professes to be an outsider battling the Beltway.

Eventually, however, voters will wise up and put Gingrich in his place as a loser. It may happen as soon as today, when Floridians pick their choice for a candidate to challenge Barack Obama for the White House.

Hardcore political types often need a few days for their tempers to settle and rationality to return after an incident like the King-Gingrich slap-down.

Then they will see that Gingrich is larger-than-life but unfit for leadership, and Ron Paul and Rick Santorum are wasted votes for two men in the political twilight zone.

A rational Republican has no choice but to hold his nose and vote for Romney, but even that is frustrating.

Romney leaves people cold with his soulless nature and his own record of flip-flopping and inconstancy.

No wonder so many Republicans are angry. Here they have a political party with a long, rich heritage, yet the candidates are uninspiring and unnerving.

Too bad, because the Republican “bench” looks strong, with up-and-comers like Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey showing lots of potential for the 2016 elections.

Let’s hope they avoid Gingrich’s lapses, keep their integrity and stay true to their roots.

Otherwise, the news media will uncover their flaws and show them for all to see. Voters might hate the revelations, but they need to know what their leaders have been doing.

Mark O’Brien, a longtime newspaper columnist, is the author of two books, “Pensacola on My Mind” and “Sand in My Shoes.”

© Florida Voices

P.R. must be part of management team

Unless you sit at the grownups’ table, you can’t do the best p.r. for a client or tell someone’s story well.

Here are some tips from p.r. pro Gordon Andrew that show how you can do your job better for your client by being part of the top management team:

Romney should revel in his riches

Romney Should Revel In His Riches
Tuesday, January 24, 2012 — Mark O’Brien

Pity Mitty.

Here’s Mitt Romney, a really rich guy and he can’t enjoy his money.

Politics and conventional public relations require Romney, a Republican no less, to downplay his wealth and try to pass himself off as one of us working folks. He talks about worrying that he, the son of a governor and the possessor of Harvard degrees, might get “a pink slip” and he calls himself unemployed.

Then he exposes his charade by saying he made a mere $364,000 in speaking fees last year and paid about 15 percent of his total income for taxes, largely because he gets so much of his money from investments. And then he whines about “class warfare” and all the mean things some people say about the rich.

Man up, Mitt.

Get real and flaunt those millions, the three houses and all the other goodies you’ve got.

We’re Americans; most of us don’t begrudge a man his wealth. We realize that life is shaped by our number in the birth lottery, when our parents’ wealth, education and status decide our starting point.

But we can smell phony baloney a mile away, one more reason Romney may get little love in Florida’s presidential primary election Jan. 31.

Romney should take a lesson from another rich businessman with weird hair — Donald Trump. Both inherited big sums from their fathers and made much bigger sums on their own, showing they’re not just idle rich boys.

Fortunately, we won’t have to worry about Romney being as narcissistic and phony as Trump.

Romney has that WASPy, Harvard air about him, as though wealth has conferred a painful burden on him. Maybe he was in Massachusetts so long that he was stricken with a streak of Puritanism.

He sure got a lot of other streaks during his years in Massachusetts, when he ran against Ted Kennedy for the U.S. Senate and claimed that he was a pro-choice, pro-gay rights kind of guy. He lost that race, but then he was elected governor and promptly enacted Romneycare, a government health care plan which is Obamacare with a Boston accent.
Now, however, he’s Mr. Conservative, against all that government liberalism and trying to portray himself as one of us.

Puh-leeze, we don’t want Romney to feel our pain. We want him to fix our pain.

So Romney should ditch the jeans and the down-home look. Better to put on his Ivy League necktie and his Brooks Brother blue blazer and focus on fixing the problems.

Besides, if he learned one thing from running against Ted Kennedy, it should have been this: Most of us don’t hold a man’s good luck against him. It’s what he does with good luck that counts.

Flash back to the early 1960s, when Ted Kennedy was running for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by his big brother Jack, who’d just been elected president of the United States.

At the first debate, Kennedy’s opponent, Edward Moore, got Teddy to admit that he had never held a job in his life.

Teddy looked a bit ashamed; after all, he was 30 years old.

But the next day, so the story goes, a burly longshoreman walked up to Kennedy and asked him if it was true.

Teddy acknowledged that he had never had a job.

The longshoreman just shrugged. “You haven’t missed anything.”

Mark O’Brien, a longtime newspaper columnist, is the author of two books, “Pensacola on My Mind” and “Sand in My Shoes.”

© Florida Voices

Weekends work better for impact


If you’re posting on social media sites, a little work time on Saturday or Sunday may be more productive than weekdays.

That’s because on weekends, especially Saturday, your posts will stand out more and face less competition, a new study shows. And they will make more impact, too.

It makes sense; most of us are working or on-line at least part of every weekend, and this infographic shows the audience then is worth pursuing:

Infographic: The (new) best time to post to social media

Skip the facts, we want to be cranky

We just finished the Christmas season and soon enough we will enter Valentine’s Day season, when love, romance and overpriced chocolates will be in the air.

But first we must get through the mean season, the ugly, nasty slog from now until Jan. 31, when Florida voters will pick through the remnants of the Republican presidential contenders and name their choices to run against Barack Obama.

The ugliness will come from the candidates and their advertising machines — and it will complicated by the reluctance of voters to accept facts, whether we’re discussing Obama’s birthplace or the details behind Mitt Romney putting the family dog in a cage atop his station wagon on a vacation long ago.
Scarier yet: The more committed a voter is to a position, the less likely he is to accept facts that contradict his position.
Maybe you’ve had this experience. Someone sends you an e-mail alleging this or that political “fact.” You reply with a link from or noting how the person’s information is inaccurate, outdated or just plain wrong, wrong, wrong.
“I don’t care,” comes the response. “I’ll believe what I want to believe.”
Here’s an ugly fact.
“Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds,” Joe Keohane wrote in a 2010 Boston Globe article on ideas and people’s trouble grasping facts.
As veteran politicians like to say, “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”
Fact-free zones
I don’t want to go all Dr. Phil on you, but much of the problem involves people who have lousy self-esteem. They’re so angry and rattled that they reject accuracy and embrace misinformation because it justifies their cause.
Gosh, do any Tea Party or Occupy people fit this description?
Never have so many known so little, yet made so much noise.
So it goes when we discuss politics or hot-button issues like abortion, immigration and gun control.
People who are comfortable with themselves will be open to new information, pro or con; others will shut down their brains and raise their defenses.
The partisans will rage more and more as election day draws closer, but let’s remember the findings of a University of Illinois study which Keohane cites.
Researchers asked 1,000 Illinois residents questions about the welfare system. Half figured they were correct, but actually only 3 percent gave correct answers.
Worse yet, the ones with the most incorrect information were the ones who were most sure they were correct.
Hey, we’ve got opinions. Give us passion. We don’t need no stinkin’ facts!
Media to blame
Part of the problem, I think, is the way so many people obsessively follow the media and every twist and turn of the daily news cycle. Both sides have their shout fests — Fox News and MSNBC, to name just two.
Most cable news shows are like doughnuts — tasty but empty calories.
The next day, your brain is empty again and you must feed it more piffle from the talking heads, whose ratings and salaries are based on how many outrageous statements they can make.
This might be good theater except the hysterics and the noise make people more agitated and more likely to be fearful, hardly the right climate for making smart decisions.
There’s another factor; people won’t admit they’re wrong.
Researcher Brendan Nyhan, who has done numerous studies on the topic, calls it “backfire.”
“The general idea,” he told Keohane, “is that it’s absolutely threatening to admit  you’re wrong.”
They’re unwilling to admit they’re wrong?
Haven’t any of these people ever been married?
I wrote this column last week for, a new site that provides opinion and commentary on numerous topics. 

How to write tight


Too many people write as if they’re still in college, where they think that piling up a big word count will satisfy the professor.

That doesn’t work in real life, folks, because no one except professors are paid to read your writing.

You have to make them want to read your writing; readers have too many other temptations.

So keep it as short as possible, whittling away words, phrases and entire paragraphs that get in the way of your message.

Two suggestions:

1) First, write an outline so you know where you will start and where you hope to finish.

2) Get the words down and then go back and cut, reshape and mold the copy to make it more readable.

Longtime professional writer Dennis Lowery has a good explanation of Step 2. Be sure to check his website for more insights into quality writing:

“Writing is a process. You have to get the words down… all of them… before you should begin editing.

“This is especially important for larger writing projects like an essay or book. If you get in the habit of editing “as you go,”  you’ll find it very hard to make any progress towards finishing. Then you fall into the category of “trying to write” instead of really writing.

“Editing as you go is wasted effort because you cannot know the correct way to edit and adjust your work until you have the piece completed. That does not mean the piece is done. Completed means all the words down. Done is when you’re finished with editing and polishing the work into its final shape.

“I’ve often seen writing compared to building. And it is, in the sense that you are taking small components (words) to create more complex components (sentences) to create larger components (paragraphs) to create larger components (chapters) to create the final assembled product (the book or essay).

“But in the world of professional writers, it’s more like being a sculptor who carves away at a block of stone to reveal what’s inside. To stick with the construction comparison, you build a large structure made up of all those components I mentioned above–and then to make it as best as it can possibly be–you have to strip it down to the essentials, adding only sparingly. Take away from here add a little there. 

“To see some suggested edits for one of my client’s articles go to this post on my blog”



Six tips for a quality blog


Looking to build up your blog for business or personal reasons?

Jeff Logden has six suggestions, including:

Be timely

Be relevant

Skip the hokey slide shows and misleading headlines that briefly boost traffic but don’t build consistent readership.

Facts and folks who ignore them


Here’s a column I wrote for on how people ignore facts when they form opinions.

One study shows people with poor self-esteem are the most likely to cling to erroneous information — an interesting challenge for anyone trying to communicate with voters,  businesses, customers or anyone else.

Pensacola cause is good, ads are bad

Along with helping to choose a Republican nominee for president, Escambia County voters this month will decide whether to allow more tax breaks to businesses that bring jobs to Pensacola.

The goal is fine; governments are forced to compete more and more for jobs for their citizens.

But the campaign looks Mickey Mouse, judging by the signs popping up in front of homes and businesses in Pensacola.

They’re very red — a color that says “Stop, red ink, danger!” to the casual passerby.

Yet the signs urge people to vote, to go for it. How about green or blue?

And the cluttered message tells us little except that a committee must have designed it.

The bigger signs are mounted on spindly pieces of wood, as if they’re done by amateurs touting a yard sale, not business leaders promoting smart strategy in hard times.

C’mon Pensacola, it’s a good cause, so spend a few bucks and make the effort look as good as the goal.


How to get a reporter’s positive attention


If you want media attention, talk about what you know and what you learned, not about yourself. It’s about the reader, stupid.

The stories that attract the most readers — and the most reporters — are the ones with the widest appeal, as columnist Jeff Haden tells people pitching him to do stories about them:

“The best articles let others learn from your experience, your mistakes, and your knowledge. Always focus on benefitting readers—when you do, your company will get to bask in the reflected PR glow.”