Pelosi Makes Old News, New News

Screen Shot 2013 05 20 at 7.14.18 AM 139x150 Pelosi Makes Old News, New NewsNot everyone likes Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives. That much is clear. She is described by the Financial Times as “a kind of liberal piñata for Republicans,” and “a ready-made hate-figure for conservatives.” She recently gave an interview to the paper in its informal weekend format, Lunch with the FT.  Was this interview an attempt to set the record straight? An informal make over?

There are many reasons to give interviews to the media. Sometimes it’s to make an announcement, to launch and idea, or to set the record straight. Sometimes it is to simply make your case again. Nancy Pelosi, at the age of 73, gave her lunch interview to the Financial Times with one key message: business as usual.

What’s noteworthy about the interview is that there is no new PR messaging and no real news. Given her age and her congressional seniority the key takeaways were that she remains a defiant and unapologetic liberal (“proudly so”) and that she continues in her role as the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, a task of endless complication. Described as “brutally effective” in her role, the FT claims Obama’s “signature legislative achievements such as healthcare reform would have never become law” without her. At this point in her tenure, the need to establish a base and to outreach with new messaging now seems to be behind her.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Nancy Pelosi and an interview that was more of the same.

The PR Takeaway: Simply staying on track can be the message. What’s noteworthy about this article is how little new ground it breaks. Pelosi’s messaging is exactly as one might have expected but packaged in an interview format that revolves around an informal lunch, makes the messaging sounds less political and self promotional. In PR, if you want to make your point but don’t have anything new to say, change the venue and the format and keep the messaging on track. What is old news can pass as new news.

Mr Cruz Goes to Washington

 Mr Cruz Goes to Washington

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Sen. Mark Cruz.

The latest storm to descend on the U.S. capitol is Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who blew into town two months ago and has stayed on the front pages ever since. A freshman to the Senate, Cruz’s brash behavior has rankled colleagues on both sides of the political aisle and caught the attention of the press. The New York Times called him “an ornery, swaggering piece of work” , while the New Yorker is asking “Is Sen. Ted Cruz Our New McCarthy?” More Republican-friendly venues, such as the Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard, have lauded the 42-year-old’s unconventional starting term.

Freshmen senators traditionally begin their terms quietly, sitting practically unnoticed on committees and casting votes, lemming-like, along party lines. Not so Mr. Cruz. In the news most recently for spitting fire over former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination as Defense Secretary, he successfully stalled Hagel’s nomination for several weeks. The Texas upstart is creating waves.

Media outlets are divided on their opinions of Sen. Cruz, but they’re all talking about him. During his campaign, the Texas Republican told constituents he was going to shake things up in Washington. So far, that’s one campaign promise he’s kept.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Sen. Ted Cruz. At the beginning of the year, almost no one outside Texas (and even many in the Lone Star State) knew who he was, and now everyone has something to say about him.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Make a splash at the outset. Congress is a big, noisy place and it can be hard to distinguish oneself amidst 535 people intent on doing the same. Unlike the more raucous House of Representatives, the Senate is considered a thoughtful and well-mannered chamber, and it’s too early to tell whether Mr. Cruz’s strategy will serve him well. Ultimately, the junior senator from Texas will need to form alliances to get votes to go his way, but so far his PR impact has been substantial enough to make his colleagues realize one thing: ultimately, they will need to court him as much as he needs to court them.