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Lessons Biden From Week 1 Of Biden’s Communications Team

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Deborah WeinsteinA few weeks ago we caught up with  Cher Lee, Vice President at Citizen Relations [TCO] and Carol Levine, Co-Founder & CEO at energi PR [TCO] as part of our How Kamala Harris Is Changing The Landscape For Women, Today and Tomorrow industry opinion series.  We had also discussed the newly appointed Communications Director,  Jen Psaki, as a follow up we talked with Deborah Weinstein Partner and Co-Founder at Strategic Objectives [TCO] to discuss her thoughts on Jen Psaki’s first week heading up the Biden administration’s communications team:

What did you think of the Inauguration? What can marketers take away?

The two-part Inauguration — the afternoon ceremony at the Capital, and the evening celebration at the Lincoln Memorial — was brilliantly planned and produced to deliver the perfect blend of excitement, emotion, and engagement needed to welcome in a new era of hope for the country and the world.
Beautifully presented, compelling, and entertaining it was an event and a day that will forever be remembered. The virtual presentation proved you can rally a nation, and the world remotely, with panache.

What were your thoughts on the 1st Biden communications team’s news briefing held by Jen Psaki?
During one of her briefings, Jen said “Truth and transparency back to the briefing room” What do you feel she meant?

Jen PsakiI was impressed and gratified by Jen Psaki’s first White House briefing. Natural, smart and classy, she is a breath of fresh air when it comes to honesty and transparency in her job as spokesperson for Joe Biden, now the most powerful man on earth.
Only 42, and the mother of two kids under five, she clearly demonstrates her more than 16 years’ earned experience — including Deputy Press Secretary, and Director of Communications for Obama, and as Press Secretary for the Secretary of State — in everything she does. Prepared, erudite, competent, and down to earth, she delivers coherent answers to tough questions; promises to loop back with answers if she doesn’t have them — and does; and plays no favourites in accepting questions, even when they come from Breitbart, Fox News, and The Washington Times — all obvious critics of the new administration.
No pushover, she is the master of calm and respectful pushback; and her commitment to truthful daily press briefings is welcome after her predecessor Kayleigh McEneny’s obviously broken promise, “I would never lie to you. You have my word on that.”

Why is this important between communications and media?

Abraham Lincoln, a great Republican of yore, once said, “You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Donald Trump and his trumpeters frequently stated and positioned the media as the “enemy of the people.” But freedom of the press is a basic tenet of democracy that keeps politicians honest, and the public informed. In fact, IMHO, freedom of the press is far more important than the right to bear arms, although both are protected under the constitution. Calling the media enemies of the people is a hallmark of dictators and totalitarian regimes.

The previous president famously told CBS’ Lesley Stahl in 2017 that he attacks the press “to discredit you all and demean you all … so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.” – What does a statement like this mean to you? Are there any ramifications to this type of thinking?

It is the CEO’s job to step up and speak for her/his company when the time is right, and to use their delegate as spokesperson, as appropriate. As usual, it depends on the situation at hand and who is best qualified and has the time to respond.

Is it important for the head of a company to take questions directly or is it ok to only have the press secretary deal with media?

Open, honest communications will go a long way to heal a divided nation. Dispelling the brutal “us VS them” mentality that characterized the Trump presidency, often based on lies and misinformation, will be key to restoring peace and harmony, such as it ever was.

The election results clearly show the US become extremely divided. How can communications help to unit a country (user base)?

Ultimately, defeating the pandemic will open peoples’ minds and hearts once again, and restore optimism, positivity and a feeling of hope for the future. Joe Biden’s upcoming Stimulus Relief cheques will also help.

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