Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
July 27, 2009

The Obama Campaign Public Relations Experience: The Mike Smith Citizen Journalist Story

Working press and advance for the Obama for President campaign was the highlight of over a quarter century of my experience in public relations and public affairs. Starting with a “messaging boot camp” in NYC two summers ago, the Obama campaign honed my national media connections, hanging with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper and John King. I learned valuable lessons about leveraging social media and proving how scale works and can win with Web-based fund raising and today’s media relations.

I was involved on the Obama Tech, Media and Telecom media relations team and the Obama Small Business committee. These relationships have lead to my helping PRSA reach Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to bestow PR Professional of the Year at the White House. Shortly after, I landed a regular column on Huffington Post and had. Shortly after, I landed a regular column on Huffington Post, here is what I said about my experience working on Press and Advance in “What I Saw at the Revolution — Obama Campaign.” David Plouffe’s outlook said that the improbable primary victories kept the team going; they “just wanted to make a good showing”!

Here is what folks will learn if they come to my case study cool talk at this year’s PRSA International Conference in San Diego:

  • Learning Saul Alinsky-style grassroots organizing techniques.
  • Energizing and engaging your base (stakeholders).
  • Creating a dialogue in social networks and leveraging for positive outcomes.

At the 2008 Democratic National Convention

Of course, Michael Smith Business Development (MSBD) was at the Democratic National Convention (DNC). I had press credentials and worked for both “inside the tent” and for the Huffington Post’s “off the bus” features. As a citizen blogger, I built relationships for MSBD with politicians, including New Jersey and Virginia Governors Corzine and Warner and House Democratic Majority Leader Senators Hoyer and Rockefeller. I even made connections with CNN’s jounalists  John King, Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer and some Hollywood stars  like Matthew Modine, Richard Schiff, Anne Hathaway, Susan Sarandon and Dana Delaney.

I had the time of my life filing five “Inside the Tent” video blogs on  with then Virginia Senate candidate Mark Warner, “The West Wing” actor Richard Schiff, political consultant and pollster Frank Luntz and PUMA’s Nancy Kivlen. No, I didn’t stop there, the interviews continued with three more text blogs on Huff-Post. This experience helped hone my new media skills, expand media connections for my public relations work and connect with Washington insiders. My written stuff included three posts :

  1. “Camelot Revisited” comment on Michelle Obama’s Speech. 
  2. “Al Franken: Is he good enough, smart enough?” 
  3. Mark Warner Takes the National Stage” (both written and video blog connected).

Statey pretty busy covering all the events and positions. . . I even wrote a story about my own citizen journalist experiences for PR News!  

Mike Smith is a Washington insider and beltway native who has deep political connections. He has national campaign and convention experience working for a key Iowa (caucus) newspaper. He also worked for a Gannett newspaper in upstate New York. Smith has a master’s degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. At the Denver convention, he covered tech policy platform issues along with his friend Craig Newmark of Craigslist. Smith also worked as a volunteer on national traveling press and advance for the Obama for President campaign in Iowa, Texas and Virginia.

Join Mike for his case study presentation, “Barack Obama: A Case Study in Public Relations and the Citizen’s Campaign,” at the PRSA 2009 International Conference: Delivering Value, November 7 – 10, in San Diego, CA!

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