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Chelsea Clinton offers a good lesson for conservatives: branding is the name of the game

Chelsea Clinton offers a good lesson for conservatives: branding is the name of the game

Chelsea Clinton has a new job.  (Insert joke here.)

Chelsea Clinton is returning to Washington—this time in a leadership role. The former first daughter has been named the Honorary Chair of the 2013 National Day of Service and will headline a summit on the National Mall on Saturday to launch President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

Note the word Honorary.  Notwithstanding Chelsea’s excellence at turning legitimate political questions into Clintonian putdowns of the questioner, Honorary is a tacit acknowledgement that organizers are renting her name in the same way that charity dinners “honor” someone famous.  Indeed, NBC has been renting Chelsea for over a year.

Nepotism has been with us since long before the 17th century.  But it’s particularly prevalent in Hollywood and politics because name-brand awareness is literally the difference between anonymity and success.

Still, I hadn’t realized how important branding was to almost everything in the media until last spring, when I was promoting my latest book, about a true-crime incident in mid-1950s Los Angeles having to do with the press, the LAPD, and racism.  It uncovered a riveting history of everyone’s favorite noir era and place that no one had ever heard.  So why did major media largely ignore the book?

The question was answered accidentally when a producer told the book’s publicist that the host of a significant show—on PBS!—had nixed my appearance because I didn’t have a Twitter following.  True.  At the time I’d never thought to bother with Twitter.  (Feel free to follow me.)

Television and radio shows used to loan their audiences to a guest.  Now, they insist that guests bring their audience to the shows.

As do major newspapers.  On any given day, what the New York Times considers worthy of coverage depends on what and who are trending, just as who and what are trending depend on what the papers cover.

Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be unbranded.  If you want to see your politics better reflected in the major media, get on Twitter and follow the people you’d like to see more of.  Otherwise, expect more of this:

Historically I deliberately tried to live a private life in the public eye,” [Chelsea Clinton] told Vogue magazine in August. “And now I am trying to lead a purposefully public life.”

Chelsea has 72,000 Twitter followers—about 5,000 more than her mother.


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casualobserver | January 16, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Twitter for me is a colossal waste of time. It reminds me of being at a large party, where you happen upon a nearly endless number of conversations about random topics where opinions and dubious factoids are thrown all over the place. You walk away with little more than entertainment. But at least you had direct social engagement and some tasty morsels and beverages at the party. I’ve lifted my head from hours of following tweets only to think of how I’ll never get that time back in my life.

I wonder how Twitter followers really correlate (if at all) to eyeballs for an interview/article. What if the person is a prolific blogger without any Twitter activity? What if they have been in media as an ‘expert’, but shun Twitter?

    Well, I think the answer given to my book’s publicist pretty much answers the question of whether Twitter followers translates to bookings. It’s irrelevant whether it translates to increased viewership.

    As long as the producers believe it does, perception is what counts in getting like-minded guests on the air.

      I give your publicist credit for being honest with you, but this information sounds like something they should have known all along.

        Yes, that’s true…in a way you can’t imagine. Legacy publicists who do it the old-fashioned way, like this successful woman, were being pushed aside without even noticing they’d been pushed aside. Believe me, this was a wake-up call for her: critical mass had been achieved.

        In the future, every guest will have to have large Twitter followings for at least 15 minutes.

      casualobserver in reply to Joel Engel. | January 16, 2013 at 4:11 pm

      Joel, I don’t think it reflects on you or your agent. I question the value of Twitter ‘popularity’ in the industry. One recent example comes to mind – I don’t know if Alex Jones even tweets, but surely he would be invited back to CNN for another vid clip generating session with any of their ‘straight news’ anchors/gun control advocates. Perhaps Twitter popularity is just a first phase screen. Not necessarily logical.

        Alex Jones is linked to frequently by Drudge…and he has 156,000 Twitter followers. QED, no?

        (Though I think he’s a complete wacko, and the moment I see that the link goes to his site, I click elsewhere.)

I’m an old fart … an old fashioned one. I don’t tweet. I don’t care who is doing what at any point in time, and I don’t want to tell people what I’m doing either.

I’m also not on Facebook. If somebody wants to know my opinion on something or know what I read, just ask me.

Twitter and Facebook are examples of mindless social crap no-doubt being mined into a gub-mint database … and the gub-mint probably knows more about me than I do myself. No need to give the gub-mint more data.

I do enjoy, however, spending time reading on LI … especially articles on Lieawatha. BTW, MA governor Coupe deVal just released a HUGE TAX INCREASE plan today that includes more than doubling the gas tax and a 2.4 cent/mile mileage tax. I tell ya … the citizens of MA are getting HAMMERED by the dems!

    MA Democrats continually have their ear to the ground wrt what they can get away with.

    By electing Warren and reelecting scandal-plagued Rep. John Tierney, the sheep signaled they are ready to be shorn.

    janitor in reply to walls. | January 16, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    I agree with Walls, with the exception that I like reading most of what’s on LI — very informative — and that also holds with most of the comments, too.

    I’m not going to do any social media, period. Not going to pay my bills online. Not going to use a GPS or sign up for a toll-road pass. Take the hole punch to every credit card with an rfid transmitter in it, and carry the other IDs in a metal wallet…

    (I won’t go further and say anything about a few other timely privacy and freedom-related issues given the IP address tracking problem…)

If success means sellinjg your soul to “brand yourself” in the eyes of the media, I prefer to remain unsuccessfully self-unemployed (I.e. retired) at the ripe old age of 46, with 2 pieces of property, of which one is rent generating, all without mortgage or debt. Call me unsuccessful 🙂

    The point isn’t that you yourself have to do anything to brand yourself.

    The point is to get on Twitter and follow people whose political philosophies are more or less congruent with yours, so that producers and newspapers and the like can check the numbers.

    This is about having a louder voice in the mainstream media through people who are willing to get out there and do it. You don’t have to sell yourself.

two.bit.score | January 16, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Joel, your post is very timely and a very interesting observation. There are many readers and others who could not care less about branding themselves. However, if you want to increase your ‘voice’ and influence Twitter is one of the best ways to easily do it currently. I just saw that there will be a full day seminar Monday at UT Austin on using twitter and social media in politics. I believe twitter and Facebook play a larger role in politics every day.

Wait, I thought the National Day of Service was supposed to be on 9/11? Was Obama’s attempt to re-brand 9/11 a failure?

Personally, I think Chelsea Clinton is a dud too. Notwithstanding the “buzz” (& the likely massive amounts of reconstructive surgery), Chelsea has the charisma, charm & looks of her predecessors, Caroline Kennedy & Amy Carter. The left sooooo wants a dynamic dynasty. Can’t wishing just make it so?

“Historically I deliberately tried to live a private life …” —
Historically? That sounds a mite grandiose, particularly if she was indeed trying to be a private person.

I’m changing my name…from now on you should address me as “Mr. Kardashian”….

Correct me if I’m wrong, Professor, but if we brand Chelsea, they’ll lock us up and throw away the key.


Henry Hawkins | January 16, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Personally, I think Chelsea is every bit as beautiful as her lovely mother.

I’ve read Joel’s book and it’s a must-read. Absolutely fascinating.

When I walk the hallways at the HQ of LAPD, where I work, I can’t help but think of Joel’s book when I look at all the wonderful old black and white photos hanging on the walls from cases and events in LAPD’s history.

Get the book and get on twitter.

LukeHandCool (who has a lot more to say but he had a tooth pulled late yesterday and then was up all night with nausea and a pounding headache, probably a reaction to the pain medication. His head is still pounding, he hasn’t eaten all day, and just sitting here typing is agony. He’s going back to bed)

P.S. Their Honorary Chelsea Clinton can’t hold a candle to our Honorary Meghan McCain.

I voted for Hillary in 2008. After seeing what the clintons in a new light since then, now I cannot stand the clintons.

I usually have the view that kids of any politicians, dems or repubs are off limit. However when they are adults and choose to enter the public arena, they are fair game.

Chelsea Clinton seems to be have pretty high opinion of herself, I used to think she was decently humble, but it looks like there is an arrogant side to her that is now emerging whenever she opens her mouth. I’m sick off all the clintons, just please shut the hell up and go away and let some regular people take charge.
So sick and tired of these arrogant useless people.

    Henry Hawkins in reply to alex. | January 16, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    I have a recurring nightmare where a Clinton offspring marries a Bush offspring and is successful in politics, keeping the family names and grandparents in our faces for another generation.

Twitter is an acquired sport as is golf. You have to do it to “get it,” and when you do you will get what other who don’t, don’t.

I let my twitter account languish for well over a year then suddenly I started tweeting. That was over 6000 followers ago and in twitter years, a lifetime of fulfilling writing.

It is a full contact mental sport where all are on an equal footing from rich to poor, well connected to the person next door.

I have twitter fenced with the rich and powerful in debate and they felt the sting of my foil.

And Joel Engel? I just followed you and sent you a tweet; advice meant to trim your jib as you set sail on the twitter ocean. No man is an island on the twitter sea unless they want to be.

Henry Hawkins | January 17, 2013 at 1:31 pm

I had no idea one could get his jib trimmed on Twitter. Time to reopen my account.

Bought, read, and enjoyed your book last year. I got it either because I read about it here or maybe Dennis Miller Show if you did a segment with him.