Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Social Power

The Wonk's Target: Auntie Em
Media Matters, the latte-swilling, sushi-eating, leftward-leaning media watchdog, is training liberal wonks in the art of winning hearts and minds in America's heartland -- or at least not getting vaporized on Fox News.

The Washington Post ran a story on it this morning, which I read with my morning coffee--which was not a latte, for the record, but a simple cup of joe (milk, no sugar). Although in the interest of full disclosure I should report that it was made by my British roommate in a french press manufactured by a Swiss-based company because my kitchen may as well be the United Nations, evidently.**

The story grabbed my attention not because of my well documented fondness for lattes and sushi, but because of its focus on using soft power and social power to promote policy objectives. No surprise, as one of the course leaders is Matthew Kohut, former speechwriter for the illustrious Joe Nye.

Granted, this story's focus is a little more domestic than items in this blog tend to be, but I think the message behind it has larger implications. From the article: "The class leaders...projected an image of a middle-aged woman--one of the instructor's aunts, grinning in a kitchen--and then explained that the entire point of the course was to win over swing-voting aunts nationwide. The key, they explained, was to ooze likability and reasonableness, and make their opponents seem otherwise. A talk-show host acts as a proxy for the viewer, they counseled, so it was critical to maintain a good rapport" (emphases mine, of course). A solid message, delivered credibly, makes Auntie Em happy.

It's good advice, regardless of political affiliation. And it's good advice for PD as well, although swing-voting aunts aren't the main target abroad. But while the target and message may change, the keys to success are the same: Do everything within your power to appear more likable and more reasonable than your opponents, and maintain good rapport with gatekeepers and decision-makers.

** The British roommate has asked me to point out that the coffee is Cuban.

1 comment:

  1. Love the new blog design, and the kitchen as United Nations reference of course ;)