An American in Paris - talking about America

No, this isn’t the title of a French horror movie – or even a francophilic indie film poking fun at its less gentrified countrymen. Last week in Paris, Fleishman-Hillard CEO Dave Senay (who is American by my own professional estimation) gave a presentation on the digital media employed by the Obama campaign in the US to an absolutely packed auditorium at Science Po. It’s no secret that the Obama campaign has generated a massive amount of interest in Europe (and indeed the rest of the world), but it takes a room full of 500 French students hanging on every simultaneously interpreted word of an American CEO talking digital communications strategy to hammer the point home.

As an American who has, at times, found himself in Paris, the last thing I would have deemed wise would be to give a ‘lecture’ (even within the hallowed halls of Sciences Po) on something as quintessentially American as a half-Kansan, half-Kenyan Senator from the great state of Illinois. But there was Dave, speaking in English to a crowd of French students, journalists and whoever else could fit in the auditorium – and they couldn’t get enough.

No disrespect to Dave, who is a fantastic and encaptivating speaker and presented wonderful material, but the crowd was there because Barack Obama transcends America – he speaks to the rest of the world as much (if not more) than he does to his own countrymen. Is it his message or his method?

As Dave’s presentation (materials to come soon) shows – the methods that Obama is using to communicate his message are as revolutionary as an old populist named Andrew Jackson used in 1828. While Jackson’s novel use of a new creation – the postal service – probably weren’t noticed on this side of the Atlantic, Obama’s use of digital communications platforms like youtube and facebook certainly are.

With America’s recent past of ignoring everything beyond its own borders, it feels good to be connected again. But why does Europe feel such a strong connection to Barack? Without detracting from both his message and the man himself, the simple answer is, because they are connected to him – 24 hours a day at 256k bps.

Coverage of Dave’s speech appears in this article on the online edition of the French daily Le Monde

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Public Affairs 2.0 - one year on « Public Affairs 2.0
July 31, 2008 | 7:39 PM

[...] personal note (copied to no-one) from our CEO in St. Louis to one of our number thanking him for an interesting blog post. Now that’s good internal [...]

July 10, 2008 | 8:14 PM

While we await due process on materials from the event, try this post from a member of our DC team. In Paris, Dave talked about the risks as well as benefits of using social media networks in his presentation. This post by our DC guru Jeff Weintraub talks it through nicely and proves consultants can get it right.

July 10, 2008 | 4:03 PM

I, too, am eager to see Dave's presentation - thank you for your post. So many recent articles are discussing how Barack is running his campaign like a brand. Although this point is arguable, it does seem like he has created a self-image that 'transcends America,' and I agree that his presence online has a lot to do with that.

Pierre-Antoine Rousseau
July 10, 2008 | 11:25 AM

James, I am eagerly looking forward to see Dave's PPT on your blog. Thanks for the article.