Obama web gurus in UK

The UK drinks industry is using Barack Obama's web strategists it mounts a rearguard PR campaign against aggressive taxation of alcohol.

Obama aide: GMMB's Margolis
Obama aide: GMMB's Margolis

Blue State Digital is working on the Wine and Spirit Trade Association’s ongoing campaign against alcohol tax rises, which is being run by Portland PR. The firm behind Obama’s online operations is also believed to be assisting the British Beer and Pub Association and Apex Communications with a new campaign set to launch next week.

Insiders said the developments demonstrated the growing influence of the web to PR campaigns. ‘Both these groups see the blogosphere as a place to influence and are putting resources into it,’ said one senior PR source.

Apex director Ed Owen, a former aide to Jack Straw, could not be reached for comment. The British Beer and Pub Association also failed to return calls, but sources told PRWeek the forthcoming campaign would make use of ‘blog-based lobbying’.

Portland PR is already running what it describes as a ‘organic, democratic and people-led’ campaign for client the Wine and Spirit Trade Association.

Tim Allan’s agency has called in Blue State Digital to provide the digital tools needed to implement the strategy.

Blue State Digital is helping with the online signup of supporters, sending out regular emails to inform supporters of the campaign’s progress and mobilising supporters to lobby decision-makers directly.

James Frayne, head of Portland’s campaign unit, said: ‘The centres of power in the media and politics have completely diffused. This means mobilising public opinion is far more important. Firms which understand how to communicate directly with the public through the internet and other means are going to be in a much stronger position.’

Blue State Digital is due to open a new London office this month, as it attempts to capitalise on its Obama links on this side of the Atlantic.

Meanwhile, one of Obama’s top media advisers has told PRWeek how he was a ‘remarkable’ candidate.

Jim Margolis, senior partner at US-based consultancy GMMB was a senior advisor on the Obama campaign. He said of Obama: ‘He really has this incredible mix of intellect, people skills and the forward looking vision that you don’t see too often.

‘On top of that there is a steadiness to him which really is important.

There are campaigns where the candidate has these real highs and lows and that filters through the whole operation.

‘He is someone who doesn’t get too high when things are going really well, and doesn’t get too low when you hit those rough spots. And that has a tremendous impact on the organisation if people aren’t pointing fingers ateach other when something goes wrong.’

GMMB is owned by Fleishman-Hillard and recently established a London presence in the agency’s UK HQ. Margolis said he was confident the Washington DC-based agency could have an impact in the UK.

‘A lot of the techniques that we originally used on the political side translate to broader communications strategies,’ he said.

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