Coffee Break with Bully Pulpit Interactive’s Robert Gibbs

Former Obama press secretary and head of comms at McDonald's Robert Gibbs is back in the consulting world at Bully Pulpit Interactive, using his political wherewithal to advocate for brands, causes and candidates.

On the last day of the 2020 Republican National Convention, Robert Gibbs spoke to Coffee Break about the extraordinarily volatile week the US was having — murder, protests and COVID all tearing the country apart.

“It feels like a country that was used to being a collective has devolved into a series of individuals,” said Gibbs. “My hope is that after the political season we’ll have the opportunity to stitch things back together.”

In the sports world, which was already disrupted by the pandemic, many high-profile players took a stand last week against the recent high-profile shootings and killings of Black people, refusing to play scheduled games and setting off a furor of commentary across the media regarding an athlete’s “place” in politics.

“Taking a stand was smart,” said Gibbs. “It puts pressure on our political leaders, brand leaders and CEOs. More and more, consumers expect brands to get their houses in order regarding diversity and inclusion and taking the necessary steps to be part of the conversation.” 

That said, Gibbs suggests that while it’s imperative for brands to become more proactive, they don’t need to comment on every issue. 

“Brands don’t need to become governments,” said Gibbs. “But they do need to understand where employees and consumers think they can make the biggest difference. It’s important to understand the role, as a brand, you can play in people’s lives, the role others think you can play and how you leverage that to make those lives better.” 

In response to why his political skills are so sought after in the corporate realm, Gibbs explained: “It’s pacing. In politics, you have to get out there every day and find new voters; in communications, you have to go out and find new evangelists. Someone from a political background understands the KPI goal. They understand how quickly it has to get done and how continuously they have to do it.”

Gibbs reflects on all of this and more in Coffee Break, a weekly 15-minute intermission in your working day to discover more about PR pros occupying interesting roles across the industry, live each Wednesday morning by 11:00am ET.

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