Can you take a beloved event online and preserve its pizzazz? SFPRRT answered that question with an emphatic “YES!” – while raising more than $8,000 for the SFPRRT Scholarship Fund.
Donna Sachet led off with a high-energy turn as auctioneer, raising $3,500 in the live auction alone. She then passed the torch to Carla Marinucci, senior writer for POLITICO’s California Playbook and highly regarded political reporting veteran in the Golden State. In conversation with Sarah Segal of Greenbrier Segal, Marinucci shared her insider’s view on the people and issues to watch in 2021.
Triumphs and challenges for local politicians
We’ve seen former San Francisco elected officials make it big – none more so than Kamala Harris, whom we’ve known since she first ran for DA. Today, she’s the most powerful woman in the most powerful nation on Earth. Marinucci praises her as a great communicator who represents a great American immigrant story. Now that she’s upping her game on foreign affairs, watch for her star to potentially rise even higher.
Others are struggling. Dianne Feinstein faces the lowest approval ratings of her Senate career and some negative press. But the toughest road awaits Gavin Newsom, whom we’ve known since his Traffic Commission days. Marinucci’s forecast: not only will Newsom face a recall election, but it will be the biggest national political story of 2021.
For many Californians, it’s déjà vu with the 2003 recall race. In those days before social media and crowdfunding sites, Gray Davis faced 135+ challengers. With a modest filing fee and signature minimum, the field could be astronomical this time.
Looking back on recent PR disasters
Not coincidentally, Marinucci cites Newsom’s ill-fated French Laundry meal as the standout PR disaster of 2020, almost single-handedly leading to the recall efforts. It was one miscalculation after another: an astronomical wine bill, the company of his lobbyist, a venue that might or might not have been open-air – and above all, eating out while telling constituents to stay home.
A close second: the San Francisco Unified School District board’s renaming controversy, which has made it a national symbol of the cancel culture.
Asked why the mass EDD unemployment fraud hasn’t been a bigger story, Marinucci points to how the pandemic has bigfooted other stories – and to a deeper issue. The EDD story requires solid investigative reporting at a time when many newspapers have collapsed.
Politicians who win social media, win elections
These days, the winners are the politicians who have strong communications teams and thoroughly understand PR and social media – and the need to react fast.
Marinucci has her eye on several rising stars in California politics, each with a strong social media presence and a strategic approach to communications. They include a trio of U.S. Representatives:
- Katie Porter from the 45th district – a Democrat in a heavily Republican Orange County district with a reputation for posing tough questions during congressional hearings
- Eric Swalwell from the 15th district – a past member of the Dublin City Council and an early 2020 presidential candidate
- Ro Khanna from the 17th district – a co-chair of Bernie Sanders’ election campaign, Silicon Valley resident, and Indian American
Two others hail from Southern California. Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia is a member of the LGBTQ and Latinx communities who’s getting buzz as a possible future senator. Our new junior U.S. senator, Alex Padilla, is fast becoming a social media breakout star as he chronicles his young family’s move to D.C.
Marinucci also praises the PR chops of local mayors Libby Schaaf, Sam Liccardo and London Breed. And don’t count out the “old guard” just yet: former Governor Schwarzenegger trends often on social media, most recently for reprising his famed Terminator line (“Come with me if you want to live”) in a video of him receiving the COVID vaccine.
Twitter = the must-have for political reporting
Twitter reigns supreme for communicators. In fast-moving times, it’s an instant channel that’s beloved of reporters, including Marinucci. Her tips:
- Tweet with caution. “You can lose everything you’ve done with one tweet,” says Marinucci. “Never use Twitter to attack people, and don’t respond to insults or provocation.”
- Reach out to reporters via DMs (direct messages). In fact, a DM was what brought Carla to speak to SFPRRT!
- Follow reporters from respected outlets, such as Heather Knight of the San Francisco Chronicle.
-Story by Ed Kamrin, Kamrin Communications
Special thanks to the businesses and individuals who gave so generously to our 2021 Valentine’s Party. Thanks also to our honored guests Carla Marinucci and Donna Sachet, moderator and SFPRRT board member Sarah Segal, and Pat Harden, sponsor of the 2021 Patricia L. Harden 2021 Scholarship.
If you missed the fun, check out this recording and make plans to join us next year!