Defeat School Levies with Good “Branding”: How to use the media against itself for your aims

The endorsement by The Cincinnati Enquirer of ultra liberal progressive goof-ball Senator Sherrod Brown says a lot about why The Enquirer has been losing readership by wheel barrel loads over the last couple of years.  They have an interesting problem; they are a leftist media group trying to produce a product to a very conservative city.  I mean they know their market, and they have decided to consciously go against their readership, and now they have really hurt themselves by coming out publicly for politicians like Brown.   Over the last year The Enquirer has made a conscious decision to prop up progressive causes even more, where in the past they at least attempted to mask their intentions.  As time has gone on, The Enquirer has struggled to maintain their readership because they have offered a product that leans more and more to the left in the ultra conservative city of Cincinnati.

In the chess game of politics, it is important to know the rules, and as Election Day nears, or future election days come about, it is imperative to use the entire chess board to defeat your potential school levies or whatever issue you might be fighting.  I know some reading this might be tempted not to talk to Michael Clark at The Enquirer or some other reporter because they represent a product that is of the opposite political affiliation, or because you have seen the ordeal I have had with them, and the belief is that if Clark and others are shut out of the Anti-Levy movement then he will suffer and maybe even lose his job out of revenge for what he did to me.  But let me report dear reader that the fate of The Enquirer cannot be changed, they have done it to themselves, and Michael Clark cannot be saved either.  He is on a sinking ship, and he knows it.  But while the ship still floats if the reporters of The Enquirer come calling for interviews over the respective issues around the city, then don’t hesitate to give them interviews and feed them the information you want to get out.  Use them to your advantage, because they will certainly use you to theirs.

I suppose this situation comes with a back-story that should be explained at this time.   By now, everyone knows that I had a famous melt-down with The Cincinnati Enquirer that was rather epic, and I have said that it was by design, and in many ways I was playing the chess game that anybody who hopes to win such games must play to achieve any victory.  And if you are on the front of a movement, then you have to understand what kind of game we are all playing, so you cannot be mistaken into thinking that Michael Clark of The liberal Enquirer is your friend.  He’s not, and he never will be.  Such people must be handled as though they are two-headed snakes and just because one head is in your hand, you must still guard against the other.

I allowed Michael Clark to make me the “brand” of the No Lakota Levy on purpose, because it served my needs.  Every time a product is driven, there must be a “brand,” that people associate with the product.  In this case the product is “saying no to tax increases.”  My rival over this matter has a brand of their own, so it must be countered.  Their “brand” is “children.”  That is why most of their promotional material feature children receiving the benefit of their services in some way, because that is how they establish product recognition.  So to fight the school levy, I needed a brand of my own, because to win such things and get the message out, you need more than charts, arguments, and yard signs—you must have a brand. People often wonder why I allowed myself to be photographed by The Enquirer with my whips and hat to fight the Lakota Levy—it was because I had to establish a brand for the No Lakota Levy in order for things to take off the way I wanted them to.

This of course carried over into other media markets because it is personal branding that gives them the hook for their stories.  Without the branding, there isn’t a way to market the idea to the public; the reporters don’t know how to frame the argument.   So banding is very important because it provides the backdrop of the story when a reporter writes.   In the case of the levy fighting efforts at Lakota, I took an aspect of myself that was unique and used that for the branding of the levy fight.  This worked well until The Enquirer hit the year of 2012 and had to restructure their paper and move around some full-time reporting positions.  I knew there was trouble when Michael Clark at the beginning of February 2012 wanted to treat me to lunch to discuss the future of the things, especially the Lakota Levy problems.  Clark has family that is involved in public education, and he makes his living reporting on public education, and in his stories I was his villain, and the villain kept winning—giving him a problem.  So he wanted to discuss it over lunch.

That is when I knew I had to change the brand because the education professionals and media people where struggling to prop up public education as a heroic endeavor, because I had successfully and rightly—branded them as the villains, turning the tables on their original strategy.  I simply used the radical labor position arguments against them, for which they could not defend, because they were up to no good.  So the trick with branding is it works great as long as you adapt it to the changing circumstances.   In my case my friends in the No Lakota Levy movement were getting tired of the levy fights.  Lakota was setting up for another run, a fourth attempt in three years, and we were all getting fairly pissed off because the management didn’t listen to what we told them.  They were told to their faces, in The Enquirer, on 700 WLW, on TV, through the brand we had created in No Lakota Levy using my face that we expected management to present to the teachers union a 5% reduction in pay and benefits, which they refused to do.  So strategically, this forced a change in the branding from my position, and a change in alliances.

My friends had wanted to merge with an established community group that would help pay the sports fees for some of the neediest students, which was a good idea, but it danced around the whole problem of why the sports fees were cut to begin with.  I went along with it knowing that the proposal would cut into the Lakota School System’s branding in a dangerous way, and may actually destroy their public relations efforts up to that point.  This effort was needed because the management at Lakota refused to present the 5% reduction to the labor union so more drastic measures were needed in the levy fight.  I arranged with Michael Clark to have a story done about our new announcement of giving $10,000 to some of the students so it would help cover their sports fees at the school which were cut as an extortion tool in favor of the labor union.  Once word got out what we were doing, the community group bailed on our effort to join with them and some of the most radical levy supporters gathered outside of a Kroger store to smear my name, just as the members of the community group had been doing—because our strategy cut into their branding, and it really made them mad.

So I knew a fight was coming either now or in the near future and one of the first rules of any combat is to strike first and fight from the high ground.   Beat them to the punch.  Be the first to strike, and most of the time, you will be the victor.  This is true even if it’s a fight in a parking lot one on one, or with an entire labor union that has a state organization at its back.  The rules are the same.  So I volunteered to become the country coordinator for making Ohio a Right-to-Work state, collecting signatures for that ballot initiative, even though many of my friends advised me against it since Kasich wanted no part in such a thing in a year when Ohio had to vote Obama out of The White House.  I did it anyway because it was the right thing to do in Ohio, even though it might further tick off the labor unions—which is what I wanted to do anyway as part of the branding strategy.  We also as a group at No Lakota Levy started our own community group and upon the announcement of our endeavor I called a press conference that entailed the presentation of a $10,000 check to members of the Lakota athletic department.

For a review of this situation here is the original story:

When The Enquirer was present along with members of Channel 19 and Channel 5 Lakota had no representative to receive the check because they couldn’t.  They knew that in so doing, they would destroy their own branding model of using the children of the school as an extortion tool.  We were effectively taking that tool away.

The story appeared all over the city of Cincinnati.  It fit into the progressive position of The Enquirer, the altruistic pursuit of community sacrifice, so they predictably ran with it.  Clark made it an exclusive story, so it had great curb appeal, which served his needs as a reporter.  The danger for everyone involved was that I had changed the branding from a lone cowboy running around Lakota opposing school levies with a bullwhip to a person with an organization at his back that could conger up $10,000 dollars to pay for sports fees.  This level of branding was something the school could not deal with, so they worked with The Enquirer for their own assassination story against me to break up the merger that I had formed with the people who provided the money.   I had given them on purpose the tools I desired to defend against, since I already had a plan two defend one or both of the issues, one was a blog posting I did about the PTA moms–community personalities who played politics with the situation smearing my name, and the other was my participation in the Right-to-Work effort for Ohio.   Of course they took the bait and ran with it as Clark went over the top with the whole ordeal because his short-term gain would solidify his position at The Enquirer during a time when they were doing major restructuring as a company.

Click here for review:

It was painful but worth it.  After three levy attempts I knew that I couldn’t personally continue to be the face of the No Lakota Levy effort.  My branding had worn out, and a new approach would be needed for the fourth, fifth, and sixth efforts, one that had more horsepower behind it, and the best way to kick-start such an effort was to get everybody off their ass with a provocation.  As the months went on after that event over 100,000 people visited my Overmanwarrior’s Wisdom site to read my articles on education reform, sex scandals at Lakota, bullying cover-ups, and the raw numbers of how the management was in bed with the labor union in a grotesque way, and how they were using our children as the tool for performing the task.  My hope was that if I couldn’t be the face of the anti-levy effort anymore, because the branding needed to be changed—and updated, then I could do something extraordinary to teach other people to participate in the fight instead of it just being about me personally.     The Enquirer article that Clark had written about me as a favor to Julie Shaffer–one of the school board members at Lakota was so astonishing that it gave me more readers than all my radio interviews on WLW combined over a two-year period.  And most of those people sent kind words of encouragement, admiring that I had stated publicly what many of them had already thought.   It was great advertising and really helped take my branding to a public that was quietly angry and looking for a battle cry to get their hearts racing.  That battle cry will always be from now on, “Latte sipping prostitutes with asses the size of car tires and diamond rings to match,” and I will use it till the next necessity for re branding becomes necessary   So the new branding had worked, and it looks as though going into the future that more people are going to be willing to put their name out there and fight these levies, which makes me very, very happy.

So when the news comes calling around election time, don’t refuse them just because you might be angry for what they did, or tried to do to me dear reader.  In a game of strategy, nothing happens by chance, and by my own measurement, I knew that my check-mates would cause a stir, which was needed.  But there was a purpose behind the madness and I wanted to tell this little story so that people could learn how to fight these types of people using their own tools against them.  I watched what was done to Arnie Engle over in Fairfield over the years and I have wanted to help him desperately.  He was doing a lot of this levy fighting well before I did, and he has been painted as a radical child hater by all members of the media guided by the union apologists for years now.  He has run for school board and fought many campaigns as radicals have attacked his home and threatened him in many ways for nearly a decade, and it became clear to me that if I allowed the media to process me the way that they had Arnie, then I would eventually fall behind in the fight.

During all this activity in early February I sat down with Arnie and listened to his stories.  We had a couple of beers together as he explained the cameras that canvas his property collecting data from the vandals who have attacked his home continuously.  A short time ago Arnie found himself baited by one of the school levy radicals which led to a conflict in front of Arnie’s house.  You can read about that occurrence here:

Arnie is a passionate guy, and he’s right.  The trouble that I concluded about him is that most of Fairfield agreed with him about the taxes, and the position the management took in defense of the labor unions, but Arnie held onto his brand too long without changing it.  He tried to do all the work himself–he even tried to become a school board member to help the situation from within and he was attacked, attacked and attacked again each more ruthlessly, for standing in the way of what the union wanted.  The situation was so bad that in August of 2011 there was a FBI investigation over the school board itself that was quickly forgotten by the time the election came around in November, partly because of the article above.

The Enquirer from 2005 to 2010 used Arnie much in the way they used me.  And Arnie used them much the same way that I used them to get the word out.  It’s part of the business of branding, and selling ideas through the media.  But at a certain point, the brand becomes too big for the issue and even distracting—to the point that it can implode on itself by the sheer weight, and the cycle time appears to be about 3 years at the level that Arnie and I had endured before diminishing marginal returns become self-evident.  As I drank beer with Arnie and watched his monitors scanning his yard for attackers I thought of Clark, The Enquirer, Lakota, WLW, the State of Ohio, John Kasich and his Right-to-Work opposition, my own friends who didn’t want to touch the issue so that Obama wouldn’t win Ohio on the back of the union vote, and I thought of my No Lakota Levy friends who wanted to work with a community charity group to repair their own public images after three contentious levy fights where the school board refused to listen to the will of the voters.  Yes, war has many casualties, and if you are the brand, it will be especially hard on you dear reader.  That is when it is best to strike first, and hit on your terms, and hit them so hard that they can’t get back up again.  Punch them so hard that their teeth come out of the back of their head……….metaphorically speaking of course.  And while doing it, have a plan to re-brand your product every couple of years or so–so that your material is always fresh.

The media is not your friend.  They will use you, and they will turn on you.  They will work behind your back to destroy you if they find that you are at cross purposes to their intentions, which is often just survival in a marketplace that is highly competitive.  In the case of The Cincinnati Enquirer, they are their own worst enemy since they chose to support candidates like Sherrod Brown and other progressive political positions in spite of Cincinnati’s deeply conservative nature.  But you can also use their ignorance to your benefit, and should do so whenever possible.  So when they put out the call for a few comments about the school levy defeats that will happen on Tuesday, or the future levies that are scheduled to be put on in March, May, August, and November of 2013, feed them a line and make sure it’s always to your advantage.  And always be looking for ways to re-brand your product.  If that product is you personally, then have a plan to pull more people into the fray one way or the other.  But remember, if you hang on too long with only your branding, the media will seek to make you the story, which will destroy your branding before you desire it to.   So make sure to always stay in front of what they are going to do next.

In spite of all these perilous conditions, the good of our communities, our state and our nation are at hand, and if we don’t play this game, then we yield to the forces of manipulation shown above.  There are only two choices, you play the game, or you get played.  So if it is thought that one can sit on the sidelines and just vote YES or NO on an issue, it’s not enough.  You have to play the game, or the game will play you.  And the best way to play that game is to figure out what your personal branding is, develop it fully, use it to gain traction in the media, but also use the media to expand your base so that you can change your branding latter to alter your strategy.  Failure to do so will cause a collapse of your branding effectiveness.  And timing is everything.  But do not make the mistake in thinking that you can protest The Enquirer for being too left of center by not speaking with them.  They are what they are, and the market will determine their fate.  But while they still exist use them all you can to the aims that you determine following a strategy you created through your branding and implantation.   And be sure to be the first to punch them—so that the chances of winning improve dramatically.  Playing nice is the same as yielding your strategy to the fate of goodness, which is the method of a fool.  Because no organization that builds itself on the back of children and hides many evils behind them is good, and will do anything to win.  So they must be treated accordingly—with great aggression, and well thought out strategy with layers and layers of deceptive subplot.

And when in doubt, listen to my favorite song shown below at the top setting of your iPod and it will all clear up. Listen to the words very carefully, and be willing to do anything to win. Anything! I am, are you? And that often means not playing nice.

Rich Hoffman


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