Singer Associates Public Relations Praises Obama Visit to San Francisco a “coup” for LinkedIn, President Obama

By Benny Evangelista – San Francisco Chronicle, September 27, 2011

LinkedIn Corp.’s town hall meeting with President Obama on Monday was set in motion just 10 days before when the White House contacted the Mountain View company to suggest the event.

It was a natural link – the world’s largest professional social network is increasingly tapping a lucrative market for job recruiting, and the president sought another venue to promote his jobs bill.

Whether Obama finds enough support for his American Jobs Act or not, the town hall was almost an hour-long infomercial for LinkedIn. About 80,000 people viewed the live video feed over the Internet, and the event became part of widespread news coverage of Obama’s visit to Silicon Valley.

“Since LinkedIn has really positioned themselves as the professional social and business networking place on the Web, this is a coup of enormous value to the company and its brand,” said veteran San Francisco public relations consultant Sam Singer. “It sets them apart from Facebook and from Google+. From LinkedIn’s perspective, you just don’t get a better day than today.”

LinkedIn Chief Executive Officer Jeff Weiner moderated the discussion, themed “Putting America Back to Work,” in the auditorium of the Computer History Museum less than a mile from the company’s headquarters.

Obama and Weiner sat on stools in the middle of an audience of about 300 people, including LinkedIn members who were selected for the questions they had submitted online, invited White House guests and more than 50 employees.

LinkedIn stock jumps

The company’s logos were strategically placed on the walls to appear in the background of the TV camera shots. LinkedIn also announced it was donating up to 100,000 LinkedIn paid subscriptions worth $5 million to the Startup America Partnership, a private organization launched at the White House earlier this year to help young companies.

Investors may have taken note. LinkedIn stock that dropped to $72.14 per share in early trading jumped after the town hall began and closed at $78.70 per share, a 4 percent gain, on the New York Stock Exchange.

“We’re first and foremost very appreciative to the president and to the White House for recognizing the platform as a way to get the word out there,” Weiner said in an interview after the event. “I think it’s recognition of the power not only of LinkedIn but increasingly of social platforms that connect hundreds of millions of people around the world.”

This is Obama’s second social-media town hall in the Bay Area in five months. Palo Alto’s Facebook hosted the president for a more general discussion in April, and video of the event garnered more than 1 million views on Facebook Live in the first 24 hours.

This time, the focus was on jobs and the economy, two major issues that figure to dominate the upcoming presidential race.

The White House initiated the idea with LinkedIn. Brian Deese, deputy director of the National Economic Council, said the administration wanted to further “explain and discuss” the American Jobs Act and saw a “unique opportunity” because of LinkedIn’s social network of business professionals.

Singer said it was interesting that Obama’s communications team was using LinkedIn to target members “who were interested specifically on jobs and the economy.” He expects Obama’s presidential opponents will also try to use a similar narrowcast as the campaign heats up.

Questions selected

As Facebook did, LinkedIn also solicited questions beforehand from its 120 million members worldwide, and at one point last Friday, Weiner said there was one question posted every five seconds. However, just as with the Facebook town hall, only a selected handful of questions made it through to Obama and none were particularly tough for him to field.

Among the wide-ranging questions left online:

— “Why won’t we impose tariffs on imported goods from countries such as India and China as they do with our imports?”

— “Have you considered forgiving student loans, partially or in full, as an economic stimulus measure?”

— “Will you please resign and allow America to prosper again?”

One question that elicited a big laugh from the crowd came from Doug Edwards, 53, who asked, “Would you please raise my taxes?” Edwards was an early employee at Google Inc. and retired in 2005 as director of consumer marketing and brand management.

He also said he is part of a group of “patriotic millionaires” who advocate higher taxes on the rich. “It reflects our civic responsibility,” he said after the event.

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