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Insight & Opinion

The DDC Advocacy Blog

Campaign Tactics and Messaging in the Jamie Dimon Vote

Posted on: May 20th, 2013

By: Steve Danon, Vice President of Public Relations

The shareholder confidence vote regarding JPMorgan Chase (JPMC) Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon shows how advocacy is evolving from the campaign trail to the corporate boardroom.  Critical elements of issue management, messaging, and emerging media are no longer confined to the political marketplace—they are now commonly-used tools throughout a broad range of industries.

Many of those in the political world are apt to make comparisons between what is described as a tightening corporate management bout and the bloody partisan battles typically found in the world of campaigns and elections.  The tone, tactics, and communication strategy employed by players on both sides of the Dimon debacle seem torn from the pages of Political Campaigns 101.

But, it’s much bigger than that.  Advocacy, and the tactics that define it, is coming of age.  What’s unfolding on Wall Street is much more than what Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Hayzlett calls “schoolyard politics” when describing the tense showdown between Dimon supporters and detractors.  Wall Street investor votes are among the most secretive elections in the global marketplace.  Yet, the Dimon vote now looms large beyond shareholder newsletters and insider market publications, plastered in a number of mainstream headlines.  Advocacy has a lot to do with that.

Why?  Much of the public saber rattling is precipitated in large part by the very public face of Dimon himself, the one-man rapid response team to citizen rage over the banking industry’s role in the financial crisis.  But, it is largely by design, as advocacy shapes the sparring over whether or not to strip Dimon of his Chairman’s title.  Fundamental elements of campaign tactics come into focus: from coalition development to the creation “third-party” supporters; from talking points to populist messaging; from media blitzes and hard pitching to strategically placed announcements and forums.

T. Rowe Price, JPMC’s sixth largest shareholder, announced its support of Dimon only days ahead of the Tampa, Florida, annual meeting in a way reminiscent of a pre-Election Day candidate endorsement.  Dimon himself is reportedly stumping along the shareholder trail, recently holding his own internal “town hall” to rally the troops around carefully crafted messaging about his tenure.  Meanwhile, opposition parties in the form of institutional stalwarts like Glass Lewis & Co., the New York State Retirement Fund, and the California Public Employees Retirement System are busily whipping votes in anxious anticipation of a showdown in Cigar City.

The mechanics of the match are unfolding in ways strikingly similar to our political process.  The Dimon vote is no different from fiery primaries or party convention delegates wrangling over nominees and their running mates.  While the late House Speaker Tip O’Neill’s famous “all politics is local” maxim comes to mind, novelist Thomas Mann may have said it best: “everything is politics.”  In reality, that’s advocacy at work.

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