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Thom Serafin comments on Mayor’s election

FOX News

Tough election ahead for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel?

By Mike Tobin

Watch the clip!

On the set of the “Tonight” show, host Jimmy Fallon and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel reminisced about the bitterly cold March day when they took the Polar Plunge in Lake Michigan.

“It was cold that day, really, really cold,” Fallon said.

“Your insights are unbelievable,” the mayor deadpanned.

Fallon took the ribbing good naturedly and laughed at the mayor’s jokes. By all appearances, Fallon likes Emanuel. Maybe it’s the clout of Emanuel’s super-agent brother. Maybe the mayor just navigates well among the stars. But he does well around celebs and Hollywood types.

Emanuel’s problem is that he’s not doing as well with the regular wage-earner types, those in the wards and neighborhoods of Chicago. They only navigate local. They only think local. They vote local.

“You’re better to be seen with the guy next door than the movie star. He’s going to vote. The movie star isn’t,” said Chicago pollster Michael McKeon.

Chicago’s mayoral election is February 24, 2015.

The McKeon poll shows Emanuel in a statistical dead heat with a hypothetical candidate: Cook County board president Toni Preckwinkle.

She has not said she will run. Chicago political wonks think there is a good chance she won’t, but if she did, a poll by the Illinois Observer shows her winning by 8 points.

Preckwinkle clobbers Emanuel among minorities: 8 percent to 35 percent among African-Americans, 2 percent to 40 percent among Hispanics. “It’s a huge vote here in the city,” said Chicago political analyst Thom Serafin.

Emanuel took 56 trips since taking office and the streets are filled with potholes.

Chicago voters are quick to forget the brutality of the last winter and quick to remember that their car just bottomed out. Those potholed streets are also strangled with bike lanes, scarcely populated with Divvy bikes, a financially-troubled bike sharing program that is part of the mayor’s green agenda.

“I want to see a ward committeeman go up to the door and say, ‘Hey, I know your traffic is bad, but take a deep breath, isn’t the air better? That ain’t gonna get you no votes,” said McKeon.

Chicagoans see so much gang violence, newspapers have run stories about the rare evening when no one gets shot. Fifty schools have closed. The teachers went on strike.

The mayor’s motorcade was caught by red light cameras — a program the mayor championed — running a light. A Channel 7 investigation revealed the motorcade ran up enough parking tickets to qualify for the boot.

The city is strapped for cash and the pension fund looks to be about $20 billion shy of its obligation.

“I have a hard time finding people who like him,” said Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass.

According to the polls, whites keep Rahm in the running and rich, white businessmen, many living in the suburbs, help keep his war chest fat even if they can’t vote.

Emmanuel currently has over $7 million ready to spend. Anyone in the field of potential contenders is penny-ante by comparison.

Couple that with Emanuel’s hard-earned reputation for running cut-throat and very effective campaigns. “To go up against Rahm, you’d have to have some large ones and put your life through a lot of misery for a while. It’s not going to be an easy road. It’s a brass knuckle operation,” Serafin, said.

Michael Tobin joined FOX News Channel (FNC) in 2001 and currently serves as a Chicago-based correspondent.

Thom Serafin weighs in on Hillary Clinton’s book tour, career

Thom Serafin joins Good Day Chicago to discuss Hillary Clinton’s “Hard Choices” book tour and what it means for her career.

FOX 32 News Chicago

Illinois Channel visits the Serafin holiday Party

Thom on money and message in the 2014 Illinois gubernatorial campaign

Thom Serafin was featured in a CBS 2 report on Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner’s fundraising. Money plays an integral role in delivering a message, and that’s what we’ve seen so far from Mr. Rauner as the Illinois race continues to heat up.

Thom Talks Illinois Pension Deal on Fox Chicago

Thom Serafin dropped by Fox Chicago to talk about the effects of the new pension deal and how it will impact the Illinois taxpayers and municipalities, particularly the city of Chicago. He also discusses how the 2014 gubernatorial politics factor in.

Thom joins the Fox Chicago Sunday Round Table to discuss Illinois Politics

Thom Serafin dropped by the Fox Chicago studios last Sunday to join their round table and discuss all the latest goings on in Chicago and Illinois politics.

Thom Talks Jesse Jackson Jr. on Good Day Chicago

Yesterday Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife Sandi received their sentences. Thom dropped by the Fox Chicago studios to talk about how this story fits in with Illinois’ checkered past and how it all fits in a larger historical context.

Thom joins CLTV’s Politics Tonight August 15

Thom Serafin was a guest on Politics Tonight after prison sentences were handed down to Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife Sandi.

It’s 1976 all over again in governor’s race

This week for Crain’s Chicago Business, Thom offered some historical perspective on the upcoming Gubernatorial Race. Will history repeat itself? Can the Illinois Democratic Party sustain so many potent and clout-heavy challengers? Click here to find out what Thom had to say.

Update (7/5): The piece ran in our state capital’s newspaper, The Springfield Journal-Register,  too!

Big East small schools win off the court!

For the perennial contenders, the ones seemingly cemented in the top-10 every year, the 64-school March Madness tournament is a culmination of unending sweat equity, hundreds of recruiting hours, game planning, team building, booster relations, all the ingredients needed for success.

Sadly, only one team will finish their season with a win, and even with so much at stake, with so much invested time, energy and dedication that stands to be for naught, there’s still a positive flip side.

The little guys—the schools jumping for joy simply from the getting the opportunity to dance—can make more of an impact in just the first week of games than the powerhouses can make winning the whole darn thing.

How about 15th seeded and Sweet 16-bound Florida Gulf Coast’s (FGC) huge upset of two seed Big East Co-Champions Georgetown University? Wow! And fifth seed Wisconsin losing to Mississippi!?

From a communications, PR point of view you simply can’t beat the national exposure that small schools like FGC, Iowa State, St. Louis, San Diego State, Bucknell, and Butler get this time of year.

Butler’s back-to-back trips to the championship game in 2010 and 2011 had a seismic impact on the school’s recruiting, both athletic and academic. Butler’s last second loss to Marquette Saturday night was one of the top three games in this year’s tournament.

And it’s that kind of watershed impact media coverage can have that inspired me to write about the week’s non-tournament college basketball news: the potential 12-year $500 million agreement between the “New” Big East (future name, TBD) and Fox Sports.

As conferences tend to these days, the Big East has been undergoing some restructuring lately. It’s been reported on for weeks now, but the dust finally settled just a few days ago. Who’s in, who’s out?

While Marquette, DePaul, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Villanova and Georgetown will stay, confirmed additions to the “new” Big East conference include Xavier, Butler and Creighton, with Dayton and St. Louis slated for potential membership in the 2014/15 school year. (6 of those schools made it into this year’s NCAA tourney)

Combined, the five new schools don’t even equal the enrollment of three individual schools that will be exiting the conference (Cincinnati, Rutgers or South Florida). In total, even with the additions of Dayton and St. Louis, Big East undergraduate enrollment will plummet from over 260,000 to just below 93,000.

In spite of all that, the deal the conference just inked with Fox Sports will grant them national, exclusive, cross-platform coverage over television, radio and online.

For the smaller schools, this agreement is an absolute coup!

Schools like Xavier, Creighton, Butler and Providence, whose enrollments are one fifth to one TENTH the size of some of the schools now making new homes in conferences elsewhere, will be receiving equally disproportionate media coverage.

It’s a media partnership that must have the presidents and trustees of these schools doing back flips!

Lopped in with this news is the preservation of a crucial branding element that founding Big East members have secured through the continuation of the conference’s annual tournament at the prestigious Madison Square Garden.

I might argue that with more teams now being concentrated in the Midwest, a Big East conference tournament in Chicago would be more appropriate (I may have some bias in the matter), but from an exposure standpoint, the schools retain the opportunity to showcase themselves before a New York City audience—media market number one.

In just a few weeks, college basketball will crown its lone king. But with the publicity victories that the “New” Big EAST just scored for the next decade, it’s a little less obvious who the real winners will ultimately be.

The selection of Pope Francis I is just good PR

Pope Francis I was selected this week to lead the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis I was selected this week to lead the Catholic Church.

Sometimes people are suspicious of “good PR.” Cynicism can cloud our understanding of reality, and we’re left thinking some situations—some stories—are just too good to be true.

But the truth is good feelings don’t have to be manufactured. Altruism lives! And sometimes “good PR” just happens naturally and for all the right reasons.

To follow up on last week’s thoughts about the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, the selection just the other day of Pope Francis I frosts the cake of a thoughtful, well executed strategic transition that is making for some great PR!

As I mentioned last week, the truncated timetable for Conclave worked to the advantage of the Catholic Church because it reduced the risk of news-fatigue—that the story would grow stale and Catholics and non-Catholics would lose interest, even become annoyed with having to hear—yet again—about the arduous process of selecting a new Pope, in addition to recounting the horrors of the scandals affecting the church.

Instead, the process was swift and efficient—a clear indication the Church’s leadership is getting the message, and finding new and better ways of doing things. Then, to reinforce that message, the Cardinals did something they’ve never before by selecting a Jesuit, a sect of the Catholic tradition devoted to—among other things—education, charity and a life of non-extravagance, a particularly intriguing element given the prestige and opulence often associated with the Papacy.

Already we’ve heard all the stories about Pope Francis I taking the bus and being critical of material pursuits among his brethren. In Argentina he his referred to as the Slum Pope for spending a great deal of time with the poorest citizens, in “misery villages” throughout the capital.

How can you not like this guy?

But just as important is Pope Francis’s country of origin, Argentina. For the first time ever, we have a Pope from the western hemisphere, a more than fitting sign given the evolving demographics and geography of Catholicism (nearly 28% of Catholics come from South America alone).

I’m fond of telling people that my true business is human relations. We build coalitions, we make introductions, and we make sure our clients have a seat “at the table.” The selection of Pope Francis I is not only a nod to the growing influence of South American Catholics, it’s also a first-time invitation to serve among Catholicism’s highest ranks.

When everyone wins, you have a perfect recipe for “good PR.” There’s no need to cook the language or trumpet the data, the story just is.

While the church still faces a tough road to climb, their selection of Pope Francis I is a step in the right direction, an opportunity to show the world that a fresh new era of Catholicism is set to dawn.

Pope’s resignation a test in stakeholder management


Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation on Feb. 11 and concluded his papacy on Feb. 2

The image of Pope Benedict XVI making his final departure from the Vatican aboard a helicopter will live forever as the iconic moment of what is arguably one of the leading Roman Catholic news stories of the last century.

This Pope, unlike the last 71 popes before him, resigned. He announced his resignation on February 11, a mere 17 days before his papacy was set to conclude.

In our profession, we help people and organizations build relationships with their constituencies by mapping strategies for implementing and communicating—among many other things—major changes. There’s very few constituencies (more than one billion) larger than the Roman Catholic Church, and—for them—there’s probably no bigger change than the transition from one Pope to another.

So, from a strategic standpoint, how was that transitioned handled?

In my opinion, it was handled masterfully. The way Pope Benedict gracefully accepted the degree to which his ailing health compromised his ability to perform his job is a refreshing precedent for an organization oft-scrutinized for being stuck in ‘the’ old ways of doing things.

Also, condensing the lead-time to only 17 days saves the Church from a long, drawn-out and fatiguing process while simultaneously prompting a swift selection process. (This preparation should not go unnoticed)

Pope Benedict did exactly what we advise our clients to do during times of transition; he got out in front of the issue, and arrived at a solution that everyone will benefit from.

History teaches us that practically all Popes have held onto their papacy until death—sometimes through months, even years of failing health. During these unfortunate times, health issues will force surrogates in the Vatican to assume authority, an alienating concession of power that can harm the Vatican’s prominence and inspiration.

By preempting this possibility, Pope Benedict has gifted future Popes with the realization that it’s okay to be human, and ultimately, it’s for the betterment of the Church to have a strong and vigorous spiritual leader in the Vatican—a wonderful gift of humility for the Church.

This has also allowed him a non-voting voice in his successor—a shortlist he has most undoubtedly gotten close to in his near-eight years of service.

As will always be the case, gossip and rumors will suggest the Pope steps down amid pressure from scandals, but the official reasoning for his resignation belies this logic, and has positioned Pope Benedict to initiate beneficial change, even from beyond his distant post.

An historic transition of moral authority, not seen for more than 600 years in the Roman Catholic Church, strategically handled with dignity and humility.

Thom Serafin on what to expect from Governor Quinn’s State of the State

Today Governor Quinn will address Illinoisans with this year’s State of the State. Thom Serafin dropped by Fox Chicago to offer his insight on what to expect.

Thom Serafin on Chicago Gun Violence

Last week, Thom Serafin sat down with ABC 7’s Charles Thomas to discuss the growing epidemic of gun violence in Chicago. As incidents and deaths persist, City Hall’s message of safety and proactive measures comes under intensified scrutiny.  Thom offers his insight into how to put the issue in context without belying the burdensome reality Chicago faces.



For the full story, click here.

Thom Serafin goes ‘live’ during historic inauguration

Screen grab Thom on Fox for Inauguration Jan 21 2013

Chicagoans who tuned in to watch President Obama’s historic second inauguration heard ideas and insight from Thom Serafin, as he joined the news team at Fox Chicago throughout the live-event.  On Obama’s inaugural speech: Thom called it “subtle” and “effective,” but noted it didn’t strike as hard on economic themes as polling data suggested it might. Thom, a fixture at news desks around town, is the local political analyst on-call. He can be seen on television and heard on the radio whenever activity starts bubbling-up in the local, state and national political scenes.

Thom Serafin Joins Monmouth College Post-Election Panel

As part of a Midwest Matters Forum at Monmouth College, Thom Serafin joined a panel of distinguished statewide political minds in the weeks following the Presidential Election. He shared his insight alongside former Democratic National Committee Chair David Wilhelm, Chicago Tribune reporter Rick Pearson and Associated Press political reporter Mike Glover. For a full look at the discussion–entitled Election 2012: What did it teach us and what does the future hold?–check out the embedded video below:

Thom Serafin joins the Good Day Chicago crew to talk about the Congressional races that are heating up

The presidential election is getting all the buzz, but many races for Congress are too close to call. Thom offers his insight on which races we should be keeping an eye on here in Illinois.


Thom Serafin talks Hurricane Sandy and the down-ballot Illinois races

With Election Day just 72 hours away, Thom Serafin details the down-ballot races that are tightening up. Campaign 2012 is coming to an end, and the stakes are high for elected officials across Illinois.

Thom gives his thoughts on the final presidential debate

Now that the debates have ended, we’re just two weeks away from the election. What should we expect moving forward, especially now that a front-runner has yet to separate himself in the polls? Political analyst Thom Serafin offers his perspective in the wake of last night’s foreign policy debate.

Thom breaks down last night’s debate on Fox’s Good Day Chicago

This morning Thom appeared with the crew from Fox's Good Day Chicago to breakdown the results of last night's Obama v Romney debate, Round 2--the aptly named "Town Brawl." Everyone has their winners and losers, and Thom gives some insight into how last night's debate will have an impact on both campaigns, moving forward.

Thom breaks down the VP debate on Good Day Chicago

A fiery Vice Presidential debate, if ever there was one! Much has been said about the heated exchange between Vice President Joe Biden and challenger Paul Ryan, the Congressman from Wisconsin.

Chicago political analyst Thom Serafin breaks down the tape and offers some insight into what they said, how they said it, and what it all means.

Chicago Tonight:Thom weighs in on teacher’s strike PR

Thom joined WTTW’s Chicago Tonight to examine the public relations and conflict communication between the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Public Schools during the strike.
Watch the video here.

Susie Gura Gets Philanthropic for the Shedd Aquarium’s Annual BLU

Serafin & Associates’ own Susie Gura put her communication skills to work as the Public Relations Chair for the Shedd Aquarium’s sixth annual auxiliary board fundraiser, BLU, held on July 28, 2012.


All about the economy

August 11, 2012 –  Early this morning, former Massachusetts Governor and presumptive Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney made a bold decision selecting Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan to be his Vice President running mate.

For public affairs specialists like Thom Serafin, though, the Ryan choice indicates a commitment to commandeering one simple election message: it’s all about the economy.

As part of a WTTW (PBS, Chicago) Chicago Tonight panel Thursday, Serafin acknowledged the effective messaging of the Obama campaign, but predicted that a Ryan pick “changes that paradigm.” Serafin said that Ryan’s economic strengths would refocus the campaign squarely on the economy.



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