Harris Media's rough foray into Tallahassee

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When new media firm Harris Media first announced that it was hanging out a shingle in Tallahassee, I was unabashed enthusiast. This website was (I believe) the first outlet to carry theirpress release announcing their move. In another post, I argued that Harris Media’s arrival in the Capital was “one of the most important developments” in Florida’s burgeoning new media industry.

So when I write this post, which is unabashedly critical of Harris Media, it is keyed in with disappointment, rather than an ax to grind. I like Amy Brown. I likeAllison Guimard. Harris Media advertises on this site. But the truth is the turth. Or at least my opinion is my opinion.

Unlike the glowing welcome I offered to Harris Media, most of the press coverage of its arrival was laced with snark because of Allison Guimard being the daughter of Gov. Rick Scott. Still, it was Harris Media’s sharp work for Gov. Scott’s campaign which got it first noticed in Florida. It (deservedly) leveraged that relationship into lucrative contracts with several Capital clients.

In other words, things were going along swimmingly for Harris Media. And actually, they still are. Vincent Harris, the firm’s namesake, is reportedly a hell of a salesman. His casual style — twice I’ve seen him out-and-about wearing jeans and outerwear, which stands out this time of year in sartorially conscious Tallahassee — bellies a razor-sharp intelligence.

But Harris Media’s has also hit a few bumps in the road this last month. Bumps that its competition, including some of the institutional public relations firm which were NOT too happy Harris Media’s arrival in Tallahassee, have been eager to make into mountains, rather than molehills.

Besides the flack it takes for being the firm who helped elect an increasingly unpopular Governor, Harris Media took a lot of shots for its work on a new website for Scott, which was unveiled in March. I’m not exactly sure what its involvement was, but Harris Media built a website for Scott which appeared to be a direct rip-off of a website for presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty. Let me tell you, copying the feel and look of the Pawlenty site did not sit well with those who helped design it. But a lack of originality was only the least of the website’s problems. Evidently, the website had not been properly vetted by the Republican Party of Florida, which was supposedly paying for the site. At this moment, the website is still not active beyond a “coming soon” message.

Hey, but we all make mistakes. I have nowhere near the technical knowledge of the folks at Harris Media, so I am sure my websites are riddled with errors, (just like my writing is riddled with misspellings, right).

Yet, it doesn’t look like Harris Media learned much from the Scott snafu. It’s rollout of George LeMieux’s campaign (and website) was met with near universal disdain. As the St. Pete Times‘ Alex Leary asks: Is George LeMieux scrubbing his campaign website:

Anyone visiting George LeMieux’s website for U.S. Senate yesterday would have seen harsh comments directed toward him, including an accusation he’s attempting to “whitewash” his biography, which owes a lot to Charlie Crist. (The site barely mentions Crist, whom once considered LeMieux his political “maestro.”)

The accusation of whitewashing (or is it Crist-washing?) actually comes from a critical post I wrote about what LeMieux’s biography should have said:

I am sorry, but I am just disgusted withGeorge LeMieux? attempt to whitewash his biography. He OWES his entire career to Charlie Crist, yet there? barely a mention of Crist on his campaign website.

After I wrote that post, Vincent Harris and I engaged in a Twitter-battle about LeMieux being late for his own Facebook Townhall Announcement. I contend Harris said 1 p.m., which his Twitter feed showed. He said it was 2 p.m., and that his Twitter feed was referring to Central Time (Harris Media’s headquarters is located in Texas). I guess I was wrong to assume that when someone Tweets about a Florida candidate’s schedule, it is on Eastern Standard Time.

Regardless, LeMieux’s Townhall Announcement was lame. The otherwiselikableLeMieux announced he was running for the US Senate from behind a poorly-lit desk, as if he were an accountant poking his head out from behind a stack of paperwork. As Rep. Matt Gaetz tweeted, “Just watched Lemueix? launch video ?sure he is a great guy but I?e seen hostage videos with better production.” Another blogger summed it all uptweeting, “LeMieux’s video is what happens when every GOP consultant, with any sense, hates you.”

Yikes!

Bad press. The Scott snafu. LeMieux’s lame rollout. I’m sorry but that’s not the smoothest entry into the Tallahassee scene. And, like I said, Harris Media’s competitors, not too keen on ANOTHER p.r. firm coming to town, have their knives drawn.

Do better next time, Vincent.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.