Things You Actually Can Discuss in Polite Company

by Laura Smith Borrman

Talk politics with strangers just a week after the national election? And remain civil? It sounded like a preposterous proposition, but when I received the invite from Nigel Glennie – SF-IABC Networking Nine co-director —I was intrigued.

After meeting an incredible group of fellow communicators for an engaging discussion at this latest Networking Nine session, I was delighted I accepted. Over a private dinner at the Hotel Rex, we discussed how corporate and political communications “do—or don’t—resemble one another,” to quote freelance internal communications expert and Networking Nine co-director Alison Harrison, in any way imaginable.

We talked about knowing your audience, and the challenges of communicating with a disparate one, consistently and over the long term. We discussed the importance of relationship building and the power of authenticity in communications – no matter the audience. We covered inter-generational communications and the relevance of tactics and vehicles depending on your target group… and appropriately, given the forum, how to disagree without being disagreeable. And we talked a lot about storytelling—and how deeply held cultural views can affect the way messages, and messengers, are received. As a writer, I found especially fascinating input from visual communicators – photographers, graphic design experts—about the use of color and imagery in advertising, and how these things subtly affect the way the ads are perceived.

The evening’s chat was vibrant; the company intelligent, engaging and kind (and full of excellent political pop culture recommendations for subsequent exploration); and the food a delicious complement to it all. If ever asked again to participate, I’d not be suspicious but jump at the chance—and would strongly endorse the experience for anyone so solicited in the future. Thanks, Nigel, Alison, and the whole Networking Nine Election 2012 crew, for a fantastic evening.

Laura Smith Borrman is an internal communications writer at Chevron and has just co-authored her first book: Wine Country Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes from Napa and Sonoma. She also blogs about childhood food memories at Cravings of Home.


  1. Thanks for joining us Laura. It was a fascinating conversation and we’re all still friends. I call that a win!

  2. Good summary. Something we only brushed on is the influence of social media on the campaign. Here are a few links that have some good infographics to emphasize its importance.

  3. Here is another great site comparing the use of imagery and how both campaigns used imagery to paint a very different picture or the economy their opponent. Very interesting.

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