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Just saw Demi Moore pitch Pepsi’s newly announced campaign on Morning Joe (CNBC). What a great idea! Rather than run Super Bowl ads (good positioning), Pepsi is putting their money into this campaign, engaging young people on Facebook and Twitter (as well as those of us who think young) to vote for charity ideas submitted to Pepsi and they in turn will fund the most popular ideas. Check out their website, which is excellent. Andy Serwer, editor of Fortune Magazine, affirmed on today’s program that young people respond to cause marketing.

I’ve long been an advocate of cause-related marketing and public relations as an important way companies can give back to the community and substantively help build and support good reputation. I have an awards program, called the Ebeling PR-ize, at Bradley U and Loyola U. Chicago that reward young communicators for creativity and excellence in cause-related communications. I learned that cause communications can work at McDonald’s, where I helped build the Ronald McDonald House program, Ronald McDonald House Charities, McDonald’s Cares, McHappy Day and other programs that make friends while giving back, in the spirit inspired by McDonald’s Corporation founder Ray Kroc and Al Golin, pioneering head of McDonald’s long-time PR agency, where the McDonald’s Trust Bank concept originated.

President Obama has been receiving accolades from both the right and left for the open, un-teleprompted, televised Q&A he held with Congressional Republicans last week.

For some years, I’ve been watching the British Prime Minister’s “Question Hour,” in which the leader of Britain is put on the spot in public by his opposition, and must respond directly and in the moment, and marveled at this public test of reasoned debate and expertise, and wondered why the American people are not privy to the same openness.

We need more of this public dialogue and serious debate on a regular basis, as it may well serve to hold both sides more accountable to the electorate, while demonstrating that real dialog can take place amidst respectful debate between the President and Congress. It may help restore some of the public’s belief that the two parties leading the nation can work together in the public interest, and not just fire volleys at one another. It may even help the Congress to see their views challenged in public. And by the way, I’d like to see both parties in the room together, just as the Brits do it.

A “President’s Question Hour” is not the answer, but it could be another step toward a new era in collegial, open dialogue at our highest level of government. What do you think?

February 2010

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