The Purveyor Of Public Image
With a fedora on his head, a Fraternal Order of Police Challenge Coin in his pocket and a masonic ring on his finger, James Hartman cuts a stoic figure. He orchestrates high-level strategy development sessions with politicos, conducts moneymaking marketing meetings with business owners and maps out media campaigns for local non-profits.
“When someone asks me, ‘What do you do?’ I tell them I own a political consulting and public relations firm,” Hartman said. “They inevitably wait a second or two and ask, ‘So, what do you do?’”
Hartman is a strategist, consultant, spokesman, employee representative, media marketer and message maker. Translation: Hartman helps clients stay on message to get funding, get customers and get elected.
“I motivate people to do what my clients need them to do,” Hartman said. “I help my clients encourage people to vote a certain way or respond a certain way to a political message, or buy a product or subscribe to a service.”
Hartman’s 8-year-old firm, James Hartman & Associates, has enjoyed a 75% win ratio, a hugely successful number when you consider Hartman has helped justices of the peace to prime ministers in 9 American states and Europe.
“The first client the firm exclusively handled was Kevin Pearson for Louisiana State Representative,” Hartman said. “He was a late entrant into the campaign. We had 7 weeks before the primary, and there were 3 others in the race. No one ever thought he would win, but he won in a runoff by 50 votes. That’s how he got the nickname ‘Landslide Pearson.’”
But all candidates can’t be winners, and it’s important to know how to lose gracefully.
“If one is running for the right reasons, grace comes naturally,” Hartman said. “If one runs an honest campaign, it’s easy to be gracious.”
Hartman grew up in Washington D.C. where local news is national news. He said his whole family was acutely politically aware, and he developed an early interest in politics and the media.
After graduating from Tulane University with a degree in Sociology, Hartman became a reporter for The St. Tammany News Banner in Covington, LA, news director for WYLK-FM and a stringer for The Advocate. Trained by both the National Information Officers Association (NIOA) and the Institute for Police Technology and Management (IPTM), Hartman started to use his savvy and growing Rolodex to offer strategic support to political candidates, commercial businesses and non-profit organizations.
He’s helped LA State Representative Helena Moreno with social media and direct mailers, Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta with media relations, area fire departments with public education and awareness, the City of Covington with public awareness for ballot initiatives and the Fraternal Order of Police as an union spokesman for the New Orleans Chapter.
Hartman was even part of a team of American consultants to aid the Civic Democratic Party of the Czech Republic. Hartman relocated to Prague for part of 2009 to help the political party, that elected Prime Minister Petr Necas, to craft a message and stay on message.
Closer to home, Hartman also assisted the Lakeshore Dental Group with advertising, champagne bar Apres Lounge with marketing and built the website for law firm Delaney & Robb which primarily serves the LGBT community.
“New Orleans is one of the most amazing cities in the country,” Hartman said. “It’s remarkably diverse and unique. You can get so granulated in how you market something. But, market principles are universal, and there’s something here for everybody.”
Hartman’s firm draws on the talents of political strategists, graphic designers, professional fundraisers, experienced advertisers and photographers to meet clients’ needs. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to campaigning, advertising or non-profit growth, Hartman said the same principles apply.
Principle #1? Know your target.
“One of the biggest mistakes you can make is throwing out off-the-cuff messages, no matter how sincere, without knowing your constituency or what your clients and customers really want,” Hartman said. “To win or get funding you must stay on message.”
Hartman and his 4 employees excel at identifying whom you’re trying to reach and developing the right strategy to reach them.
It’s an asset politicians and businesses pay dearly for. Hartman said the cost of his services, which include assessing needs and sales goals, evaluating the demographics of target markets and designing campaigns that appeal directly to desired customers, depends on the size of the geographic district or constituency. Clients could set aside anywhere from 1% to 30% of their budgets for his consulting services ranging anywhere from $3,000 to tens of thousands.
It allows Hartman to offer an affordable, and discounted, fee structure for faith based and non-profit organizations.
“I have a soft spot in my heart for these organizations that make a difference in the communities they serve,” he said. “We’re very proud of our non-profit and public service work.”
At Trinity Christian Community, a 40-year-old faith based non-profit in the Hollygrove area, Hartman used to steer their public relations and built a prominent public profile that led to greater fundraising opportunities.
Hartman currently works with the New Orleans Women’s Shelter in Central City. “There are few shelters that accept pregnant women and women with children, and the New Orleans Women’s Shelter offers those women excellent programming, assistance with childcare, resume writing and job training,” Hartman said. “It gives us tremendous satisfaction to work with an organization like that.”
Hartman is equally as discerning at picking political hopefuls he wants to help. If Hartman won’t vote for you, he probably won’t work for you.
“I help good people do good things,” Hartman said. “I fired clients in the middle of campaigns if I felt they were shady or self-serving and not in it for public service.”
Hartman said his success is owed to his firm’s communication with their clients, developing strategies focusing in on who they want to target and how.
Hartman models himself after famed mentor Arthur J. Finkelstein, a GOP consultant who has worked for the likes of Nixon, Reagan and Netanyahu, and whose specialties include polling, strategy, message, media, ad placement, advising and campaign management.
With a “there are no accidents in success” philosophy, Hartman cautions to never lose heart in the political system. “A vast majority of politicians are honest and in pursuit of pure public service,” Hartman said. “Most of the time.”