Think Bill Gates isn't concerned about his public image? Consider this: He once asked Mark Penn, CEO of the giant PR firm Burson-Marsteller, and Hillary Clinton's former top advisor to "make me more human." Or so a Penn memo claims.
The most recent issue of The Atlantic magazine takes a detailed look at Hillary Clinton's failed campaign for the White House, and it's not pretty. The article includes many insider memos and emails from the campaign.
Penn was the chief campaign strategist, and many of the memos and emails were ones that he wrote. For techies, the most entertaining is one that Penn wrote on December 21, 2006, just after Clinton's re-election to the Senate. Penn was offering ideas about Clinton's image and strategy for the upcoming presidential campaign.
In it Penn emphasized that they should play up Clinton's tough side, not her human side. And to make his point, he brought up a discussion he had with Bill Gates:
A word about being human. Bill Gates once asked me, "could you make me more human?" I said "being human is overrated."
Clinton, of course, went on to lose the campaign, so Penn's advice didn't pay off.
In the memo, Penn went on to say this about Gates' public image:
Bill Gates did not change his persona -- he changed his issues -- he went from software monopolist to ardent philanthropist. The more he became associated as the wonk of world causes, the more his image changed so he now towers ab the rest.
Here's an excerpt from the memo itself:
Penn is as off-base here as he was about his entire strategy for the Clinton campaign. Say what you will about Gates, but his devotion to philanthropy is not because he wanted to change his image. It came from a heartfelt belief that he should leave the world a better place than he found it.
I wouldn't expect Mark Penn to understand that, though --- this is someone whose world-class cynicism and self-promotion knows no bounds.