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health policy communications; fmr campaign consultant/speechwriter; live music enthusiast

January 2021 edit note: So, a few years ago, I decided to finance a public opinion survey conducted by a prominent Democratic pollster to examine in a top-line manner the basic imprint left by the Grateful Dead on America… “Why would you ‘waste money’ on that?” asked baffled colleagues and acquaintances. Why? Because it’s interesting to me, and a very particular segment of the live music community. Here’s the piece:

In the nascent days of the Grateful Dead’s uniquely American musical odyssey, the band played free Haight-Ashbury parties hosted by The Diggers – a self-styled community…

Photo Credit: Stuart Levine/Relix

Derek and the Dominos’ iconic 1970 album, “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” — the seminal Eric Clapton masterpiece — was released over fifty years ago.

Photo Credit:

Lining up a new client whose business you find intellectually engaging, interesting and enjoyable is a great thing — especially when you’re effective, and making a discernible, demonstrative, positive impact on day to day operations.

In effect, you’re getting paid to have fun. You can’t beat that.

But simply accepting an offer in a vacuum is a bad policy, and short-sighted approach to consulting. To be effective in the realm of communications and content creation the individual with whom you primarily interface must not only be competent and skilled, but listened-to and plugged-in to senior management.

By their very nature…

1988 GOP presidential candidate Pete du Pont Photo Credit: Bettmann — Getty Images

Former Delaware Governor Pete du Pont’s passing several days ago made me reflect on two entirely separate matters:

First, the quality of the man as I experienced it first-hand working on his 1988 presidential campaign as his New Hampshire press secretary. As a transient staffer — one of hundreds who’d likely passed through du Pont’s various campaign offices through the years — I did not know him well. But I fondly recall driving through New England’s vivid fall colors during the time I served as his New Hampshire presidential campaign press secretary in late summer of ’87 through February ‘88…

Ethan Miller — Getty Images

Long content to work only on political campaigns, nothing turns me off more these days than mindless partisan talking points, ideological bloviating and gratuitously trashing elected officials. I’ll also preface the following observations about Vice-President Kamala Harris by stating I believe she and Joe Biden are our legitimately-elected leaders.

That being said, I’ve always found it fascinating to assess the many intangibles that go into determining a politician’s ‘success’ or lack thereof in the public arena; to carefully observe how one systematically makes their way along the winding road of pitfalls, obstacles and minefields.

Meeting and succeeding subjective ‘expectations’ established…

On major speech or writing projects with multiple contributors, specify details

A talented younger friend attempting to make a transition from campaign communications consultant to building a full-time business as an executive communications consultant called the other day seeking advice. He had been “layered over” on a major CEO speech project by another writer considered to be a “better fit,” he was told. While still on the project, and still on retainer, he is now a subordinate.

My friend’s specific writing experience is rooted in politics and policy: news releases, news conference statements, blog posts, op-eds and other web content of this nature. …

It’s already been said: “Hillary Clinton’s campaign had an algorithm, but no message.”

So when a Politico Magazine analysis piece by long-time Democratic messaging and direct mail expert David Gold appeared earlier this month, I took notice. After he helped eviscerate a gubernatorial candidate for whom I served as press secretary well over 20 years ago, I exhaustively reviewed his campaign’s TV, radio and mail to examine both their positive and negative messaging frames.

Their cumulative messaging was simply better, more focused and more effectively integrated. Chalk it up to a learning experience.

Gold knows his business on both the…

Similar in process but easier to reconstruct than my 1977–1995 Grateful Dead show list published in 2015, the below list of my 136 Bob Weir w/RatDog shows constitutes about 75%-80% of my post-Grateful Dead concert experiences.

Bob Weir’s primary post-Grateful Dead project, RatDog, picked up a head of steam around 1999–2000, when Jeff Chimenti (1997 addition) and Mark Karan (1998 addition) were nicely integrated into the mix along with founding member Jay Lane on drums. This period coincided with my increased ability to reliably use the internet to send written content (speeches, congressional testimony, op-eds, news releases and other pr…

While doing research for an ongoing personal project, the time finally came to tabulate the hard number of Grateful Dead shows I attended — no more guessing or approximating.

Through an archived ticket stub review, personal recollection and some reconnoitering over the past year with tour friends from long ago, the following comprehensive list has been reconstructed.

The show count is 181 — with the high water mark of 31 shows coast to coast in 1981 while ostensibly a student at George Washington University in DC.

People ask: “How was it possible to recall your shows?” It’s not that hard…

An In-Depth Interview With @Headcountorg

The following is the text of an interview I conducted in mid-February 2014 with CNBC’s Steve Liesman on behalf of Headcount, which stages non-partisan voter registration drives at concerts across the nation.

As a Headcount board member based in D.C., I thought it would be interesting and worthwhile to interview higher visibility media figures in DC, NYC and elsewhere with a known propensity for being fans of the Grateful Dead and other improvisation-oriented live music.

The fact that Steve is one of Wall Street’s most visible Grateful Dead enthusiasts made him a natural for a discussion, and…

Gordon Hensley DC

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