As the nation nears the 2018 midterm elections, journalist Jared Keller joins Tim to discuss some of his reporting on October surprises in American history. From the 1800s and the dirtiest campaign in American history, to that presidential campaigns of 2012 and 2008. How did those surprises impact election outcomes?
Professor Robert Speel joins Tim to discuss classic contested elections in America’s history. Dr. Speel
teaches at Penn State University Behrend, where his research focuses on aspects of American politics that include elections and voting behavior, Congress and the presidency, and public policy. The two talk about some little-known and some unforgettable stories of election rigging, challenges and “skullduggery.”
Historian, author and college dean John Geer joins Tim to discuss the long history of political advertising, from negative attack ads, to a few positive ones that may have changed the course of history. John is the Dean of the College of Arts and Science at Vanderbilt University. He has published several books and articles on presidential politics and elections. One of them is called In Defense of Negativity: Attack Ads in Presidential Campaigns.
Writer, producer and director Sharon Grimberg joins Tim to discuss her latest production for American Experience on PBS called “The Circus.” Sharon talks about how the circus played a unique role in introducing Americans throughout the country to the world beyond, and in the process, helping to define American culture, and feed a growing nation’s imagination. For many decades before mass media, the circus brought to your town sights, sounds, smells, a complete sensory experience you might only get one day a year, if not once in a lifetime.
Former college All-American, NFL linebacker, and one of the NFL’s most prominent player agents Ralph Cindrich joins Tim to give his unique perspective of the NFL. Ralph spent 40 years in locker rooms, on fields and in negotiations with the owners during the league’s meteoric rise.
World-renowned concussion expert Dr. Michael “Micky” Collins joins Tim to discuss his pioneering work in the diagnosis and treatment of concussions, and the role that public education and awareness has played from the very start. Dr. Collins talks about myths, realities, how perceptions have influenced football and sports participation. Then he gives his vision of where it goes from here.
Branding expert Robin Teets joins Tim to discuss the time Coca-Cola decided to change its highly successful 99-year old formula to a new one and the chain of events that took place after that. Robin and Tim talk about why the company decided to make the move, what it did right, and how it could get it so wrong. Marketing lessons that are still taught in MBA classes today.
Business writer and author Jeff Haden joins Tim to tell the story of Beats. Those expensive headphones that are about more than sound. They’re fashion statement. Jeff is a contributing editor for Inc..com, and he’s the author of the book, The Motivation Myth: How high achievers really set themselves up to win. Today, we look at a case study on winning in business in the high-end headphone market and how it changed the way we look at sound.
Automotive historian John Heitmann joins Tim to discuss the Freedom Car, the Ford Mustang and its role American lore. John digs into the history of the car, its place in popular culture and recent events surrounding the emergence of the long lost and iconic “Bullitt Mustang.”
The premise of our podcast is simple. We talk about the people, events and things that have shaped the way we think. In this episode, John tells the story behind the car that some vintage collectors say is an iconic American symbol of freedom, but all describe it in one word – cool.
Researcher Dr. Eva Lee joins Tim to discuss her work on the front lines in the battle against the opioid epidemic. Dr. Lee is a professor in the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Tech, and Director of the Center for Operations Research in Medicine and HealthCare, and her not-so-secret weapons are math, data and analytics.
Historian, professor, and podcaster Greg Jackson joins Tim to discuss the myths and facts surrounding American Founding Father, George Washington. Greg, and more to the point the lessons in failure. Greg hosts the American history podcast, History That Doesn’t Suck, is an assistant professor of Integrated Studies at Utah Valley University, and has a Ph.D. in history from the University of Utah.
Veteran board games executive, entrepreneur, game designer and Monopoly game expert Phil Orbanes joins Tim to talk about his life-long affinity for one of the world’s most beloved board games, Monopoly. Phil tells the whole story behind the game. And he talks about what the Monopoly game teaches us “off the board” in life and in business.
Artificial Intelligence pioneer and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) researcher Scott Fahlman joins Tim to discuss how a few minutes of humor turned into a worldwide phenomenon when he created the first Internet emoticon. Actually, it all started before the Internet was a thing.
Advertising veteran and author Richard Ratay joins Tim to talk about how America’s new roadways brought the country and families closer together. The conversation ranges from homespun stories of family on the road, to how pop culture was influenced by America’s growing super highway infrastructure, as they talk about Richard’s new book, “Don’t Make Me Pull Over: An informal history of the family road trip.”
Award-winning author and music industry veteran Bob Spitz joins Tim to discuss the break-up of The Beatles, a watershed moment in the history of rock and roll, and how it impacted the music and entertainment and American culture for decades to come.
Historian Andy Masich joins Tim to discuss the battle of Little Bighorn, one of the most well known and possibly misunderstood battles in the history of the American West. An author, speaker and college educator, Andy also serves as CEO of the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. In this episode he puts the story of Little Bighorn into perspective for today and how America changed afterward.
Journalist and author Eleanor Foa Dienstag joins Tim to tell the story behind the humble Heinz Ketchup bottle in our fridge, its journey to our hearts and homes, and the people who made it one of the most iconic food brands in America.
Historian Liz Covart joins Tim to discuss the events and circumstances that led to the American Revolutionary War, and the stories behind the actual drafting of the most revolutionary document ever written, The Declaration of Independence. Liz, who is also the host of the popular Ben Franklin’s World podcast, talks about the Declaration of Independence as a living, breathing document that is as relevant today as ever.
Novelist J. Courtney Sullivan joins Tim to discuss the true story behind why every bride must have a diamond engagement ring and the role one woman played in changing America’s love and marriage traditions. A diamond advertising tag line, is indeed, forever.
Jeff Cohen joins Tim to take a closer look at how C-SPAN opened the door to a 24/7 window to Washington, D.C., changing the way Americans see Congress and, in some instances, how Congress presents itself to the country.
Long-time Director of Fallingwater Lynda S. Waggoner joins Tim to discuss the lasting impact Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece at Bear Run has had on how the nation continues to perceive house and home.
Robin Teets joins Tim to revisit the time in 1993 when Prince turned the music world and pop culture upside down by changing his name to a symbol. Tim and Robin discuss how Prince also broke the rules of branding and marketing and in the end changed them for good.
Mary Barber joins Tim for a conversation about the iconic American breakfast. Tim and Mary break down how one of the PR field’s pioneers served as matchmaker for bacon and eggs in the 1920s and what that continues to mean for us today.
O’Brien Communications’ Shaping Opinion Podcast is an award-winning podcast about people, events and things that have shaped the way we think. It sits at the corner of culture, history and communication.
We publish new episodes on Mondays. Each episode features a conversation between Tim O’Brien and a guest.
Our favorite thing is to hear from you, telling us where you like to listen. At work, in the car, working out? Use our Contact Form to get in touch. We love to hear from listeners!
Tim O’Brien is a Pittsburgh-based communications veteran with experience in complex matters that have ranged from marketing and C-suite issues, to crisis and issues management. He’s the producer and host of Shaping Opinion, where he talks to guests on a wide range of topics at the intersection of communications, history and culture. He’s available to provide media interview coaching, consulting and speaking, and of course, he is always interested in your thoughts for the podcast. Just get in touch.