TheBridge profile: Bergen Kenny
Name: Bergen Kenny
Current city: San Francisco
Current job: CEO, SpeakEasy Political
Past job: Senior Vice President, Storefront Political Media. Long time Hill staffer, political consultant and campaign manager.
Q. Favorite spot for a coffee meeting? In DC, Dolcezza. In SF, Philz. Any Philz.
Q. Describe one way how a skill you learned in a previous job helped you in your new job. Doing press on the Hill taught me that it's important to be authentic and direct. People react to how you communicate, not just what you communicate. As a political consultant, you have a bird’s eye view of the country because you’re engaged in so many races. What’s clear across the board is that top-down messaging (any by that I mean the top three nationally poll-tested talkers) rarely works. Localization is crucial to success for candidates both up and down the ballot.
Making truly localized campaigns affordable is a challenge – its pricey, and there are numerous pain points in the process of creating and targeting media. But these are solvable problems. In my current role, I'm using tech to automate the creation of media and lower costs, so that more people can afford to participate in the political process.
Q. Job advice in three words? Keep coming back.
Q. How are you (or your company, org, nonprofit) currently bridging the gap between politics and tech? SpeakEasy is an online direct mail platform that pairs high-quality design with professional voter targeting (via NGP/VAN). It's now possible to design and send a mail piece in less than an hour, and it costs about 30% less than before. Our goal is to use technology to provide top-of-the-ticket tools to down ballot candidates, so that more people can afford to run and win.
Q. Last time you were completely unplugged? The last time I completely unplugged was just a few days ago, when my toddler threw my phone in the toilet.
Q. Favorite restaurant? Zarzuela in San Francisco's Russian Hill. They get old school San Francisco right, and there is a great (tiny) wine bar down the street where you can wait for your table.
Q. If you had to live in another city, which would it be? Charleston, South Carolina - or Bend, Oregon.