Effective Public Relations: The Obama Publicity Strategy

Politics aside, almost everybody would agree that President Obama is a masterful communicator. Obama is really United State’s first public figure to adeptly embrace the full power of the media. He is seizing both traditional and new media opportunities to deploy his messages in both an expeditious and ubiquitous manner.

The sheer volume of his media visibility is what every forward looking firm should copy. According to a recent story in New York Magazine, Obama “has hosted 15 town-hall meetings; appeared in more than 800 images on the White House Flickr photo-stream; and held four prime-time press conferences, the same number held by George W. Bush in his entire presidency.”

True, Most times what we really want is control over our message. Advertising buys you such control because you have final say over the content and where and how often the ad is placed–but it is openly biased, with commercial gain (sales) as the goal. PR, on the other hand, earns us credibility because seemingly unbiased third parties (i.e., media) are helping to propagate our message for us. PR is, in a way, a cloaked way to sell our wares without explicitly appearing to do so.

The Obama PR machine seems to be working for “brand Obama” and offers message control lessons for us all in business.

Tapping Into The Obama Publicity Strategy
The best way to get something is to give something up first. Transparency is no longer just a buzz word, but an imperative for businesses of all sizes. For example, Obama has committed to publish all executive orders and proclamations on the White House website, something unprecedented.

Companies often get in their own way trying to hide information they feel is dangerous to their reputation. They are afraid of revealing trade secrets or data that undermine their ability to compete.

But this shouldn’t be so. Transparency means companies should no longer appear to be hiding anything from their customers, from sourcing and manufacturing to disclosing conflicts of interest and a rationale for pricing.

Some industries are especially vulnerable to the drive for transparency, especially financial services, health care and our government. That said–all businesses and entities will be better served by using transparency as part of their brand promise, just as Obama has done. Why? Doing so will help create new levels of trust between you and your stakeholders, and that will lead to mutually beneficial outcomes for everyone.

A great PR strategy enables a company to have its messages placed among key media in a frequent and timely manner. Contrary to popular belief, frequency is not achieved through a blitzkrieg of press releases. Rather, it is by having bloggers, reporters, analysts and other brand influencers cite you as an expert for his or her “story.” He who speaks first often gets the media stage.

The popular “no comment” from CEOs when they think the press or for that matter the public ought not to know anything about their company is an opportunity for someone else. It is an opportunity for guessing and speculations which in the end gives the media a perceived view of issues which may be totally wrong but which they pass on to viewers and readers as the case may be

President Obama makes a habit to quickly respond to issues either directly or through his communications team; every CEO should learn that.

According Accuracy in Media, Obama is spending $5M a year alone on staff salaries devoted to communications with great emphasis on internet driven communications (Facebook and Twitter), minority-targeted communications, town hall meetings, press conferences and television appearances.

For most consumer-focused companies, being present and proactive on Facebook and Twitter is an important way to stay relevant to and connected with consumers.
All companies should look to social media to at least monitor, listen to and acknowledge what their stakeholders are saying about their brand. Start with baby steps, making sure that you are on Wikipedia and that your website and your releases are search engine optimized. If you blog, do it regularly or don’t do it all. There is no one-size-fits-all social media tactic or program, but piloting a few social media initiatives will no doubt help you continue to protect and grow your brand and your business.

Obama’s publicity strategy should be the new pointer for us all. The corporate world must have missed a master publicist in Obama to the benefit of politics

About the author

Don Pagli

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