Putting the PR in Presidential Communications

January 22, 2015

Putting the PR in Presidential Communications

January 22, 2015

Group Gordon’s Hillary Wasserman blogs about the lessons we can all learn from the White House’s communications strategy. 1.22.2015

President Obama used this week’s State of the Union to propose a bold agenda for his last two years in office. But the president isn’t the only one looking to reenergize his key platforms – the Obama administration is also making its biggest push of the year to promote the President’s policies. You don’t have to work in politics to learn from some of the public relations and digital communications tactics that the White House is using to market new initiatives, engage citizens, and build favor in the public eye.

Choose the most strategic medium for announcements.

Sometimes the medium is the message, and the White House weighs which outlets or platforms will be most strategic for announcing key initiatives. For example, before the announcement of new policies governing paid leave for working parents, a senior advisor published a lengthy piece detailing how this plan would benefit American workers and businesses – on LinkedIn. Using a business-centric social network frequented by the community that would benefit from the new policy was a brilliant move. Being thoughtful about how, when, and where to communicate with your target audience can amplify the message even further.


Plug into pop culture.

In any sector, there is a fine line between trying too hard to adopt current buzz words and references (see: @BrandsSayingBae) and genuinely relating to younger, hipper audiences. The White House toes this line perfectly, tapping into the current lexicon to engage a younger demographic in a lighthearted way via an appropriate channel: social media posts.

A big winner was the White House Twitter account’s tweet of a photo of Bo, the Obama family dog, with the caption: “Bo, stop trying to make fetch happen.” By using a line from the popular film Mean Girls, that single tweet received more than 43,000 retweets and generated news headlines worldwide. Successfully identifying opportunities to tap into current conversations can pay dividends in engaging with stakeholders, the media, and even teenagers.

Harness social media to steer the conversation.

A recent New York Times article detailed the bolstered digital communications strategy enacted by the White House social media team to help drive the State of the Union conversation and bring the President’s messages to the masses. Tactics such as tweeting infographics featuring data that complemented, in real time, the President’s words made the SOTU a multi-platform experience and extended the reach of Obama’s key messages. It also gave the administration the power to bring their messages straight to their target demographic without being filtered through mainstream media – a strategy that also played out the day after the State of the Union in Big Block of Cheese Day. This event connected members of the administration with questions posed by ordinary citizens on social media as a way of making the administration more transparent and accessible. Even without the federal government’s vast resources, hosting a fun chat on a strategically chosen social media platform allows organizations to open up the conversation around their brand to new or broader audiences.

You don’t have to be the president to use the tactics that political communicators employ to influence constituents. All you need is a sharp understanding how to reach, entertain, and engage your audience—and maybe a Vine of Michelle Obama dancing with a turnip.