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Lessons for Us From the First 100 Days of the Obama Administration

What can we outsiders learn about communications from Obama’s first 100 days.  Here are three:

First, Obama has actively sought out his audience.

As examples, witness appearances on ESPN to complete an NCAA Tournament bracket and the Tonight Show to reach middle America. With audiences so amazingly fractured and incredibly loyal to their favorite outlets, these days you have to deliver your messages directly, meet people where they are on the issues, and speak a language they understand. At the same time, Obama continues, as he did during the campaign, to physically make trips – such as to Missouri, California and elsewhere – or via the Internet for his digital town hall.

Second, unlike President Bush, Obama and his team understand that stagecraft and substance go hand in hand.

Most communications fail when these two aren’t in sync. This administration uses live events to meaningfully engage target audiences or to unveil substantial policies. Meanwhile, on-line efforts have been used to unveil new relevant policies or engage the online/digitally engaged citizen.

Third, keep it interesting but keep bringing it home.
The administration has succeeded in keeping focused on the economy, but not beating the drum to the point of deafness. They recognize that they can’t talk about the same issue every day.  They’ve done economy on Monday, health care on Tuesday, NCAA brackets the next.  And then return back to the economy.  It’s a lesson for all of us talking to the same folks over and over.

So, for communicators, the lessons could be:

1. Find your audience. Go to them (stakeholders, grantees, policymakers).  Speak to them in words they understand and with a recognition of their issues

2. Look smart and be smart – don’t skimp on style or substance whether in-person or on-line

3. Refresh your message to remain relevant – but keep coming home to the ones that matter strategically.

Photo from Barack Obama of Obama 2008 Presidential Campaign from Used with gratitude under a Creative Commons license. Click for terms.


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