Mike Klein Online

Obama Must Control His Message

Atlanta Mike Pix_Press_Club_189_-_Version_2Messaging rules the world.  Everything is about how you present content, the focus you create for the target audience, what you want the audience to remember and what you want it to ignore.  Do messages right and you sell stuff.  Do messages wrong and nobody buys your stuff.

President Barack Obama badly needs to sell stuff but he has world class message problems.  This is fairly stunning. First, let’s give credit where due: Obama created the sharpest, high technology, most sophisticated campaign ever.  Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were good.  Obama was over-the-top exceptional.  He created a new standard that left John McCain flailing.

But the campaign did not transition well into the administration.  Something went amok when the White House was required to cross the line where message intersects with policies and results.  Nine months into this administration, the White House struggles with agendas largely because messaging is imprecise.

Health care is the obvious example.  The president campaigned start-to-finish on a platform to reinvent health care which eventually became health care insurance reform.   But did the Obama team make it a priority to explain health care reform goals?   There was precious little detail during the campaign.

As a consequence, OFHC – Obama Fixes Health Care – became POOC – Pelosi Out of Control.   By ceding leadership to the most liberal members on Capitol Hill, and by not articulating his own specific priorities, the president surrendered the health care insurance reform field to other players who did not act in Obama’s best interests or those of American people.    Millions of Americans do not trust what is going on.

President Obama will address Congress and the nation Wednesday evening to specifically describe his health care insurance reform priorities.  Now the president becomes the political equivalent of a relief pitcher, called into his own health care insurance reform game while the scoreboard goes up in flames.  His assignment is to somehow restore order to the playing field.

Many media organizations  believe the president came to the White House with an overwhelming mandate.  The mandate was not that great; Obama earned 53% of the popular vote and John McCain earned 46%.  The seven percent margin is nothing close to Richard Nixon’s 23% whipping of George McGovern.

Nevertheless, informed Americans understand the nation has a greater possibility to prosper when the president succeeds.  Bad presidencies are never good for the country.   Most Americans are generally willing to give new presidents an opportunity to demonstrate leadership.  But today the messages are  muddled and confused by distractions.  Folks who supported him, especially senior citizens, worry over his policies.

This is partially the result of significant trust issues.

While the focus should be almost exclusively on health care leading up to Wednesday evening, media is also discussing bizarre issues such as whether an administration “czar” is a communist who believes the George W. Bush administration was somehow responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Czars themselves are an issue; the administration has many who create policy without being accountable to Congress.  Their personal backgrounds bring into question Obama priorities and from whom he seeks advice.  This is where trust becomes important.  Who did we elect and who are these other people?

Trust issues are so pervasive that the president’s satellite address to schools next Tuesday and a companion classroom assignment became controversial.   Some parents question the agenda.   Some school systems refuse to carry the address.   The White House went into damage control, which is what happens when poor messaging is combined with questions about trust.

Poor messaging can become lethal internationally.  Iran, Afghanistan and North Korea are danger zones where the administration message has been muted and often ineffective.  Support for Israel is tepid.   Lots of parents want to know why their kids are dying in Afghanistan.   It is becoming a hard question to answer.   Folks legitimately ask, what is the U.S. foreign policy message?

Wednesday evening will be a watershed moment still early in the Barack Obama presidency.  After a torrid schedule of campaign-style appearances, prime time news conferences, surprise remarks in the White House briefing room and endless web videos, the president will have one more and perhaps his final chance to explain what he wants from health care insurance reform and why.

You only get so many chances to sell your stuff.

Posted:  Saturday, September 5

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September 5, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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