Thursday, October 22

Failing At Public Relations: Obama Administration


You know your public relations efforts are failing when you talk to more people (reach) more often (frequency) about an issue (message) and it produces a negative outcome despite having a powerful brand. When that happens, the most prudent course of action is to shut up and listen to people. But not the Obama administration.

Their strategy seems crystal clear. If you don't like a plan, they will talk you to death. And if you still don't like a plan, they will talk about you to death. And if you still don't agree, then they'll declare war. Shudder the thought.

Why the war on Fox News will backfire.

Before pointing out the obvious, I might offer up that this post has less to do with politics than it does communication. Simply put, politics doesn't have to be part of the equation to plainly see that the Obama administration is not only failing at public relations, but they also seem to be their own worst enemy (even more so than the previous administration, which one would have thought to be impossible).

There has always been plenty of evidence to support the idea that Fox News leans right. There has always been plenty of evidence that MSNBC leans left. In general, there is ample evidence to support most media leans left and talk radio leans right (but not as much as some people think).

Indeed. The vision of Walter Lippman is dead. Objective journalism is at the end of its brief, but worthwhile run. And the public has lost its appetite for true news in favor of flavored coverage.

Any questions?

And if you work for any White House administration, you have a choice. You live with it or you resort to diatribe. The current administration has chosen diatribe based on the mistaken notion that if you cannot win the debate, you beat the debater.

Of course, that tried-and-true political tactic doesn't work with the media. It only compounds the problem.

When you take media "opposition" seriously, it means you risk increasing its credibility. And in the case with the White House war against Fox News, that is precisely what is happening.

Ratings for Fox News is up, easily beating CNN and MSNBC. In fact, Fox News averaged 2.25 million total viewers in prime time for the third quarter, up 2 percent over the previous year, according to left leaning The Huffington Post.

Meanwhile, White House poll numbers are dropping. Why? As President Obama and his team obsess over criticism, anyone who is uncertain or critical of unpopular policies are added to a list of undesirables. Take your pick: health care reform policies or the struggling economic climate or the troop buildup in Afghanistan or the abandonment of a promise for open communication or the failure to deliver a tax break for seniors making less than $50,000 a year. And the list goes on, with dozens of more reasons why people are interested in hearing other ideas. And, according to the administration, you'll find them on Fox News.

Wait a minute. That's not an attack ... that's advertising. At the current rate of decline, Fox News stands to gain a majority while other media outlets play ball with the President. Even the President is speaking out against Fox News, but his position makes a play for another tactic — good-natured belittling. (Sorry, David. That will not work either.)

The real criticism, where the American public ought to be concerned (contrary to President Obama's opinion), is from the First Amendment Center at the University of Kentucky

"The White House has basically said that they don’t believe in the marketplace of ideas, they’re not willing to engage in debate, and they are going to be associated with John Adams and the Sedition Act and Richard Nixon and his ‘enemies’ list — is that the company they want to be in?” says Mike Farrell, director.

It sure seems that way. Anytime political communicators choose a clash of personalities over opinions, it means their opinion might be weak. And, based on a 10-point drop in polling, it seems to me that people are tuning to Fox News because they do not agree with the President; they are not changing their opinions because Fox News is influencing them.

The lesson is simple really. Obama won an election because the public has been rallying around those who affirm their ideas. And right now, what the Obama administration seems to be missing is they have yet to be a source or affirmation because while Americans might want some of the ideas presented on the campaign trail, they are less than thrilled with the proposed execution of those ideas.

Mostly, the bills don't deliver on promises. They might make things worse.

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