Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

What to Watch for in Obama’s Speech to the Nation on BP

June 14th, 2010

Tomorrow night President Obama will address the nation regarding the BP oil spill.  Combating criticism that his administration was slow to respond properly, Obama is anticipated to make the case for more aggressive government action toward BP.

Aside from the political consequences pre and post-spill, what are some public relations considerations to keep in mind?

Location, location, location.  This is the first national speech that Obama will deliver from the Oval Office.  The symbolism certainly isn’t lost in the moment, as White House advisors rightly recognize that the nation’s greatest environmental disaster ever ranks up there among the worst crises in American history.  Obama is using the Oval Office imprimatur to convey the strength and seriousness of his response to date, and his plans going forward.

Tell us what’s up.  There are so many moving parts now – BP, possible receivership, fines, Halliburton, Transocean, MMS mismanagement, leak estimates, hurricanes – that it’s easy to get lost past the simple narrative of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.  Obama must explain clearly and concisely what his administration has learned, and in a way that helps Americans make sense of who may be responsible for the oil spill.

Leverage into other issues.  Don’t forget that Obama’s plan, no matter what form it takes, is still essentially politics.  Just as the Bush Administration based a significant political agenda on the aftermath of September 11, expect Obama to lay out future political principles.  Strong bet that the need to lessen national dependence on oil will be top of mind, as will regulation of exploration and other relevant energy and environmental issues.

Deadlines.  To shift the focus away from the number of days into the crisis, Obama will likely give hard deadlines for relevant stakeholders to meet, whether that concerns clean up or regulatory action.  To save his political fortunes, Obama must shift the PR narrative away from mismanagement and toward total control.

And that’s just tomorrow night.  These types of efforts require weeks of follow up to sustain any positive traction, so keep an eye on administration officials as they’re dispatched to keep the message momentum going.

What to Watch for in Thursday’s Health Care Summit Smackdown

February 23rd, 2010

Ok, so the title may be a bit dramatic, but let’s face it – massive policy proposals to provide greater public entitlements aren’t born in brief, televised discussions amongst lawmakers (thankfully).  That’s why Thursday’s televised health care summit, where President Obama and Members of Congress will air their grievances discuss the nuances of health care policy, is unlikely to have much substance to it.  Instead, it’s apt to be a political wrestling match where Obama and Congressional Republicans will try to drop-kick each other’s arguments out the ring of public approval.  Recent history offers a guide on what to expect.

When the two sides sparred on television in January, the general consensus was that Obama gave a public relations thumping to the Republicans, at times intellectually dismembering the opposition arguments and other times using his pulpit to remind everyone who is president.  (It got so bad for Republicans that Fox News cut away from live coverage.)  Obama tacitly acknowledged his advantage; when asked well into the Q&A session if he would take more questions, he said “you know, I’m having fun!”

So will Thursday’s summit be another public relations disaster for the Republicans?  A survey of the key public relations tactics and strategies don’t augur well for the minority party:

Home field advantage.  The event will take place at the Blair House, the ornate guest quarters across the street from the White House, effectively putting this on Obama’s turf.  Everyone’s more comfortable when the game’s on their court, and politics is no exception.  (And, Obama did more than hold his own in the last match-up, which was at the Republican winter retreat in Baltimore.)  Advantage: Obama.

The public supports the measuresPolls show that every major component in the proposed legislation has good public support.  This allows Obama to be more confident in advancing the principles of his version of health care policy, and makes it certain that Republicans will have to play strong defense.  When you’re defending, you’re not scoring points.  Advantage: Obama.

Decorum, yes – rules and procedures, no.  Both sides were polite but firm in their arguments in January, and will probably behave the same at the summit.  Still, this isn’t a discussion on legislative turf, and there aren’t cumbersome parliamentary rules to follow – in other words, Obama will again be free to assert the privileges of the presidential pulpit and be more aggressive in parrying and forcing his point of view on the opposition.  Lacking the standing of the highest office in the land, the Republicans won’t have the same capacity to employ those tactics.  (Unless this guy attends – then all bets are off.)  Advantage: Obama.

And that’s just what we know at this point.  Because the event itself is a political novelty, who knows what surprises lurk in the ante rooms, waiting to make the summit a more entertaining affair.  Or maybe it’ll be as dreary as a typical CSPAN replay of clerks reading bill texts.  Either way, I wouldn’t be too thrilled if I were a Republican Member of Congress going into the presidential squared circle on Thursday.