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Posts Tagged ‘President Barack Obama’

Spinning the ObamaCare Rollout: A Messaging Case Study

Or it WILL be open at some point.

In one of recent history’s most amazing coincidences, the day the federal government “shut down” happens to be the very same day that the statewide health insurance exchanges forming the core of the Affordable Care Act start up. The number of conflicting messages delivered by parties with diametrically opposed goals is enough to make you dizzy.

The big focus so far has been on tech issues. Yesterday Department of Health and Human Services head Kathleen Sebelius told reporters that, because operational glitches are inevitable, the public should “give us the same slack you give Apple”; President Obama made the same argument in a later speech on the shutdown-rollout event. On the other side of the aisle, Fox News debuted a running “ObamaCare glitch watch” thread to chronicle every problem reported by users.

Whatever happens regarding the law, today and the weeks ahead will make for a great case study in future public relations courses because all statements amount to strategic political positioning. It’s almost certainly safe to say that a majority of those logging in and reporting on the exchanges do so with either political or journalistic goals in mind, so here’s a review of competing messages:

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Ticketmaster Screws Up Obama Inauguration Event

Barack Obama 2009 Inauguration courtesty of Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeleyWe’re going to go ahead and make a wild over-generalization here: Ticketmaster is not the public’s favorite company.

Another totally unsupported assumption: President Obama‘s inauguration won’t inspire quite as big a party in 2013 as it did in 2009. But there will be an event and a parade–and fans were supposed to be able to buy tickets through Ticketmaster yesterday. Unfortunately, the company screwed the whole thing up big time.

Tix were supposed to go on sale on Monday the 8th, but somebody within the Ticketmaster organization (whose name happens to be “Technical Error”) accidentally sent an email on Sunday announcing the availability of the tickets–which promptly sold out. So the mistake was twofold, really: Not only did the message go out early, but the tickets were available early as well. Oh, and the seller’s site was predictably “overwhelmed” by traffic, “slowing the purchasing process.’’

Ticketmaster’s response? Yeah, that kinda sucks–but get over it, people.

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NRA’s Media Team Goes Silent After Newtown Tragedy

National Rifle AssociationFriday’s horrific violence in Newtown, Connecticut, understandably dominated every corner of the American media this weekend.

Many citizens (most prominently President Obama) spoke of taking every available step to prevent similar shootings in the future while others warned against politicizing the tragedy. Quite a few Americans also had energetic debates about gun control, both online and off. Even West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who built a campaign around disagreeing with his party’s leaders on gun rights, suggested that the nation must now have a “sensible” dialogue on gun control.

Nearly every business and organization in the country, from The National School Board to a group representing the families of Virginia Tech shooting victims, made some sort of official statement. Yet the nonprofit at the center of America’s relationship with guns was conspicuously silent: The National Rifle Association has not released an official statement or tweet since the tragedy, and its Facebook page is no longer visible today. While officials at both the NRA and Facebook have not responded to requests for comment, bloggers at TechCrunch speculated that the group took its page offline in order to “avoid hosting flame wars” between commentors on opposing sides of the gun control issue. Knowing the nature of online debates as well as we do, we think that was a very good idea.

We sympathize with the NRA’s position from a PR perspective:

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Obama PR Team Recasts Victory as ‘Revenge of the Nerds’

President Barack ObamaIf you’re anything like us, you remember the 2012 election as a long, unpleasant string of joke candidates, gaffes, Twitter fights, terrible debate performances and attack ads. The Obama campaign’s PR team, however, would like the public to see the president’s re-election as a very modern tale of data nerds winning the day.

As Jason Zengerle’s essay in New York Magazine demonstrates, research and tech tools played an outsized role in ensuring that the president’s campaign apparatus raised more money and recruited more volunteers in ‘12 than in ’08—despite the fact that most supporters weren’t quite as enthusiastic as they had been four years ago. Since election day, the press team has worked hard to push this story by staying positive and emphasizing the importance of app makers and number crunchers in the re-election campaign.

So how did these nerds do it?

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Apple’s ‘Made in USA’ Plan: Good PR, Bad Strategy or Both?

Tim Cook and Brian WilliamsApple CEO Tim Cook made the media rounds this morning to hype a major announcement: For the first time in well over a decade, Apple will be manufacturing a certain number of its products within the United States.

As cynics, we see this move as a blatant attempt to counter all the bad PR that Apple received over the Foxconn outsourcing/slave labor/suicide scandal (though we would note that this awful story didn’t really prevent anyone, least of all ourselves, from buying Apple products).

The fact that late CEO Steve Jobs supposedly denied a request for more domestic production from none other than President Obama strengthens this theory. As much as we’ve accepted outsourcing as a part of the modern business landscape, everyone loves to hear about good new jobs for Americans. So this is great PR, right?

Maybe–but investors hated it, and we have a feeling certain Apple advisers did too.

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Execs’ Anti-Obama Rants Hurt Restaurant Brands

Papa John's CEO Several men who work as managers and CEOs of chain restaurants don’t much care for President Obama’s signature health insurance law—and they haven’t been shy about letting everyone know it via their respective media megaphones.

Their outrage may have something to do with the fact that chain restaurants, despite employing millions of Americans, very often do not provide health insurance for their workers. While these men have every right to voice their outrage, a recent YouGov BrandIndex report implies that their opinions may be hurting their brands.

Examples from the past month:

  • An owner of several Applebee’s branches claimed that “…we won’t build more restaurants. We won’t hire more people” due to the additional costs of insuring employees via “Obamacare.”
  • A south Florida man who runs several Denny’s and Dairy Queen locations discussed his plans to add a 5% surcharge to all orders in order to cover the anticipated cost of the legislation, telling customers that “if they really feel so inclined, they can reduce the amount of tip they give to the server, who is the primary beneficiary of Obamacare.”
  • After reports led some to believe that Obamacare would force him to close stores, fire workers and raise prices, Papa John’s CEO (and major Mitt Romney fundraiser) John Schnatter recently took to The Huffington Post to clarify his statements on the matter, writing that everybody just needs to calm down because all of his restaurants plan to “honor the law.”

There’s little doubt that these statements paint the men who made them as jackasses, yet the YouGov brand report hints that the damage runs deeper: these execs’ anti-Obamacare rants have led the public to lose respect for their brands.

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Will The White House’s New Social Media Strategy Work?

The White House Twitter Feed ImageThere’s no question that The White House knows its way around social media—President Obama’s “four more years” Instagram tweet quickly became the most liked and shared message in history.

Of course, officials like the President don’t just use Twitter and Facebook to post adorable pictures of themselves and their families—they also use it to drive strategy and influence policy. And yet, as we’ve seen in the past, social media is an unwieldy animal that many political groups struggle to master.

Exactly one year ago, The White House used Twitter to push an effort to extend a “payroll tax cut” that affected millions of Americans. That effort ultimately proved successful, but now Obama faces a new and potentially bigger challenge involving the much-discussed “fiscal cliff” that would result in massive spending cuts and the elimination of George W. Bush-era tax cuts if not addressed by congress before the New Year.

Obama recently debuted the hashtag #My2K, named for the approximately $2000 in yearly tax increases that would theoretically affect millions of middle-class Americans if congress doesn’t act. He tweeted his millions of followers encouraging them to offer personal stories of what that $2K might mean to them and their families—and to direct those messages to their representatives.

Sounds like a well-planned PR strategy—but will it work?

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Mr. Burns Endorses Mitt Romney

Today in Yes, It’s Still Election Day News: we bring you another attempt to add some levity to the political process. While director Joss Whedon endorses Obama because “a vote for Romney is a vote for the zombie apocalypse”, Springfield’s most famous villainous rich guy, Montgomery Burns, sits firmly in the Mitt camp.

Like all things related to The Simpsons, this video isn’t quite as funny as it would have been in, say, 1996. Why? Well, the spot’s writers make their political sensibilities quite obvious throughout, and most of the jokes revolve around the election season’s big, worn-out memes. Enough with the Seamus story already! Still, we respect even half-hearted attempts to bring humor into the joyless world of politics.

Speaking of which, we haven’t seen many genuinely funny anti-Obama spots this year. Anybody?

PR Win: Governor Christie Officially Postpones Halloween

In case you didn’t notice, this has been a tough week for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, he of the quick wit, sharp temper and big ambitions.

His state was hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy, and we’d say it’s safe to assume he hasn’t gotten much sleep over the past three or four days: You may have watched him berate the mayor of Atlantic City for encouraging residents to stay at city shelters despite an earlier evacuation order; you may have heard him uncharacteristically praise President Obama’s storm response as “outstanding”; you may have seen footage of him together with the President this afternoon as the two surveyed the storm’s damage by helicopter.

This was all well and good, but today marks a far greater achievement for the Governor: he was won the week’s “best PR stunt posing as a government order” contest by officially postponing Halloween.

What does this mean, exactly? Let’s read the end of the official release, complete with charmingly arcane language:

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Hillary Clinton Is Such a Tease

Hillary Clinton certainly knows how to play the keep ‘em guessing game, doesn’t she?

The Secretary of State is one of the most popular politicians in the country and the overwhelming favorite for the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination. She knows how valuable her brand is, and she’s not afraid to dangle a big carrot in front of reporters’ noses.

She’s long insisted that she plans to step down after the election and repeatedly claimed to have no interest in running for the country’s highest office again (we can hardly blame her). But a recent Wall Street Journal interview (subscribers only, sorry) has the political classes chattering about the possibility of big future moves from a woman with more political capital than anyone else around.

Some choice takeaways from the interview:

  • Hillary calls herself a representative of the “American brand” engaging in “public diplomacy”
  • She loves the fact that her job doesn’t require her to blow dry her hair
  • Regarding a 2016 run, she has officially “ruled it out.”
  • She plans to step down if President Obama wins re-election, but says “A lot of people have talked to me about staying.”

And—here’s the big one—she calls the prospect of her staying with the administration “unlikely.”

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