2012 -- The Communications View Ahead

   I always learn something new when I go to the Council of PR Firms Critical Issues Forum. The 2011 event was this past week and Robert Gibbs spoke, the former White House Press Secretary for President Obama. He delivered a perfect keynote presentation -- attuned to the audience, well-timed, thoughtful and chock full of good stories and insights.  In my view, he sure shored up his reputation. A few things caught my attention....

  • Go where your customers are. Gibbs told the story of how he was told that President Obama had some down time in LA during a visit and how he suggested that the president visit the Jay Leno show. Of course, people thought he was crazy but he underscored the importance of going where your voters (customers) are.
  • Use technology strategically. Gibbs decided to use Twitter when he realized he could get a jump on what journalists were thinking before, during and after press conferences.
  • Social media reaches more. In the 2012 election, the social media team will be the largest one in the President's re-election campaign. As he said, it strengthens and grows the brand and insulates it when things go bad. I wanted to tell him that "inoculate" is an even better term to use. Gibbs said to think of this coming year as the Twitter Election. 
  • An event is 2 Tweets.  He said that brands must be disciplined today and since Twitter is how news gets made these days, 2 Tweets = event. Interesting concept, right?
  • Tough times are just that, tough times. The BP/Gulf of Mexico oil spill was one of the toughest times in the White House. Gibbs said he can think of 100 things that they could have done better now. Hindsight.
  • 2008 vs. 2012. Expect to see more story telling from "real" people in the re-election campaign. Stories from real people are powerful validators.
  • Which is harder -- selling products or politicians? Gibbs says politicians.
  • Be careful what you put in writing. This fascinated me. He said that because everything in the White House is archived, people are careful about what they say because it could be totally misunderstood 12 years from now or some such time.  And because of the archiving, no one says anything all that interesting!
  • Get out of the bubble. This is the same for CEOs. Find a way to get real and to be in touch with the average person. President Obama reads 10 letters a day from people who send him letters. He answers them and tries to figure out what can be done. But it keeps him in touch with reality which is sorely needed when living in the White House or DC. CEOs should get out of their offices and ride the subway or the bus when they can.
  • Politics is "yelling for a living." I thought that's exactly right.  And a good note to end on.