A few days before the Nov. 4 election, PRWeek asked communications professionals who would win the race for the White House: Those polled predicted an Obama victory, saying the campaign’s social media tactics and remarkable fundraising efforts would contribute to an electoral edge.

Barack Obama won the presidency in a 53-46 victory over John McCain, with many – both the mainstream media and political bloggers – attributing the win to the factors predicted by those solicited in the PRWeek poll.

Pollster Jeff Booms says the Obama win indicates a broad move to interactive communications as opposed to conventional, Independent/center-appeal strategy – a tactic unsuccessfully employed by the McCain campaign.

The online strategy continues post-election win: Obama has a Web site,change.gov, for his transition to the White House. On change.gov, you can follow Obama headlines, blog in the virtual newsroom, learn about his cabinet and the inauguration, and get in-depth details about the Obama-Biden agenda on a variety of topics – e.g., the economyIraq and taxes.

On each of these Web pages, a blue box displays in the center of the page, headlined: “Of the People, By the People.” Visitors to the transition Web site are invited to submit ideas to be “part of the change you’re looking for.”

Obama is inviting the conversation and interactivity to continue – and no stopping on his transition site: Generations after Franklin Roosevelt used a new medium to communicate to Americans, Obama is now using a new medium by recording his weekly presidential addresses on YouTube.

(Quoth the Associated Press: “This isn’t your grandfather’s fireside chat.”)

If President-elect Obama’s first weekly YouTube address is any indication, he may be on track to have more touch points than any president before him: As of Nov. 23, there have been more than 920,000 YouTube hits to his first address and more than 365,000 in his second. More touch points can translate into higher support of his administration’s actions and programs.

It’s clear Obama wants to be transparent and up front with both Americans and those abroad. By communicating to an audience via a medium they use daily, he not only remains regularly visible, but also he can communicate issues directly to his strongest supporters and encourage action.

So do these efforts tell us how Obama will govern as president? Not decisively; however, it gives us some insight into how he’s begun to make good on the promise that he’ll consult the expertise of Americans to inform the government.

Now whether he’ll continue to listen remains to be seen. Although he’s giving the impression he will be a proponent of new media, unless he’s going to change the top-down strategy of the presidency, he’s going to be hard-pressed to change the system too dramatically: The Oval Office can comfortably house approximately 10 of the president’s closest advisers – but not 3.1 million advisers.

Still, this is not to say there’s any doubt the way a president will communicate with the public, and indeed the image of the presidency itself, will not change dramatically in the next four years. Obama has always been inclusive in his messaging, and his YouTube addresses thus far have not strayed from that language.

If nothing else, we’ll likely start hearing Obama saying things like he was moved by the plight of an auto industry worker who blogged on the White House site instead of talking about the struggling auto workers he met in Michigan.

–posted by Ryan Curell

Originally posted November 25, 2008 at PolicyByBlog

Leave a Reply