Sadly, in this day and age, everything a large entity does can be turned to a competitor’s advantage. While corporate communications can often handle the heavy lifting on how a company presents itself in the media, there are so many channels just laying in wait for spokespeople and other employees to trip over. In some cases, even the most benign things can blow up. Perhaps, President Obama has the trickiest line to tow in this age of instant feedback. The response to his every move has become so absurd in the digital age. It gives communications directors the world over a sigh of relief that they aren’t managing the President Of The United States (POTUS) and constantly teetering on the precipice of digital spin control.
The one thing that is certain is that people will always find fault in anything the President does – even if he were to single-handedly save a dozen children from a flood…and save their puppies too. So, to try to control everything would be a maddening (if not stupid) directive. The hope is that the positive sentiment outweighs the negative and you do the best you can to do the right thing.
Even when he is doing the right thing, and the action seems so innocent and harmless – perhaps, even charming – there can be reasons to shudder. One of those moments came the other night. It could be that it leads to nothing, but I doubt it. The President and First Lady hosted a celebration of Blues music in the White House – much like many, many presidents have hosted musical events in the past. When Buddy Guy, B.B. King and the other musicians prodded the president on to sing along, the President initially declined. After a few more moments of pleading, he demurred and joined in the singing of “Sweet Home Chicago.” Seems nice enough, huh? When I heard him singing that, I cringed. I didn’t cringe because of his singing skills, but the part in the song that he finally came in on – “Come On, Baby don’t you want to go?”
I immediately envisioned the Republican Party playing on that to their heart’s delight. That’s where everything is more of a challenge for the President’s communications managers than it is for any other, because everything can be twisted and presented out of context – and it will.
Certainly, politics has a different set of theatrics around it that corporate culture, but the onslaught of information is still quite there and needing some form of management. There are lessons businesses can take from the Office of the President (any President of any party) and suffuse into their own communications procedures. And, those communications directors can be thankful that they don’t have the level of stress that running communications for POTUS brings – especially if you don’t want him to return to Sweet Home Chicago for at least another four years…