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PR v Marketing; Who's WinningOnline? Part 2 - The Obama Brand


From the first part of this series we learned that both PR (relationship building) and marketing (selling) win online when they are used in an integrated fashion. Both disciplines are needed for an online communication strategy to be effective.


Success is when a brand authentically declares its value, offers ways to connect with it and, particularly important with online communication, allows interactions with the brand to influence it.

Ultimately it's not whether a discipline wins, but the brand.


What about the Obama "brand"?

ObamasCandidate Obama had a good online integrated communication strategy. President Obama, however, shows what happens when marketing strategies are employed at a greater level than PR.



Do you remember the "Yes WeCan" viral Obama campaign video? Here's a memory jogger:


Now take a look at President Obama's Twitter page:!/barackobama or Facebook page:


There is a stark difference between the video and the current online media campaign:




Facebook and Twitter pages

Social Currency (worth repeating)

Cool and worth sending to friends = has social currency

Not cool and more 'newsy' than inspired = would not forward to a friend and would not follow or friend at this point


Inspired speech turned into RAP = the people's, especially young people's, authentic voice

Postings seem more like snippets from speeches, that Obama did not write = lack of authenticity

Evidence of brand "listening" prior to messaging to reflect constituency voice

Many people communicating one message = shared, symmetric communication

One person communicating many messages to many people = asymmetric communication


 'We are all in this together and I am just one person who can carry our voices forward. Yes We Can."

"Let me tell you what I'm doing and how you can support me and/or my efforts."



There are more differences, but you get the point.


The Two-Way PR Master

In the online campaign video candidate Obama seemed to hear what people were thinking. His message was inclusive and he spoke 'the people's language,' making voters think they could actually have a relationship with him and be included in his presidency; especially younger voters.


The One-Way Marketer

President Obama seems to use social media to sell us something and communicate with uslike we are outsiders. We no longer hear the 'voice of the people' in President Obama's online media.


In Practice

It is no wonder democrats were angered when President Obama compromised and extended tax cuts in late 2010. His base already felt like they were not part of the Obama administration's decision-making process and President Obama proved they were right. Just a month earlier young voters who helped put him into office, did not show up for the 2010 mid-term elections. The result of communicating one-way and not reflecting your base online and otherwise, has real consequences.


The Hero

On the other hand, President Obama answered 'the people's call' when he spoke at the memorial in Tucson Arizona. As loud as some partisan voices got, President Obama's speech reflected what the nation felt and what we wanted to hear to heal. Obama, the brand we met in 2008, was back.


The Wise Strategist - Integration

Sometimes a brand cannot always reflect what all of its stakeholders want, but it should communicate that it's aware of what it can or will not do. This is where integrated PR and Marketing skills come into play; using relationship to negotiate one's position.


In a day and age when brands can change with online interactivity, reflecting the changing demands of one's constituency while maintaining key relationship factors (emotional bonds) with loyalists is vital for brand survival. One-way strategies must be integrated with two-way. It's as simple as that.



President Obama will have a hard, if not impossible, time going back to the candidate Obama we knew in 2008. Once people feel their leaders have stopped listening and/or they do notfeel a part of the message, loyalty can be lost and brand messages are not carried forward. Constituents and consumers may actually act against a campaign. (Nothing like a voter scorned.) But, as noted, we saw a glimpse of candidate Obama in January, 2011 and for about 24 hours, all was forgiven.


Sure, President Obama can't rap his speeches, but candidate Obama didn't either. Candidate Obama let the people, the grassroots online people, carry messages forward in their unique voices because they thought their voice counted and could make a difference. They thought they were part of the conversation.


It's time President Obama shows the online community and the nation in general that we matter again and truly join the ranks discussing the struggles of this rough economy.


Madison would be a place for that. The majority of Americans can relate with not wanting to be bullied by government.

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