Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama is in hot water because he had a conversation that should have been private in front of a hot microphone. You can learn more about that story here.



This blog post isn’t about Obama; it is about the fact that you need to be vigilant when dealing with the media – especially when there is a camera, microphone or audio recorder involved. Obama is a smart guy, he deals with the media on a daily basis… it was a lapse in judgment. And it happens to the best of us.



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There has been much talk (online and off) about how Kayne West created a scene at the Video Music Awards recently. Apparently, Kayne stormed the stage when Taylor Swift was accepting her award for video of the year, grabbed the microphone and announced that he thought Beyonce should have won the award. You can read more about the incident on Rolling Stone.

Then, ABC news reporter Terry Moran tweeted that, during an interview with his network, President Obama called Kayne a “jackass” for his outburst. Turns out, the part where (allegedly) Obama called Kayne a “jackass” was off the record. ABC quickly pulled the tweet down, but not before it had been picked up by Politico.com. You can read a piece on it here and see the tweet here.

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There is a very interesting blog post at techpresident.com focusing on the tech side of Obama’s first 100 days in office. Don’t let the word “tech” throw you off – the technology used is important, but it’s just a vehicle for communication and conversation. As a communicator, this article hits some key points that you will find relevant.

In speaking at events, delivering workshops and collaborating with clients – many of the points touched upon in this article come up. Obama has made a commitment to move toward a more open and transparent form of Government – and while there are steps being taken to do this, it takes time. This is a big paradigm shift. Not just for the people implementing the tools, technology and developing the strategy, policy and process, but also for the people who are being asked to join the conversation. The logistical side takes time and resources, so does the culture shift.

This article also points out some of the misses from the Obama team; some initiatives are slower on the uptake or haven’t hit their stride yet. There are no hard and fast “blueprints” for opening up the conversation and making it work. There is some experimentation involved and some things will resonate with your community (the people formerly called “The Audience”) and some won’t. Sometimes, no matter how much research you do, you won’t know until you try.

We often refer to The Obama Standard. He has done a good job of starting the process of creating a government that provides a voice – through a range of initiatives including social media – to the people. While he has a much bigger budget than most organizations, he is still working through it step-by-step, project-by-project, and asking for input as they learn what works and what doesn’t.

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There is change in the air in America – and it smells fresh and new. As President Obama was giving his inaugural speech yesterday and taking over the office of the Commander-in-Chief, a switch was flipped on www.whitehouse.gov. This site got a makeover that includes a new blog. With a focus on transparency, the new administration is posting all non-emergency legislation on this site so that the public can read it and comment before the President signs it.

Last year, I attended a social media conference where Bev Godwin, Director of USA.gov spoke. It’s not as though President Obama is introducing the Federal Government to Web 2.0, there has been movement towards a more transparent and interactive approach online for quite some time. The Department of Defense, Homeland Security, U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force are all active and interactive online. At the conference, Ms. Godwin spoke about the opportunity that social media presents in reaching out and creating authentic conversations that provide value for everyone involved, not just the politicians.

Now, with a leader who really “gets it,” it will be very interesting to see what happens when social media is embraced from the highest office in the U.S. and what kind of change will be created by embracing and increasing this kind of two-way communication.

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Obama understands the power of online communication – and I don’t mean because he understands how to use twitter and LinkedIN and Facebook. He gets when and why to use it…he connects. He has conversations that are inclusive and engaging and they make each of us – even if we aren’t American – feel like we are a part of something special, something historic, and something real. By including us, he also makes us feel accountable, responsible and engaged. We now feel that we need to step up and do our part to change the world.

Once the election was over, I have to admit, I wondered what was going to happen to Obama’s web-values approach to keeping us on the team. As President Elect, he is now developing the strategy to transition into President. And as President, things change. According to a New York Times piece, he is going to have to give up his BlackBerry thanks to security issues and the Presidential Records Act, which puts his correspondence in the record and ultimately up for public review.

I wondered how Obama would hold onto his story telling, inclusive, engaging approach that has inspired and excited not just a nation, but people around the world. Could he breakdown the barriers between old school U.S. government websites and the Obama way of Twitter, email and text messages? I have to admit, I had my doubts.

I shouldn’t have worried. Right after the election he launched a new site, that has all of the tone and feel of his old site, which now has a holding page that asks you to help the victims of the wildfires in California.

Obama built up a loyal following – a community, a tribe, a movement…whatever you call it, it’s obvious that being elected President of the United States of America doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to keep up the relationship. Obama is an exceptional example of a communicator. The Web was made for him.

It will be interesting to see what the YouTube loving President Elect does for online media while in office. I think the fact that he has embraced it and found success in using it, will help more organizations to see the value in it.

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