Tag Archives: white house communications

Cross-Channel Integration – How The White House Made D-Day More Than a Speech

13 Jun

Obama D-Day Collage

       It’s a case of old school vs. new school communication.  Plato vs. Zuckerberg.  That is, speech vs. social media.  But in reality the two can and should complement each other and the White House communications team has just given another example of how to use and integrate these new channels to amplify an important message.  In this case D-Day.

      In many respects, President Barack Obama’s speech in Normandy was itself a teaching machine.  Filled with powerful rhetorical imagery and metaphoric values, he used the world’s oldest form of communication to commemorate and honor the past and reassure the future.

      The president’s opening line was itself masterful in its metaphoric power:

                   If prayer were made of sound, the skies over England that night would have deafened the world.”

 His second sentence was equally illustrative in its imagery:

“Captains paced their decks. Pilots tapped their gauges. Commanders poured over maps, fully aware that for all the months of meticulous planning, everything could go wrong: the winds, the tides, the element of surprise — and above all, the audacious bet that what waited on the other side of the Channel would compel men not to shrink away, but to charge ahead.”

      Gathered among an audience of D-Day veterans and foreign leaders the president had three clear goals in this address.  First, to remember and acknowledge sacrifices paid on the beaches of Normandy and to keep the story alive.  He did it in the form of a rhetorical challenge:

                   Whenever the world makes you cynical — stop and think of these men.”

     Second, the president needed to reassure America’s European allies that it’s un-waivered in its commitment to a free continent.  Finally, he had to acknowledge the continuing sacrifice U.S. service members are still giving in a post 9-11 world:

“And as today’s wars come to an end, this generation of servicemen and women will step out of uniform. They, too, will build families and lives of their own. They, too, will become leaders in their communities, in politics, in commerce and industry — the leaders we need for the beachheads of our time. God willing, they, too, will grow old in the land they helped keep free. And someday, future generations, whether seventy or seven hundred years hence, will gather at places like this to honor them — and to say that these were generations of men and women who proved once again that the United States of America is and will remain the greatest force for freedom the world has ever known.”


D-Day Blog WH Facebook

Figure 1 – White House Facebook post of the D-Day event linking to a YouTube video.

        For a president severely struggling at home and in congress, it may have been one of his better moments.  But the challenge for the White House was not letting the message disappear into the sands of Normandy.  Major media coverage significantly helped.   But as an established brand, the White House also controls its own messaging, and in this case it tactically coordinated and integrated the D-Day message across multiple media channels to ensure it was targeted to a series of narrow audiences for the widest possibly reach. (Figure 1)

         First and foremost, was the YouTube video of the speech.  But the White House communications team also targeted separate messages, pictures, and excerpts of the speech to individual social media channels. (Figure 2)  The multi-channel integration creates a hub and spoke network to target individual audiences where they live in social media.  

Figure 2 - The White House cross-channel integration profile.

Figure 2 – The White House cross-channel integration profile.

    In an age of modern communication it’s a smart strategic use of social media to amplify a message and engage participation.  If there was any fault in this particular strategy, it’s in the fact that the communications team should have tactically posted more images and messages throughout the day with a more coordinated effort in each post to link and drive audiences to the blog and the YouTube speech.   In that respect, it’s one miscue an otherwise disciplined communications team.

      It doesn’t have to be a presidential speech.  The lessons for brands, corporate communication teams and non-profits alike are profound.  Compelling content doesn’t have to live and die in a single space.   Integration across multiple channels is key—and often free.  The White House team gives a useful strategic road map for communicators to follow.

Obama on Gun Control — A Message Management Case Study

30 Mar
President Obama's gun safety push presented as the lede story on the NBC Nightly News on March 28, 2013

President Obama’s gun safety push presented as the lede story on the NBC Nightly News on March 28, 2013

              President Obama’s latest push on gun safety was hardly a shot in the dark.   His call for universal background checks on March 28th was a highly coordinated, multi-event, multi-channel message that offers a strategic communication model on a dynamic public policy issue.

                 With the raw emotions subsiding over the tragic Sandy Hook school shootings and the success of gun rights advocates at thwarting new legislative bans on military-style semiautomatic rifles, the Obama administration clearly needed to re-engage public opinion and build groundswell.    With little political support for banning military-style assault rifles, his new objective is keeping alive the proposal of universal background checks for all gun purchases.  The new strategy involves putting public pressure on congress.  The new tactics involved a national day of action with a highly coordinated series of events and social media engagements that would swamp news coverage and buzz in a 24-hour cycle. 

Figure 1 - Barak Obama Tweet on March 28, 2013

Figure 1 – Barak Obama Tweet on March 28, 2013

                 At the core of the new strategy was a White House press event featuring the victims and survivors of gun violence.  

               “Tears are not enough,” said the President. 

               He urged activists and citizens alike to “turn that heartbreak into something real” by urging their congressmen to pass meaningful gun control legislation.  By using the bully pulpit of the presidency, Obama was able to command the necessary national news coverage and earn the A-1 lede slot on the network evening news. 

Accent Signage shooting survivor John Souter speaking at a Minneapolis news conference.

Accent Signage shooting survivor John Souter speaking at a Minneapolis news conference.

                But just as important to the strategy was sending the same message to communities across the country, especially in blue states such as Minnesota and communities where gun violence is a salient issue.  In that effort the White House coordinated with gun safety organizations to hold more than 100 media events across the country that day featuring local gun violence victims pleading for action.                         

               In Minneapolis, the event featured John Souter, a survivor of the tragic workplace shooting at Accent Signage on September 27th.  Six of his co-workers died.  Souter was shot twice.   It was his first time speaking about the unspeakable.                 

                “How has it changed me?” contemplated Souter.   “I’m not the same person that’s for sure.  I don’t laugh like I used to.  These things are with you every day.”

                He commanded the attention of every news camera, every reporter’s notebook in town.  The local news conferences served as a force multiplier to the president by ensuring that local gun violence victims would be seen and positioned next to the president’s remarks in the evening news coverage.


Barak Obama Facebook post on March 28th, 2013

Figure 2 –  Barak Obama Facebook post on March 28, 2013

                It was also no accident that in the middle of Souter’s emotional testimony, the Barack Obama Twitter page posted a simple message:  “Fact:  Since 1968, 1.3 million Americans have died from gun violence.” (Figure 1)                                

               The more than a half a dozen tweets were joined by Obama’s Facebook posting of an infographic showing support for universal background checks seemingly as popular at apple pie. (Figure 2)  The posting received 64,000 likes and more than 10,000 shares. 

               Likewise, the video of the president’s White House speech immediately uploaded to YouTube recieved nearly 13,000 views. (See video below)              

                By the metrics of social media engagements, earned media, and buzz, the strategy was superbly executed.    It shows that strategic engagement is no accident and it offers a modern model in multi-channel communication.   But real success in this case is whether the strategy activates votes in congress.  For the moment that is a much harder task.  The whip counts are still out.

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