Shaping the Conversation

Once again, President Obama is using the internet to get his message out the way he wants. Over the last week, he has gone on a national tour to promote his economic package and get the message out to American’s that the economy is on the road to recovery.

On Tuesday, he had a large question and answer session with the national press. You’ve probably seen this before: he stands at a podium in the Whitehouse and answers poignant questions from the White House Press Corps. All well and good – especially if you are over 50 and don’t really use mediums other than news and TV to get your daily intake of the news.

But Obama realizes that he’s missing a huge portion of Americans by only having a large press conference – most notably, younger citizens who were a key reason why he won the election in the first place.

To get his message to them, he’s doing something very simple but revolutionary – especially when it comes to the Presidency – he’s hosting an session online where he takes questions from anyone. The session is occuring today and the White House reports that by 7AM this morning there were over 77,000 questions already submitted. Obama will answer key questions and use the forum to continue his public campaign to spread the word about the state of the economy.

Detractors would say that this is just a stunt. That real people who submit quesions have an extremely low chance of having them answered and that the Moderators will just pick the layups that best-fit Obama’s pre-determined responses. Maybe.

For the people who actually do get a question through, it will be a pretty cool feeling (“Hey mom, Barack just answered one of my questions!”). I think the people who should be really interested in this approach, though, are onces who have made their living as ‘traditional’ journalists.

Here is the message Obama is sending to them: “You don’t control the whole story anymore. I will get my message out, my way.”

In the past, the White House question period was one of the most important parts of the democratic process. Veteran reporters, through their investigations and stories, asked educated questions and reported back to the world how the President and his team responded. They shaped the stories that the world consumed and that was that.

Now Obama is using the web to speak directly – on a one to one level – with his citizens.

For brands out there who are still afraid of blogging or getting involved in the conversation, this should be the greatest example ever of how to show them that you must participate actively to get your message out properly. If you’re brand thinks it would be hard (due to the types of comments they might get or the conversation that might be generated), imagine how tough it would be for a President.

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