Dear President Obama:
You’re not going to read this. Republicans will read it and roll their eyes. Democrats will read it and grind their teeth.
But I’ll feel better, because this crap is driving me crazy, and I finally wrote it all down.
You need a marketing plan. As President, your job is as much communication as content. All your brilliant, data-driven planning fails because we don’t get to see it. So, here’s how you let us in:
Get us focused on jobs
First, stop letting other people drive the conversation. This isn’t about deficits or taxes. It’s about jobs.
- Develop a short, easy-to-remember message. May I recommend “Actions, not words”? Or “Jobs are all that matter”?
- Shut down diversions. When someone yells about deficit reduction, reply “How will that create jobs?” Because none of our problems go away without more jobs. They know it. You know it. We know it. Remind us.
- Develop unified messaging. Get your talking points in order, and out to your troops. Have an answer ready for trickle-down theorists. Have another answer ready for deficit hawks. And so on. Publish these talking points online, where everyone can see them. Push them to your supporters, so everyone’s saying the same thing.
- Set 12 achievable goals, one per month, for the next 12 months. For example: “In October, we are going to create [insert quantity] jobs by [describe program]. When someone says “That costs money!” simply ask them “How will you create [insert quantity] jobs?” Don’t let them change the subject. Jobs. Jobs. Jobs.
- Use data to make eye contact. Keep score on results. Show progress towards your goals in a simple, clear format. And show who voted which way.
- Forget everything else. Everything. Focus on your message. Focus on your customers. There’s only one thing any sane American cares about right now: Jobs. If there are more jobs, markets go up, businesses invest, and the economy improves. Without jobs, spending cuts make us the owners of a 100% paid-for slum.
Bypass the BS
Second, don’t play a game of telephone with the American public. You can speak directly to us, so do it.
- Do a weekly, YouTube-delivered, 20-minute talk. This is where you get to go into more detail. Say what your administration’s up to, why it will help, and how. Tell us which goals got to a vote, and which ones got stopped dead. And tell us who did it. Tell it directly to us.
- Tweet it. You’re good at that.
- Post it to Facebook.
- Post it to Google Plus.
- Make this about us. Every day, profile one unemployed person who could have a job under your programs. Then say “If we achieve [goal description], this person will have a job.” If someone says it’s a political stunt, say “You bet. I’ll do whatever I can to get people back to work.”
- Make an app (yes, I said it) that lets folks get the latest video, scorecard (see above) and talking points.
- Most important, make a direct connection. Speak with real Americans in an environment and in a way that clearly shows you understand their problems and hopes. Watch this key moment from the 1992 Presidential debate. Be sure to watch 2:28 and how Gov. Clinton completely took over the conversation. This is when George Bush Sr. lost the election. Learn from it.
Speak to your customers
- Don’t try to sell to customers who hate you. In other words, forget the far Right. They have no interest or incentive to work with you. That’s not their job.
- Don’t try to sell to customers who ignore you. In other words, don’t look to Democrats in Congress. They won’t help you. They’re as entrenched as their Republican counterparts.
- Sell to your customers: Voters. Me. Your customers agreed with you from the start. Tell us about infrastructure investment and jobs programs. If the Tea Party starts bleating about job-killing taxes, just answer “Actions, not words, please.”
- Tell the story. In every economic downturn since the 1850s, one thing has helped: Growth and job creation. Not spending cuts. Look it up. Then tell that story, again and again. Because this is about jobs.
Pull us together
Get all of us together, behind the idea that everyone has potential worth investing in. Don’t be one more politician lecturing us about limitations and belt-tightening when so many people don’t even have belts. Make it clear: We, not Congress, create a growing economy, and you’re our leader. If we chase the Tea Party or hand-wringing Congressmen, we’re following sound bites. If we work with you, we’re following someone with a plan.
That makes for a pretty clear choice, doesn’t it?