communications strategy

Will the Republicans Have a YouTube Response to the President's Saturday Address?

Okay, so here's a question. Two months ago, Barack Obama made the entirely obvious and predictable move to put his Saturday address as President-elect on YouTube, something we can expect to see continue this week as President. It's understandable that George W. Bush didn't break with eight years of precedent to follow suit, but now that they've had two months to prepare, will the customary Republican response also be by YouTube, or will it be radio-only, setting up an unfortunate contrast between a 21st century President and a 20th century opposition? 

If you think we have more important things to worry about, like the stimulus or health care, I agree with you. I think it's silly to have a debate over whether the address should be on radio or the Internet, and that's exactly what the unforced error of sticking with the outmoded radio address will provoke. Does anyone know anyone who actually listened to the radio addresses anyway? Even when I listened to talk radio, I only ever saw them replayed on cable news, and so a video format would work much better there.

Hopefully whoever is coordinating this, which I assume is some combination of House & Senate leadership, will have gotten the memo now that they've had two months to prepare. At noon tomorrow, we can expect to see the most open WhiteHouse.gov ever, likely with a blog and YouTube channel -- with many of the restrictions on Executive Branch web activity conveniently reinterpreted or eventually done away with by Executive Order in a couple of days. Obama will bring the new media savvy of his campaign to the White House, with an eye towards doing to Republicans in governing what he did to them campaigning. We need to be ready.

This isn't the end of the world, but optics do matter in situations like these. Stephen Harper hanging on as Prime Minister in Canada can be chalked up to at least partly to a media flub like this one. At the height of the parliamentary crisis last month when the Liberal-NDP coalition had the votes to oust Harper's Conservatives, Liberal leader Stephane Dion went on television with a poorly produced and widely criticized tape-delayed rebuttal to Harper that was a factor in his early removal as Liberal leader. The new leader, Michael Ignatieff, has been noticeably cooler to the idea of a coalition.

So let's not have a needless round of stories about Republicans being behind in tactics and technology, shall we? Let's keep the focus on ideas by avoiding needless bad publicity and bringing our communications strategies into the 21st century.

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