The photo (below) of a smiling, sunglassed Barack Obama includes a caption. “Sorry it took so long to get you my birth certificate,” it reads. “I was too busy killing Osama bin Laden.” The unattributed humorous photo went virile on the Internet moments after the president’s announcement, serving to frame the issues of the last couple of weeks.
If you agree that America did the right thing by hunting and killing the world’s most wanted terrorist, you probably share the results of a very informal university classroom survey that said President Obama has gotten the post-event messaging right. And if public relations is supposed to be about informing your publics, reinforcing opinions, and/or influencing actions toward a desired result, it certainly seems Mr. Obama is implementing a masterful strategy. The solemn late night announcement; the low-key trip to the Ground Zero firehouse, police station and future memorial; the invitation to President Bush; the congratulations visit to the special operations troops; and the 60 Minutes interview were indeed a victory lap, but the president’s activities accomplished something important: he did his victory dance without spiking the football. It’s been a pitch-perfect display of leadership, void of cockiness and swagger.
And if you’re the president, that, fellow PR practitioners, is how to thumb your nose at the Trumps and Limbaughs of the world. Show leadership by taking an important action, inform your audience, reinforce their opinions, and aim high for your desired result. The week’s real-world events, and the superb communications campaign that followed, seem to have sidelined the silly birth certificate controversy and elevated public opinion of our president–and our nation–here and around the world. A victory lap indeed. Your thoughts?