Gibbs, Clooney, Obama + Packaging the Goods

To be a fly-on-the-wall at a meeting with the U.S. president, his cabinet and press secretary would be quite insightful, don’t you think?  Robert Gibbs, former press secretary under Obama, shared a few good stories during his keynote at the Oct 27 Council of PR Firms “Critical Issues Forum” in New York.  He recalled many meetings where his colleagues blamed the public’s disappointment in the President, a policy or recent government action on lack of communication –  as in, “if we just communicated this better, the public would like us and support/ratings would rise”.  Gibbs lamented the refrain that not enough or not the right communication/messaging was to blame. As a communicator, you might relate to this scenario. Gibbs insinuated that sometimes – just sometimes – the new legislation or action wasn’t good – and no matter how much spin you put on it, the public (including the press) wouldn’t like it. Sometimes the product you promote or the company you represent is faulty or at fault. But you still have a job to do.

It is beholden on the press secretary or the PR counsel to find the right words and positioning that most favors their agenda.  George Clooney, in his “Ten Questions” interview this month with Time, went a step further on this theme. An Obama supporter, Clooney nevertheless noted that the President is under-appreciated and under-recognized for his many accomplishments and that his circle of people are not packaging the news in their favor. Clooney noted about Obama:  “When his back’s against the wall, he’s always terrific. He should sometimes bone up on some of the day-to-day skills of communication.”

Easy for Clooney to say and harder for someone in Gibbs’ position to help execute.  Which is why being a fly on the wall is a nice place to be sometimes (until you get swatted).

– Diane Schwartz

On Twitter: @dianeschwartz

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