The Obama White House is coming to realize just how much of a reputation hit it is taking on the disaster that is the Affordable Care Act registration and information website. What could the White House have done and what does it have to do now to limit further damage?
- Then: Leading up to Oct. 1, President Obama and promoters of the ACA could have explained just how enormous an undertaking this website was, how complex and unprecedented the lines of code, the huge capability it has to undertake and "billboard" inevitable glitches as this kind of site is without precedent.
- Now: Speak to the importance of the law and the benefits and contextualize as many conversations (and complaints) about the website with the overarching messages about the Act itself. President Obama is attempting to do this, but needs to up his game and deputize others to “sell” the law, not the registration site.
- Now: Disasters need a culprit. One known failing of the president is to follow through when he claims there will be accountability. Be it the IRS scandal, Benghazi or now the ACA website, the people need a name.
Most of all, vague and canned responses like “We will fix this” and “We will get to the bottom of this” without communicating specific action, without emphasizing the larger benefit of the legislation and without a named culprit will continue to cast a pall over 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Jerry Doyle will be leading a media training session at PR News' Media Relations Next Practices Conference on Dec. 12, at Washington, D.C.'s National Press Club. He is principle of CommCore Consulting Group and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.