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Applying Business Principles Could Have Helped President Obama with Bill O'Reilly

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President Obama missed an important opportunity to enhance his brand and the brand of the Democratic Party during his interview with Bill O’Reilly at Fox News. He willingly went on Fox Network and yet still seemed to be shocked that his detractors were willing to go to great lengths to highlight his errors and mistakes. Applying business principles could have helped him to shore up his brand.

From a business perspective, the word brand refers to your image or perception in the marketplace. In this case, President Obama’s brand has been damaged as a result of the significant problems with the rollout of his healthcare plan, amongst other hiccups in his administration. The interview with Bill O’Reilly provided an unprecedented opportunity for him to speak to consumers (voters) about his products (policies). He even had a chance to potentially win over the hesitant consumers who did not like his product (some Republicans).

A key business principle that can be applied in this case is market research. Market research answers important questions. For example, “What are competitors saying about your product?” In this case Bill O’Reilly actually gave a preview of this interview with Megyn Kelly at Fox News. (see http://foxnewsinsider.com/2014/01/31/bill-oreilly-previews-his-obama-interview-i-will-interrupt-if-i-have) before he interviewed President Obama. In other words, if the Obama administration was paying attention they could have had a good idea of what questions were going to be asked before they were asked! Having intelligence is crucial to winning any battle.

Next, you have to craft specific responses to questions that will work to enhance your brand. Marketing principles state that your message should be clear and easily understood. With respect to healthcare, it was important take responsibility for mistakes and discuss the corrective action you are taking and any positive changes that have occurred. The President did a fairly good job of this but did not reinforce the positive by repeating his message as required by marketing principles.

Finally, you must seize the opportunity to counter the negative claims that have been made about your product. In this case, the claim from the Republicans that the Obama healthcare plan is a socialist overreach. President Obama should have forcefully made the case that the reason for the Affordable Care Act, or ACA was that healthcare costs are 17% of GDP and are forecasted to continue increase to more than 20% (http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/HeritagePresentation_Bilheimer.pdf) He could have said that, “We as a country faced a serious problem! We cannot afford to have a situation where more than 20 cents out of every dollar is being spent on healthcare.”

He could further state that, “We as a country have to find a solution because this is still going to be an issue long after I have left office. Republicans know that this is an issue as well which is why my Presidential opponent Governor Romney created and passed Romneycare which is very similar to the ACA. Many aspects of my plan have been supported by Republicans in the past. I understand that no one is going to agree with all of my policies but this is a critical issue facing our country.” Note how this statement reaches out to potential “consumers” of all types.

Finally, he could have closed with, “I want to be able to reach out to anyone who has good ideas on how to address this issue and who wants to work with me to find solutions. However, it is very hard to do this when there are factions within the United States that seek to squash any efforts to work with me. If a Governor is roundly criticized for working with him to try and help our citizens who were hard hit by the terrible Hurricane Sandy, then how can we possibly work together on healthcare! I appreciate the opportunity to come on your program and discuss this because, as I said before, this issue is not going away!”

This provides a specific example of Republican obstructionism. It attempts to improve the brand while at the same time, marginalizing those whose only approach is to impede any positive action from the current administration. I believe that this would have been far more effective than simply blaming Fox while providing no examples. That approach sounds like whining and does not win over consumers.

An even more ambitious approach would have been to identify moderate Republicans before the interview and then reach out to them before and after the interview. This would then have provided additional leverage when those Republicans were attacked, especially if they were attacked by Fox News as “RINOs” (Republicans In Name Only) or enemy collaborators.

The strategy that I outlined can be used by any politician, activist or community organizer because it moves beyond condemning or cheerleading. There are always people who are going to dislike you. Ultimately, it is more important that you focus on enhancing your brand and your products. Not all whites or Republicans hate the President. If that was the case, he could not have been elected or re-elected. You don’t need to convert everyone, just reach out to those who are willing to listen. The goal is to enhance your brand and increase your market share, i.e., increase the number of people who are willing to “buy” your product. Even an increase of a few percentage points is significant!

Kevin Martin is an Executive Recruiter and a former technology entrepreneur. He can be reached at By1989@pacificnet.net

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