President Obama's failure to communicate the benefits of the new healthcare law is a blunder made by his administration that simply didn’t have to be.
Yesterday, I had lunch with one of the smartest people in healthcare PR. He is absolutely flabbergasted that Obama didn’t invite a dozen healthcare communicators to the White House for a session on promoting the then-bill, now law, to the American people.
The PR counselor said he would have met with the president in a heartbeat, proud to provide advice on a measure that promises to provide coverage to millions of the now uninsured. He is confident that other healthcare people feel the same way.
The only problem: the call never came. How come?
Is it because Obama is way too insular, surrounded and dependent on a Chicago crew of long-time advisors like Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod? Is it that fact-based Obama simply doesn’t get PR’s value of education and persuasion? Or, did Obama fear GOP wrath about receiving tips from so-called flacks and spinmeisters out to bamboozle the public?
Even the Bush Administration, which wasn’t exactly PR and information-friendly, called in PR people to try to bolster America’s image overseas. Of course, that was an awfully tough sell for the State Dept. in the aftermath of the unnecessary invasion of Iraq. Facts do have a nasty tendency to get in the way of a good story.
Shattered by the mid-term election results, Obama may finally be seeing the PR light. Yesterday, he had a pow-wow with corporate chiefs to assure them that they are not incarnations of the devil. In fact, they are vital to America’s economic success.
The president pleaded with the CEOs to put some of the nearly $2T resting in corporate coffers to work. He urged U.S. investment to spur employment. “We need to spur innovation and new industries like clean energy that will create the jobs of tomorrow. We need to upgrade America’s crumbling infrastructure, its roads and bridges, update high-speed rail and high-speed Internet to connect every community,” said the president.
Former Cigna PR executive Wendell Potter is barnstorming the country, promoting his book, “Deadly Spin.” Unfortunately, the tour kicked off last month in D.C. and Potter didn't get a one-on-one with the Commander-in-Chief.
I bet Wendell would be willing to swing by the White House to talk some healthcare PR with the president.