Obama’s Commander-In-Chief Moment

 Obamas Commander In Chief Moment

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Commander In Chief Barack Obama’s address to the nation on the Boston terrorist attacks.

He’s had to address the nation during four mass shootings and one major natural disaster, but President Obama has never had to deal with a suspected act of terrorism. But when two bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon this past Monday, Obama had to go from President to Commander in Chief.

The attacks in Boston took on another level of depth when the media announced that the President would be addressing the nation. Clearly his speech had been prepared, but it was without the gloss the campaigning orator is accustomed to – rightly so.

President Obama appeared before a shocked nation wearing an expression of stern concern. His voice was forthright, his delivery serious but not emotional. In the brief address, he made sure to say that he and Speaker John Boehner, usually his arch rival, were communicating and that on this issue, there were no Democrats or Republicans, only Americans. With no information to share he stated unequivocally that justice would be served. His delivery reassured a nation that in shock and proved the key crisis communications principle: Keep communicating, calmly, even if there is no news to be shared.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Commander In Chief Barack Obama’s address to the nation on the Boston bombing.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: In times of crisis, what you say is nearly secondary to how you say it. Study carefully Obama’s face and tone of voice in this address and you will see a President in command. Even while conceding there was no information, Obama’s demeanor said that was only a matter of time. He asserted union of parties, gave a patriotic nod to Boston’s resilience, and wisely took no questions. If the antidote to chaos is control, the nation may have felt that the crisis was under control after this speech.

GOP: OK With Sequester, or Not?

 GOP: OK With Sequester, or Not?

THE PR VERDICT: “F” for the GOP and Republicans for their post sequester messaging.

What, no triumphant headlines or gloating from the GOP? Has it suddenly discovered a new level of modesty? Days after the sequester debate has reached the end of its life cycle, the GOP and Republican politicians seem remarkably low key about their latest political triumph. Puzzling, to say the least.

From the get go, President Obama has been clear: He hated the sequester. A bad and clumsy mechanism to reduce spending that would only hurt middle and low-income earners. Bad for the economy, bad for the recovery. In PR terms, his case was an easy read.

Republicans, on the other hand, made it clear that spending needed to be reined in. This showdown was going to highlight their resolve to cut spending and bring the deficit back in line. But since then, the triumphant tone in Republican communication has been increasingly limp and muddled. House Speaker John Boehner said, “I didn’t like it anymore than anybody else liked it,” while other Congressional peers including Jim Jordan said: “The sequester should happen… That is good.” Sen. Lindsey Graham told the media, “The cumulative effect of sequestration is bad for defense.” So, is the GOP  happy with the cuts or not? What is the official party line – or is there one?

THE PR VERDICT: “F” for the GOP and Republicans for their post sequester messaging. Confusing at best.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Don’t air your doubt in public. Just weeks ago, GOP messaging was clear: Government spending was out of hand, and the American electorate had handed them a mandate to rein it in. Now that the cuts are in place, the PR messaging is confused and contradictory, playing straight into concerns that the cuts are iron-fisted and potentially damaging to the fragile recovery. What changed in the space of a couple of weeks? Now is the time for the GOP  to revisit and unify its messaging. Public displays of ambivalence in moments like this rarely offers any protection against public reactions of hostility. Without a change, the GOP and Republican Congress is unintentionally poised to take the blame for a later slow-down. Of course, if that was their intention, well, mission accomplished.