Can planned PR be too effective? That might be the inevitable question when reading the latest edition of American Vogue, featuring First Lady Michelle Obama on the cover. Photographed elegantly by Annie Liebowitz, the magazine offers an interview with the Obamas at home in the White House, with a particular focus on the First Lady’s views on raising a family. To the Obamas’ supporters, it’s inspiring; to the cynical, it makes for decidedly unedifying reading.
In the article, America’s First Couple talk about “their life as parents, their marriage, and their vision for America’s families.” This is an article that details the rigors of running a household just like any other and the stresses a demanding job can have on any parent. While most working couples find it hard to have an evening meal with their children, Mrs. Obama tells Vogue that the President is home by 6:30 pm to have dinner with her and their two daughters.
The article goes on to emphasize the importance of family, grandparents, and discipline, and the Obamas talk in a good-natured way about coming to terms with technology that teenagers understand as second nature. The PR sound-bite that sums up the article? This is not the First Family, but rather the “Family First Family.”
THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK ) for the Obamas and their Vogue profile. The ring of authenticity may have sounded a bit tinny coming from this very Obama-friendly publication.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: Authenticity gives credibility. This article has all the hallmarks of being quote checked, pre-approved, and negotiated every step of the way. (Important to mention: Vogue editor Anna Wintour raised funds for the Obama campaign and was rumored to be in the running for an ambassadorship.) The result? Some of it just doesn’t ring comfortably true. Though the Obamas may be, in some respects, like ordinary Americans, the magazine’s description of the family sitting down to dinner together seems almost perfectly scripted. The end result is that the reader feels vaguely manipulated. Next time, opt for telling a less 1950’s version of suburban family bliss and opt for something more modern. Sometimes it’s better if PR gets out of its own way.
To read the article, click here.