Obama Never Asked Me, But….

August 19th, 2009 by Bob Bly

A CNN.com poll today shows that 74% of Americans are confused about the Obama Administration’s health plan, and only one out of four feels well-informed about the health plan.

President Obama doesn’t read this blog and isn’t asking my advice. But if I were in the White House, here’s what I’d do immediately:

1–Distill a summary of the health plan down to 5 key points that can fit on two sides (preferably one side) of an 8 1/2 X 11-inch sheet of paper.

(Yes, I know that health care is complex. But just give the 5 most imporant points.)

2–Call a press conference and have the President explain these 5 points in a talk lasting no longer than 10 minutes, followed by 20 minutes of Q&A from the press.

3–During the press conference, announce a site — with a short, easy-to-remember URL — where people can go to download the 5-point abridged health care plan summary document.

4–Create a more detailed white paper of no more than 10 pages and have that available on the site as well.

Winston Churchill used to insist his staff write memos, even on complex subjects, restricted to one side of a sheet of paper.

If Obama can do this for health care, and perhaps you can do this to sell your products or ideas to your market, people would at last get the message and feel better educated — and therefore more comfortable accepting what you are proposing.

A lot of marketers, including me, use white papers of 10 pages or longer. Perhaps we need to start creating 5-point one page summaries to support our products, services, organizations, causes, and ideas, too.

For instance, if you are selling SEO services to an unsophisticated small business market that has heard about search engine marketing but doesn’t really get it, what about doing a one-sheet “5 Reasons Why You Should do SEO — NOW”?

What do you think? I am going to start implementing this idea soon. Will you give it a try?

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 19th, 2009 at 11:29 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

24 responses about “Obama Never Asked Me, But….”

  1. Kelja said:

    You are right on with this advice, whether to an internet marketeer or the president of the United States. Keep it pithy.

    Expect those who frequent this website to listen but not the administration. Obama isn’t any good at clarifying or keeping it concise and understandable. If he were, his health initiative wouldn’t be creating the storm of controversy it has – as you point out, 74% of us are confused about what it’s all about!

  2. Greg said:

    I think you ask the impossible.

    First, government does not work that way. It is too simple. Read a Supreme Court decision some time.

    Second, government does not want to work that way, because simplicity invites accountability. “Nuance” allows a rhetorical retreat if necessary.

    Third, if the people really knew what was being proposed, almost nothing would get done. Can you imagaine TARP and the Stimulus bill simplified in that way.

    Fourth, the arguments over the key points to include and distribute to the public would likely take until the next Congressional elections.

  3. Ken Norkin - Freelance Copywriter said:

    Bob:

    I agree to some extent that the President should do a better job of communicating the main selling points of his plan. But his failure to communicate is not the entire reason that people are confused about the health care proposal or believe outright false things about it.

    A big part of the blame goes to people’s own choice of information sources – media. I apologize for being the one who interjects right vs left into this conversation, but you opened the door by posting on a political topic.

    Here’s how the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday on a new NBC poll:

    “Nearly half of Americans believe that a proposed overhaul of the health care system means the government will decide when to stop providing medical treatment to senior citizens, according to the latest polling by NBC News released this evening.

    “Some 45% said they believe the plan is likely to include such a provision that has become known as “death panels” despite bipartisan efforts by President Barack Obama and the provision’s author, Republican Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson to dispel the idea.

    “…a majority of Americans (55%) believe the bill will extend health insurance coverage to illegal immigrants even though no proposals currently under negotiation would do so. An equally high number (54%) believe the overhaul will lead to a “complete” government takeover of the health care system, although there is also no actual proposal for that, either.”

    That’s bad enough. But as reported on MSNBC: “In our poll, 72% of self-identified FOX News viewers believe the health-care plan will give coverage to illegal immigrants, 79% of them say it will lead to a government takeover, 69% think that it will use taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions, and 75% believe that it will allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing care for the elderly…”

    Of course, people who get their news from MSNBC, CNN and the big three networks also misunderstod the provisions by large numbers … but below FOX and below the survey as a whole.

    My point is the President’s good communication cannot overcome the impact of certain media committed to misrepresent anything coming out of this administration and the sizable portion of the population who are letting themselves be scared by that media, who are determined not to believe the President, or who don’t really care about the truth.

    As President Obama himself said at one of the town halls: “I got a letter the other day from a woman. She said, ‘I don’t want government-run health care. I don’t want socialized medicine. And don’t touch my Medicare.’”

    Enough said.

  4. Kyle Tully | Internet Marketing Consultant said:

    Hey Bob

    From a marketing perspective you’re spot on.

    Short (1-3 page) white papers are an excellent tool for getting a core message across.

    Though I can’t see it happening from the government in the real world.

    Cheers
    Kyle

  5. Kamil said:

    For the goverment in the KISS works only the last letter…

  6. Bob Bly said:

    Kamil: very clever and funny! :)

    Kyle: maybe you are right. But Obama wants to do things differently. If I were press secretary, I would urge him to try this idea….

  7. Lou Wasser said:

    It’s clear the Obama administration has already successfully exploited many techniques of private enterprise. The President’s victory over McCain was, in large part, a “marketing” and, therefore, a financial victory — an immensely clever and effective harnessing of Internet power to raise campaign funds. (Ironic — since Republicans have traditionally been associated, according to American legend, with big business savvy).

    But getting the top job and then getting it done are two completely different species of animal.

    Bob … you’re absolutely right in your suggestions. But I think Greg has put his finger on the problem: it ain’t that simple.

    A proposal or a press release from the administration is part of the old American checks and balances gambit. Let’s run this by Congress and see how they react. We can always back pedal on this or that issue if we have to.

    It’s not as simple as when the marketing department of a business states a URL or issues a press release. In that instance,everyone knows, despite initial disagreement, that the endgame is profit. Profit — clear and simple.

    But in government (at least in a democracy) the values of different sectors and interest groups come in to play, and ultimately (for good or bad) muddy the waters until a bill gets passed, or something gets done.

    While crisp memos, clearly stated URLs and overall improved communication will help a bit,
    the differences between government and private enterprise are huge.

  8. Ken Norkin - Freelance Copywriter said:

    Please visit the White House’s Health Insurance Reform Reality Check Web page — http://www.whitehouse.gov/realitycheck/ — to see how clearly and directly the administration is addressing and debunking every myth and lie being spread about health care reform.

    “There is no panel to decide end of life care.” “Reform will expand your choices, not limit them.” “Reform will eliminate insurance discrimination against the disabled.” These are just a few of the dozen or so short, clear, headlines above short one-paragraph explanations that lead to short videos in which Administration people clearly state the truth.

    The information is there in short, digestible, takes for people who want to expose themselves to it.

    Again: The more serious communication problem is the number of people who would rather let FOX, Rush and Sean tell them what the President is saying and doing rather than go to the White House Web site and hear it for themselves from the source.

  9. Lou Wasser said:

    Ken:

    Your point for the examples you cite at the URL you offer is inarguable. Each argument by the Whitehouse clearly and succinctly refutes yet another piece of nonsense propagated by a vocal group of nut cases and fueled by the media.

    My point though is that the communication issue doesn’t speak to the entire problem. For instance, the Obama Administration did in fact back pedal once it determined that a bill for a public insurance option — as opposed to insurance cooperatives — might have trouble passing in Congress.

    The website does address Obama’s overwhelming desire to reform health care. But the President himself has admitted that he hasn’t refined all the details. To me that’s a courageous rather than a weak admission. Still, communication is more difficult — but not impossible — when the plan is being tested, refined and run up the flagpole.

    Incidentally, in my posting above (no. 7), I meant to write USP instead of URL.

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  13. Dianna Huff said:

    Bob,

    When Mitt Romney was governor of Mass, and the ceiling fell down in the tunnel — killing a woman — he held press conferences where he used drawings to explain why exactly the ceiling panels had come loose.

    He obviously did his homework — he talked about the bolts, the glue, the panels, etc. — and he used plain English.

    He also walked the tunnels and even got into the crawl spaces.

    Suffice to say, he took charge of a very HOT situation and the press and everyone else listened to him.

  14. Ronak Shah said:

    Hi Bob,

    I think you can contact the president himself on his linkedin profile.

    He’s on linkedin. give it a try.

    He’ll love it.

    Thanks.

    Warm Regards,
    Ronak Shah

  15. Lynne Gordon said:

    I LIKE IT! GREAT IDEA!

    With your permission, I will feature this article on my next blog.

    You and CNN say that 74% of Americans are confused…I believe that number could realistically be MUCH higher.

    But those that love Obama will try to love everything he does (and might bring civil action against me for not capitalizing his entire name as a Proper [proper] noun).

    While strangely enough, those who absolutely hate having the son of an ex-slave in the highest office of the land…are probably the ones who will benefit most from a national health plan.

    But the hate that consumes them will not allow them to see any good in anything that comes from a black face.

    Lynne Gordon, 100 Percent Health

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