Last week President Obama made news by appearing on the online talk show, “Between Two Ferns,” with Zach Galifianakis on the Funny or Die website. The site is the brainchild of Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and Chris Henchy. Not exactly Washington Week in Review.
If you have not watched the skit, here’s a link. As you are likely aware by now, the response from conservative commentators and the coverage of the response all have trended on Twitter and received tons of likes on Facebook. The mission appears accomplished.
Why is this skit so informative and entertaining? By design, it is a convergence of PR and public affairs — meshing PR strategy to achieve a public affairs mission: Obama needs young uninsured adults to sign up for health insurance by March 31, which is the open enrollment deadline for the health insurance exchanges.
The skit accomplishes so much more than a traditional 30-second spot on TV or radio. Consider the challenges the Obama Administration is trying to over come here. They need to reach uninsured young adults who have heard nothing but bad news about the health insurance exchanges. If they have been paying attention, what they have heard about healthcare.gov has been negative – not positive.
Finally, if they did attempt to use healthcare.gov in the fall when the site was launched, guess what? They probably formed their own opinion about the site and it’s usefulness. Mainly because it was slow or completely non-functioning.
In short, the Obama Administration needed crisis communications directed to a skeptical population increasingly disinterested in traditional channels of communication. Note the President’s multiple references to web or mobile-based sites – he’s speaking to millennials.
From a public affairs perspective, the President is seeking to salvage the signature accomplishment of his presidency. But he’s also using PR to sell his law – consistent messaging directed to “young invincibles” with Galifianakis making fun of the phrase by mistaking it for “invisible” – making sure they get it. The overarching message is personal responsibility, which of course, Galifianakis again highlights via his spider bites.
Here at Pilot Communications, we’ve matched substantial PR and marketing expertise with the added experience of public affairs. While start-up firms focus intensely on growing their revenues mainly through marketing and PR, Obama’s use of “Between Two Ferns” to spread a larger message is a reminder that public affairs are important and work hand in glove with PR.