Deconstructing Obama’s Modern Media Machine

How The White House Mastered Fractured Media


It doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican, Democrat or Independent…

…one can’t help but notice how the White House continues to master the ever fragmented media landscape in its quest to reach people where they are vs. relying solely on the traditional “mainstream” channels its of its predecessors. Though however masterful it may seem at first glance — the principles the White House is putting into action can be broken down into a set of best practices. The following highlights a few of them:

Tapping The Reach & Influence of Internet Celebrities
The notion of an “internet celebrity” was something many media and professionals once scoffed at — now it’s a multi million dollar industry with many of the top players who have built vast audiences on YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine laughing all the the way to the bank. “Pewdiepie” for example is considered to be YouTube’s #1 highest paid YouTube star taking in an estimated annual income of nearly nine million dollars after YouTube’s cut.

Obama’s move to once again utilize internet celebrities to access their audiences and generate an amplified response is becoming a standard tactic in the playbook of marketers and communicators. The strategy is simple — in order to reach millenials, you have to be culturally relevant to them and traditional celebrities are no longer the only ones shaping cultural relevance. The internet celebrity not only offers a gateway to cultural relevance but also a potentially huge audience. One of the Obama Youtubers for example, has a channel subscription over eight million. For those of us however that don’t enjoy the clout of the White House — working with these influentials is largely a paid game. Get ready to carve up your media dollars.

Via White House Twitter Account

Showing Vs. Telling
Throughout the State of The Union, there were live tweets as you would expect — but there was also a barrage of visual content ranging from infographics to nostalgic pictures of Obama as a boy riding a tricycle. On Facebook, videos were posted that split screened images and text that acted as visual aides to Obama’s speech — illustrating the main points and bringing to life his spoken word.

Publishing Direct — Mobile First
The White House made history as it bypassed the tradition of leaking the transcript to the media before making it public and published a copy directly to the mobile and social optimized Medium platform. By doing this, a precedent has been set, sending the signal that people are media as much as the media itself is. Also, it’s a nice win for Medium.

From Whitehouse.gov

Owning Your Owned Assets
In this age of social savvy media upstarts, the general public and influencers who distribute your message, the White House still understands the value of the home court advantage and used various means to drive traffic to Whitehouse.gov/SOTU which directed users to a content hub where the State of the Union could be watched online as well as hosting several assets such as graphic and animated gifs. The owned property also does what many other assets cannot — it’s a CRM data acquisition strategy prompting visitors to share their e-mail and zip code which places them into “the system” and gives the Obama media octopus another tentacle to engage with.

There’s much that can be learned from watching the White House pull the many levers now needed to reach audiences where they choose to engage. But many of the strategies and tactics are not new — they are simply planned and executed with the understanding that many efforts vs few now need to work in concert, and a message can be “controlled” more than you think if the right levers are pulled at the right time.