Goodbye Obama

You might be tempted to change the Constitution of the United States to bring Obama back for another term or you might be very critical of his presidency and, in fact, you’re happy that he left the White House. But I’m sure we all agree that Obama was the lord of communications, or as many called him “Orator-in-chief”.

During the eight years of his presidency, Obama taught over and over again a master class of strategy execution and how to maintain the positions that gave him popularity during his time in office. He always had more than 50% of popular acceptance [1] and he became one of the most cherished presidents in America. After an analysis, it’s easy to see that Obama’s time in the White House left us many lessons that can and should be adopted by a political leader. Of the most valuable lessons Obama left us, we can find:

Media relationship: Nowadays we are surrounded with critiques about Trump all over the media; nevertheless, Obama suffered something similar when he started. Let’s remember Fox and Trump’s campaign to invalidate the nationality of the former president. After the incident, the White House website immediately created a section called Fact News, where you could see information about his presidency and also his birth certificate. And for a long time he was willing to appear in the media to address this issue.

In the new Netflix show, Designated Survivor, Kal Penn, who plays the White House press secretary, advises the president about how to address journalists: “Don’t let them see your fear, don’t lie, don’t be hostile”. That’s what Obama did and it worked.

Humanity: During the 8 years of Obama’s presidency, Pete Souza, the official photographer of the White House, took more than two million photos of the president. As a part of his strategy, a selection of some of Obama’s favorite photos were published. They all have something in common as they present the former president in an informal manner [2]. In these photos, Obama was playing with his daughters, eating burgers at a local restaurant, blessing turkeys, and in his last days as president, we saw him sharing a meal with the White House employees. He wanted to show people a personal side of him, an American like any other. And that’s the challenge of today’s politicians, creating that closeness with your audience. Today’s citizens want their representatives to be accessible; we’re in a political revolution [3].

Being where the people are: This is a phrase from Joshua Miller, Director of Product for the White House during Barack Obama’s stay. It suggests that a political leader must worry about being present in those places where citizens are looking for information and dialogue. Obama understood this logic. People are going to talk about you in social media, so your best move is to engage and to influence the conversations at your convenience.

Storytelling: When Obama signed the health reform, the President was accompanied by a young, charismatic child who suffered a loss because his family couldn’t afford insurance. Look closely at this trend. When Obama signed laws, he was often in the company of people who were being directly affected by that bill. That’s a story.

Every time someone critiques ObamaCare, someone else refutes that by making reference to a specific case of a person who couldn’t afford health insurance on their own. Why? I’ve said it a million times in articles like “Stories that Connect”: because stories create empathy, they get stuck in your head and, most importantly, they create an emotion that stays in your heart.

Threaded speech: This man cries for his wife, tells anecdotes, talks to us about his achievements in foreign policy and the democratic challenges affecting the country, all in a fifty-minute discourse without losing his track. How? Well, preparing his speeches! Remember the importance of writing them, practicing and perfectioning them until you can improvise within the scheme [4].

For more than a decade, in the United States, there has been a team of White House speechwriters who dedicate themselves to understand and express the president’s ideas in an organized and strategic manner. However, Obama inserted a personal flair of a simpler prose that 80% of Americans can understand, feel the emotion and even laugh a little while they’re being addressed.

Obama is already home enjoying some well deserved days of rest; but if you are still pursuing any political objective, there’s no time to rest! It’s time to improve your media interactions, strengthen your narrative with your stories, and put your best foot forward in the path of being a great orator.