Michelle Obama unplugged

During her four days at last week’s Democratic National Convention, Michelle Obama posted a series of videos on YouTube in which she talks off the cuff about her various experiences there. Although quite short and fairly un-monumental compared to the appearances of the Clinton’s, Joe Biden, Michelle’s own convention speech, and of course, Barack Obama’s acceptance of the nomination, they were equally powerful.

The source of that power was the fact that they seemed completely unplugged. They were simple, unrehearsed, honest and intimate. None of the polished, controlled rhetoric typical of “political-speak.” Just the natural flow of a real person talking, telling her story, complete with the occasional tangential remarks and verbal stumbles (although Michelle is so articulate, she doesn’t make many, even when unscripted.) They were shot in situ — her outfit sometimes downright frumpy, no more than jeans and a T-shirt in some of the videos. Her hair wasn’t perfect. She wore no make-up. Indeed she looked a bit drawn and tired, which, considering the pace of those days, was understandable. All of this made it feel as if she were talking personally to me. Not quite a conversation, but pretty close.

I couldn’t help but see a parallel to the opportunity for marketers and brands to evolve the way they talk with their publics through social media. In a way, and by no means do I mean this as a criticism of what I thought was a superb speech, Barack’s acceptance was similar to marketing communication through traditional media. A one-to-many, mass media message — in this case the many being the 80,000 “spectators” at Invesco Field and the millions of people in the US and around the world who tuned in via television and other screens. Plugged-in, polished, brilliantly executed and produced, and — judging by the immediate response and comments across the internet and other media afterwards — effective.

Complementing that we have Michelle’s unplugged, unpolished, intimate YouTube videos. She talks to us in the same way, and in the same medium, that ordinary folks share and comment on their thoughts and ideas in social media everyday.

Both types of communication have their role. Both have their jobs to do. But together they create an experience that connects with both heads and hearts and can transport that politician, or that brand, to the number one spot.

Brands of the world — follow Michelle’s example. Get unplugged!



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4 responses to “Michelle Obama unplugged

  1. Tiffany

    So interesting. The platform really does seem to allow her to look like a real person, instead of an unrelatable figurehead. I’m pretty scared, though, of this becoming something all brands start to do… It just seems like it would be SO easy to come off NOT genuine. I think it takes the right kind of person to be able to pull this off… What do you think?

  2. Stephen Rothman

    Hi Tiffany. Thanks for the comment. It certainly made me think. But you know, I’m not sure it really is that hard. I don’t think it’s about “pulling it off.” It’s about being truthful, honest, who you are. If who you are — and by that I mean everyone from the CEO on down — isn’t in sync with the brand’s values, then the brand will have a problem in the social media space. But if those values are truly bought into and lived by the individuals behind the brand, then those people will come across as genuine. Even if they aren’t quite as articulate and charismatic as Michelle Obama. By the way, are you the Tiffany I know :-)?

  3. Sue

    …and what do you think of the Sarah Palin “brand”? You couldn’t have made her up, could you? Reminds me of one of those new brand developments where everything is perfectly designed and engineered but in the end it all flops because the human connection element is missing…

  4. Stephen Rothman

    Sue — how does she look in a t-shirt and jeans?

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