Is the White House Now Bringing Transparency to PR?

Earlier this week a transformative event in public relations occurred when the White House Press Office began posting its daily “Talking Points” on the Whitehouse blog.    This was addressed in the Media Bistro PR Newser column on September 29 written by Joe Ciarallo.  Two former White House officials were quoted in the piece about the historic nature of the publishing of the talking points.  

Don Goldberg, former assistant to President Clinton commented: “When I was in White House, we would have daily meetings on message and you would basically have conference calls…If the weekend was coming up and you had talk shows you were worried about, you would make sure all Democrats on the shows had the same points. The Obama administration is bypassing traditional media as much as it can anyway, so why not provide them with ‘message of the day’ type of details. Why not try to reach out to everybody?”

What the White House is doing is offering true transparency in its desire to get its message out.  It has always been obvious in watching the talk show circuit when spokespeople for both parties were seemingly reading from a script provided from their respective leaderships as Mr. Goldberg points out.  What will be interesting to see is how these representatives approach things now since the message of the day will already be posted.

More importantly, what does this ultimately mean for the public relations industry?  Will brands and companies feel obligated to be as transparent with their messaging to the public? 

A solid communications process has always relied on belief in the messenger.  Public relations practitioners have set the tone for what message is communicated to the public and the correct timing for communicating it.  If you use the White House as a standard bearer then the time may be right for public relations executives to be transparent as well with the talking points they want to issue.  Thus, what’s posted in the company blog is what’s transmitted to the media at large and to the consumer. No mixed messages.   

 The hardest part is ensuring that the message stays consistent.  Not every company has to face a press briefing each day that deals with issues that affect the security, economy, healthcare, and other pertinent national issues which the White House communications staff has to deal with.

For communications pros, whether it’s a daily message, blog post, tweet or monthly newsletter, getting your client or company to embrace transparency is a big achievement.  How you clearly define and deliver the message is even more important.

 Tom Cosentino


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