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Wall Street Journal: Behind Obama’s Social Media Rollout: Strategy, Not Spoilers

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Stephanie Cutter, co-founder of Precision Strategies and Deputy Campaign Manager for President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, discusses why President Obama’s social media rollout of the State of the Union address was smart strategy.

Read this piece in the Wall Street Journal

The way some outlets have covered the story, you would think the president violated sacrosanct State of the Union tradition by rolling out content in advance on social media.

Yes, it’s a break with tradition. But here’s why it makes sense in today’s environment.

Political campaigns and corporations have millions of dollars to spend to market their brand, product, and ideas. In the White House, that budget is zero—so you’d better get creative.

In 2010, more than 48 million people watched the State of the Union address. But Americans increasingly get their content online, not on television. The average American watched six fewer hours of live TV per month in 2014 than he or she did in 2013—and twice as many households are now “broadband only,” meaning they don’t subscribe to cable.

Rather than fight the inevitable, the Obama administration has adapted–and used a variety of social media platforms to outline the president’s major State of the Union proposals in advance.

It was a shrewd way to take the president’s agenda directly to the platforms where people get their information, unfiltered, and reach the communities that care the most about specific issues.

That’s why senior adviser Valerie Jarrett took to LinkedIn to announce the president’s renewed push for paid sick days and family leave—directly reaching affected employees and telling employers that the administration means business.

To explain the administration’s proposal to improve and expand access to broadband, President Barack Obama taped a video on an iPad from the Oval Office and posted it Upworthy, the Web site popular with millennials.

The video the White House posted on its Facebook page–with the hashtag #FreeCommunityCollege– to explain the president’s education proposal, has been viewed more than 8 million times. (The Republican response, a Taylor Swift GIF post from House Speaker John Boehner, was not comparable by any means.)

The strategy of rolling out proposals on platforms that cater to their target audiences is about more than appearing hip to young voters—it’s about understanding the ways in which our media landscape is changing and recognizing that traditional modes of communication are giving way to more dynamic methods of digital content consumption.

These sorts of social media efforts are becoming the norm for politicians of all stripes. Jeb Bush’s recent super PAC announcement was made not via press release but broadcast to the world via shaky Instagram video.

While televised speeches and traditional media will continue to have their place, a digital-first approach holds tremendous opportunity for those who wish to speak directly to targeted audiences without the media filter.

That’s why the president has an interview on Thursday with YouTube stars Bethany Mota, GloZell Green, and Hank Green–whose combined following is almost 14 million.

Stephanie Cutter is a partner at Precision Strategies. She served as deputy campaign manager for President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign and previously was a White House adviser in the Obama and Clinton administrations.

Read this piece in the Wall Street Journal

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