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President Obama hosts the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington D.C. April 12 and 13 aiming to raise world’s awareness about the threats of nuclear weapons getting into the hands of terrorists.

Agenda setting is part of public relations. In President Obama’s speech last year in Prague, he declared the agenda for nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and counterterrorism. The events—the results of the Nuclear Posture Review, the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in New York, and the ratification of the new START treaty between the United States and Russia—will show whether other leaders in the United States and around the world are willing to join Obama.

Obama hosts Nuclear Security Summit at Washington today

“It’s an indication of how deeply concerned everybody should be with the possibilities of nuclear traffic, and I think at the end of this we’re going to see some very specific, concrete actions that each nation is taking that will make the world a little bit safer,” Obama said Monday. (CNN, 2010)

The gathering that convenes leaders from 47 nations is considered an unprecedented PR effort to rally global action on securing vulnerable nuclear materials. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week, the nuclear summit would be the largest of its kind hosted by a U.S. president since the U.N. conference in 1945. President Obama also met with leaders from China, Malaysia and Armenia on Monday to bolster the summit.

Here’s the video from CNN about President Obama hosting leaders summit.

U.S. President Obama met with Chinese President Hu Jintao

Harrtsdale wrote in his blog that the combination of public relations and nuclear annihilation would make a difference to the world peace and human society.

“It seems like a gross juxtaposition, public relations and nuclear weapons, but the way the  two are conjoined could play a crucial role in the history of mankind. The coming summit called by President Obama to start in Washington today represents the largest gathering of world leaders since FDR called one to found the United Nations.” Harrtsdale said.

However, some experts doubt whether the nuclear summit is just a “PR gesture” and whether the meeting would achieve concrete results.

From the ABC News, “Internationally, U.S. allies such as India, Pakistan and Israel have been resistant to signing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, citing national security concerns. The view in many countries is that this week’s treaty signing aside, if the United States and Russia — which together account for 95 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenal and material — cannot cut their nuclear stockpile, why should they be forced to?”

Obama and Russian President Medvedev signed treaty cutting nation's nuclear weapons

Besides, “Domestically, the partisan rift on Capitol Hill means possibly a tough fight ahead for Obama’s nuclear agenda. Critics of the new nuclear policy released last week complain that it gives a free pass to countries such as Iran and North Korea, and Republican senators are already taking aim at the U.S.-Russia arms treaty that was signed last week, saying it hurts U.S. security interests.” (ABC News, 2010)

Christopher Ford, director for the Center for Technology and Global Security at the Hudson Institute, and a former special representative for nuclear nonproliferation in the Bush administration, said the summit is a good way to bring together different world leaders to discuss a common threat, but what it means to achieve remains blurry (ABC News, 2010).

The White House annual Easter egg roll is a successful public relation event for the President and the First Family getting closer to the American people.

The White House Annual Easter Egg Roll is a national tradition, which has been held on the White House lawn each Easter Monday for children and their parents since the mid 1878, during the administration of President Rutherford B. Hayes. 

The 2010 White House Annual Easter Egg Roll is held today on the sun-soaked South Lawn of White House with warm welcome from President Obama and the First Lady to thousands of children. 

President Obama greeted the enthusiastic crowd “Happy Easter everybody” from a balcony over the south lawn. Then he gave floor to first lady Michelle Obama, who looks casual and elegant in pick.

Every PR event needs a theme to convey its purpose. The theme of this year’s egg roll is “Ready, Set, Go!” which ties in with first lady Michelle Obama’s campaign “Let’s move!” against childhood obesity. This annual event aims to help people “learn to live a healthy life and move on.” Michelle Obama said.

Targeting audience and meeting their needs are fundamental and vital elements for the success of the PR event. Considering the major audience are children and young people, besides traditional egg roll game, the White House get athletic singers, dancing, basketball, football, cast “Glee” and J.K. Rowling, who is world’s famous and favorite children literature author.

J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling reads at the White House Easter festival (AP photo)

The interaction between the first family and the children is the most important in this event, which is really a good chance for people feeling closer to their President and their government. President Obama and the first family are playing together with the children in the lawn, which portrays his image not only a national leader but also a father in the family.

At the storytime stage, President Obama read “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss to children. The book’s main character staunchly “refuses to try eating green eggs and ham, but then decides they are delicious after finally agreeing to taste them.” You have to admit that he’s a great speaker. His skills in telling children stories prove that. It’s not like his healthcare campaign speeches with firmness and formality, but full of funny tones and gestures. 

People who are interested in this event can have access to the White House website. It presents the latest information of the event and ticketing information about the event for people from across the United States to participate in. 

As an international student, this is my first time heard about the government hosting a party and inviting people to celebrate a festival. I think I would feel excited and eager to attend such an event if the government of my home country hosted a party in the President’s house and invited ordinary people to participate in.

In the 1st post of my blog, I talked about President Obama’s PR efforts in the healthcare campaign, which was on fierce debate at that time but now is, finally, successfully passed.

In addition to the lesson learning from the national healthcare campaign in the 1st post, I will talk about some other important PR suggestions from the healthcare campaign in this post as a PR lesson 2.

●        Public Opinion

Public opinion is often defined as the complex collection of opinions of many different people and the sum of all their views (Wiki, 2010). Public opinion plays an important role in the social life, especially in the political sphere, for instance, government policy voting and political elections. Here, the public opinion did play an important role in the legislators’ decision of healthcare. 

Harrtsdale, in his Cut-it-Out Communication blog, said the influence of public opinion on the process of healthcare reform.

“The ability of the right wing to organize opposition last summer threw a monkey wrench into the deliberations and helped to delay the final result.

“But it was finally the ability of supporters of the legislation to organize — the images on the evening news of cheering crowds during President Obama’s speeches — that gave wavering Democrats the cover they needed to cast a very difficult vote.” (Harrtsdale, 2010)

●        Talking points

Talking points is a useful PR tactic in speeches. They are referring to “a list of themes put out by the heads of political organizations in order to keep everyone on message and facilitate integrated communications.”(Harrtsdale, 2010)

It’s assumed that if something is repeated often enough, the public will accept it as the truth. The talking points work on this way. President Obama repeatedly told the public that “how passing the healthcare bill may not be good politics, but it’s the right thing to do” on the campaign stump again when he’s been going around to different locations. Harrtsdale said President Obama is “starting to accumulate his own talking point victories in the process.”

●        Flexibility

Public relations need a certain amount of flexibility in the practice. That is to say, when the situation changes, PR people should be able to adjust or change the PR strategy. Harrtsdale use the example of the Republican in the healthcare reform to explain the importance of flexibility.

Harrtsdale said at an early stage of the debate, the Republican decided to try to defeat the President on this initiative and were fairly successful in the attempt.

“They unified their whole caucus and actually had an impact on public opinion as well.” (Harrtsdale, 2010)

But when the President invited key Republicans to a healthcare summit at the White House, “the Republicans were flummoxed”.(Harrtsdale,2010) 

“They couldn’t refuse the invitation to talk, but they knew their blanket opposition to the legislation would be exposed as obstructionist to the American people. This was the time to change their PR strategy.” 

Harrtsdale thought the Republican “could have agreed to participate in a more meaningful way”, because this change in strategy would clearly “not be expected by the White House, and, as a result, the Republicans’ image would be catapulted forward in the process.”

However, in the observance of Harrtsdale, the Republican didn’t change the mind, and the lack of flexibility will hurt the Republicans severely in the end. “Because when the healthcare legislation passes, a lot of people will see immediate benefits, and the Republicans will only be remembered as the party of no.”

Public speaking, as a very important function in public relations, plays a vital role in President Obama’s election campaign, health care reform, Haiti relief efforts, etc.

In order to make a success in public speech, the speaker should target his or her audience and convey the information in a powerful and effective way.

Target audience

In Cutlip & Center’s Effective Public Relations, Broom stated that public relations serve to reify publics so as to develop the objectives, strategies and tactics necessary for implementing a program. “Target publics are people who are involved and affected in the situation for which the program intervention is being developed.”

Obama made his strengths as an engaging speaker work for him, making numerous speeches to various audiences ranging from community groups to carefully selected social clubs and influential professional groups.

A study conducted by two American political scientists, who analyzed the presidential elections from 1940s to 2004, made a conclusion that it was the 20% median voters, who determined which candidate would be the president. Obama attracted those “median voters”, mostly are youth and grassroots voters, with his image of energy, fashion and hope.

As we can see, the reification of target publics makes the campaign more effective. In addition to a proper image and carefully selected publics, communication strategies of PR are also essential.

Communication Strategies

Public speaking attempts to shape, change people’s thinking or attitudes in order to influence or change their behaviors. To achieve the goal of influencing others, communication strategies and skills are essential in speech.

President Obama is a good speaker, who knows the power of words and how to use them to great effect. The Art of Good Speech said a good speaker could anticipate the response of their audience to certain words or quotes. Therefore, when at the 2004 Democratic National Convention Obama, a virtual unknown in US politics, roared into the public consciousness with the now famous quote, “There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America – there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America”.

Obama was quite cognizant of the emotive reaction that those words would elicit. The PR review said “when Obama mentions something that is very relevant to the people whom he is addressing, he grabs the headlines with a memorable sound bite.”

In the perspective of PR, almost as important as the content of the speech, is the way the speaker said it. President Obama’s speech on terrorism this year gave an impression of strength, firmness and taking control.

Harrtsdale thought Obama’s speech on terrorism provided a masterful lesson in public relations in his blog “Cut-it-out Communication”.

“President Obama’s speech on terrorism provided a masterful lesson in public relations today. First of all, the timing, before Congress was back in session, helped him to preempt Republican attacks that he doesn’t believe we’re at war. Secondly, it allowed him to clearly lay out what some pundits are calling “the Obama doctrine.” Namely, we will not sacrifice our free society and values we hold dear in the face of the threat from Al Qaeda.

“President Obama also gave the image of a person taking control. Yes, mistakes were made, but HE was going to fix them. The President seemed in charge and hopefully, that impression comforted some Americans.”

In a word, Obama’s spirited speech, the mixture of emotion, conviction, and power make people listen, motivated and trust him.

Obama’s PR Online

In my PR online class, I realize that public relations professionals today are confronted with many new communication channels, especially the online social media tools like blogs,  twitter, youtube and social networks, which are giving voice to the opinions of millions of publics.

In the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama’s PR team use different kinds of new media, which have highlighted the role of PR online in contemporary U.S. politics. 

a. Blog

Obama created an image of youth, energy and a new beginning in his blog www.barackobama.com visited on average half million of people every day. Under the slogan of “The Change We Need”, the website has been the center of PR online, from which people can link to other online media to find the campaign activities of Obama.

The website also appealed voters to raise fund for Obama’s election. More than 850,000 registered users of this website raised 200 million dollars which is nearly one third of the total expense of the election. His campaign smashed all the previous records with more than three million donors earning more than six hundred fifty million dollars. This way he gained a big advantage over his republican opponent John McCain.

Besides that, the registered users of this blog volunteered to help him to get closer to the voters. There were more than three million people helping Obama with his campaign. They walked the streets knocking on the doors of total strangers and were trying to persuade them Obama is the best candidate.

Now the blog is still in use and updates in time with latest news about President Obama.

b. YouTube

Grassroots campaigns for Obama illustrate the vast potential impact of YouTube for participatory democracy. The YouTube music video “Obama Girl,” which has a young woman singing about why she supports Obama has gotten over 5 million hits and is one of the most popular in history. Now it has 23 episodes of the Obama Girl series. http://www.youtube.com/show?p=HTDLrsvd09E&feature=fvsp

Among the enormous numbers of Internet-distributed artifacts for the Obama campaign, Yes, We Can music video manifests how grassroots-initiated alternative media artifacts can inspire and mobilize individuals to support Obama.

The videos inspire and consolidate potential Obama supporters on and offline with reasons they support Obama for President.

c. Google:

Obama purchased the Adwords on from Google. Every voter who uses the search engine for “Barack Obama” will see his video and criticism about McCain’s policies. He also purchased the Adwords of hot topics like “oil price” “Iraq war” and “financial crisis”, which makes people easily know about Obama’s view about these sensitive issues and makes people better know about Obama per se.

d. Social Network

On social networks as Facebook, Twitter or My Space, Obama owned his own identity. He defeats his Republican opponent with almost 845 thousand of My Space friends compared to 219 thousand McCain’s friends.

Interaction is one of the most obvious characteristics of internet, which serves as a role in two-way symmetrical public relations. Obama’s use of online social networks to communicate with his voters helps him get feedback quickly from publics and be closer to his voters.

e. Viral Marketing:

In the last PR online class, we discussed about viral marketing. I think Obama’s campaign is a good example of viral marketing. An e-mail written in Chinese to the Chinese people in US stated the advantages to the Chinese in US if Obama won the election and asked net residents to send it to other friends. In this way, the e-mail was soon popular among Chinese in US, which became one of the effective ways to help Obama win more voters.

Besides those digital media, Obama also used text messages by which informed voters updated activities of Obama, and video games which are popular among young people and help Obama win voters from the youth.

In a word, PR online helped Obama influence the public that traditional media hardly can contact with and helped him finally win the election.

President Obama met with the Dalai-Lama on Feb.18 in Washtington despite China’s firm and repeated opposition. Dalai-Lama is the exiled Tibetan religious leader and set up Government of Tibet in Exile in India. He attempted the disruption of 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

The meeting blows a blizzard in China. Most Chinese felt disappointed about it. Obama pledged to build “a positive, cooperative and comprehensive U.S.-China relationship for the 21st century” during his first China visit last November, but his pledge has failed to hold water merely three months later, especially after the administration announced a $6 billion arms sales package to Taiwan.

I don’t want to talk about the political issues about the meeting. It’s complicated and hard to determine who is right or wrong because people have different stances and concerns considering problems. What I want to say is about Obama’s PR during this meeting which is consistent to the topic of my blog–Presidential PR.

The timing of the meeting was bad. Feb.18 is the 5th day of new year’s week on Chinese lunar calendar(Feb.14 is the New Year’s Day according to lunar calendar). It’s the time Chinese people celebrate the new year even quarrels stop.  To most Chinese, the controversial meeting at new year’s holiday seemed to disregard Chinese people’s emotion.  But I prefer to believe it’s just a PR blunder.

The meeting in Washington was low-profile to reduce the disatisfaction of the Chinese government.

The White House said Mr. Obama had expressed support for the preservation of Tibet’s “unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People’s Republic of China.”

President Barack Obama meets with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the Map Room of the White House February 18, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

His speech expressed his support for preserving Tibetan unique culture but didn’t show his support for the independence of Tibet. It balanced the interests of both sides. To China, Dalai-Lama is the advocate of Tibetan independence and most Chinese people have witnessed his evil conduct and discerned his lies, while to the U.S. he is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, internationally revered religious and cultural leader. That may partly explain why the Obama and other state officials met with Dalai.

The White House took pains to avoid the appearence that the meeting was between heads of state. It took place in the White House Map Room, not in the Oval Office.

White House officials also did not allow reporters or photographers to see Mr. Obama and the Dalai Lama together, and they released a single official photograph after the meeting.

I think the meeting no doubtly arose accusation from Chinese governement, but the White House did use PR techniques  to reduce negative effects– speaking skills, meeting places and media news release, except timing.

The American relief effort in Haiti is a proving of Obama administration’s crisis public relations ability. Crisis PR is an important part of public relations. It is defined as the process by which an organization deals with a major unpredictable event that threatens to harm the organization, its stakeholders, or the general public. Although the natural crisis—the earthquake—didn’t happen in U.S., the relief effort make by the Obama administration reflected the strong sense of crisis PR.

○ Presidential remark on Haiti earthquake relief

President Obama announced actions to deliver humanitarian relief to Haiti Jan13, the next morning after the earthquake. He extended “the deep condolences and unwavering support” of the American people to Haiti today, and pledged “full support” for rescue and humanitarian assistance.

Jan14, President Obama claimed that he has made it clear to the leaders of the American national security team that Haiti must be a top priority for their departments and agencies. He reported that the first waves of the rescue and relief workers are on the ground and at work.

In the next following days, President Obama delivered remarks on the latest Haiti relief efforts.

His series of remarks on the Haiti earthquake relief played a part in dealing with this crisis. First, they were on time, which is one of the top principles in crisis PR. The first press conference was held in the morning just the next day after the earthquake, which showed the confidence of the nation dealing with crisis and passed on courage to its people. Second, they told all and told the truth, which is also an essential principle in crisis PR. (Arthur W. Page Principles) The remarks outlined a series of steps to help the Haitian people and reported the latest information of the relief efforts, covering rescue works, federal aids and volunteer information, etc. The transparency allowed people informed about the relief process and provided the channel to participate in the relief efforts.

○ Administration efforts on Haiti relief

President Obama dispatched a massive military response to the Haiti earthquake, saying that ships, helicopters, transport planes and Marine unit.

The dispatched troops would aim to keep the peace in the event of post-disaster unrest as part of a larger international effort overseen by the United Nations.

Obama also dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a team of U.S. officials to Haiti on Saturday to see firsthand U.S. relief efforts and determine further steps to help the Haitian government regroup following the earthquake.

Obama called upon all nations to join in helping stricken Haitians. Obama has directed his administration to provide all aid necessary to assist in relief efforts. In this crisis, he and his administration sought to show a swift and united disaster response with the United States as an assertive leader.

President Obama sought a joint effort from his two White House predecessors to raise money and direct aid toward quake-devastated Haiti by setting up the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. Bill Clinton, under the request of President Obama, is also his special U.N. envoy to Haiti.

○ PR online

Obama encouraged Americans who want to help to go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/HaitiEarthquake to find options for contributing to the aid effort.

On the White House website, people can find the options for donation and family members allocation.

Donate: Clintonbushhaitifund.org

Get information about friends and family:

To Ask For or Provide Information About U.S. Citizens in Haiti:

Email the Task Force at Haiti-Earthquake@state.gov OR

From the U.S. or Canada, call 888-407-4747 (Other countries, call 202-501-4444)

For U.S. Citizens in Haiti Seeking Assistance or Reporting Their Status/Whereabouts:

Email the Embassy at ACSPaP@state.gov OR

Call the Embassy’s Consular Task Force at 509-2229-8942, 509-2229-8089, 509-2229-8322, or 509-2229-8672

○ Michelle Obama Supporting the Red Cross Relief Efforts in Haiti

Michelle Obama calls for helping Haiti on her tour of federal agencies.

 

First Lady, Michelle Obama, in her tour of federal agencies, she first urged the audience to get involved and support the victims of the Haiti earthquake. She expressed her feeling with genuine care and compassion.


“The destruction and the suffering that we see, the images that are coming out of that country are just overwhelming, and it is important for the people of Haiti to know that we are keeping the victims of this tragedy and their loved ones in our thoughts and our prayers,” – the First Lady said. “And that also includes prayers going out to all of the Haitian Americans who have families and friends there, and they’re worried about them back home. It’s difficult to get word. People don’t know where folks are. This is a tough time for Haitian American citizens here, as well. And we also want to send our thoughts and prayers out to the American citizens who are working and living in Haiti, as well.”