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[Originally posted on PRSAY, the PRSA blog.]
That’s a question a lot of media watchers have been asking lately. Now that the rules of communications and interaction are being rewritten by a generation of digital natives who live their lives online 24/7, it’s time to reevaluate what this job—which I have loved ever since I made the shift from advertising to PR about six years ago—really means.
As a PR professional, I’m fascinated by the messaging from both sides of the political aisle in the United States about the Navy SEAL mission that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden. Personal politics aside, most Americans would agree this was an incredibly important moment in Barack Obama’s presidency. News reports of the difficult decision-making process that led to his order have helped solidify half the population’s view of him as a strong leader and possibly helped to boost that view in the other half.
And yet it’s interesting to watch the unfolding credit/blame game. Some Democrats refuse to give any credit to prior administrations for work that helped lead to this day. Some Republicans refuse to give credit to the Obama administration without mentioning the Bush administrations in the same breath—or even before mentioning Obama.
Although my personal politics might be no secret (try Googling me), I admire the Bush administration’s message team. Their complete mastery of staying on message was enviable and took hard work and loyalty. Even though they are no longer in office—and have their own careers and opinions to tout—they continue that strong tradition of coordinated messaging.
Consider a sampling of news reports. Wednesday, The New York Times chronicled the various reactions of former Bush administration heavyweights, including these:
And from the other side of the aisle?
President Bush, very classily, I thought, declined the invitation offered by President Obama to appear with him at Ground Zero yesterday. Some news reports have said he felt his team didn’t receive enough credit from Obama when the initial announcements were made, but openly he cited his reasoning as a desire to stay out of the public eye. I don’t pretend to know his personal feelings on this or any issue, but he certainly deserves to have some strong emotions, having been the president who was in office during the worst terrorist attack on American soil. But staying away—along with President Obama’s decision not to speak at Ground Zero—helps this moment belong to the victims’ families, as it should.
So whose message wins? I hope no one person’s. The implications of this accomplishment are too big for any one individual or administration to receive all the credit. As a nation, it is a time of reflection and remembrance of lives lost and acknowledgment that justice has been served. No messaging document can express that.
Photo credit: creative commons/by uhuru1701