Saturday, August 15, 2009

One Web Doesn't "Fit All"

There is an interesting story in today's NY Times. The headline is: Health Debate Fails to Ignite Obama’s Grass Roots.

Here is the link to the story:

I am surprised that they seem surprised. The author, Jeff Zeleny, appears to have made a classic mistake in assuming that if you pour a message into the "right" media container it will have the same effect as it had the last time you poured a message into that container. No, it doesn't really happen that way. The negotiation that goes on between our communication needs and the technologies that meet those needs is dynamic on all levels. The message, the medium, and the individuals who use the medium to encounter the message, the transformation of the message by all of the preceding, and behaviors resulting from the on-going negotiation - those are all elements in a dynamic process.

President Obama's digital election campaign made significant use of electronic resources to revitalize the PPPE [a Previously Passive Portion of the Electorate :-)] that shared both his agenda and his technology. My guess is that much of the PPPE is under 30, certainly under 40. Healthcare is a hot button issue for FFOFs [Fearful Folks Over Fifty] who, largely, do not "techno-verb": blog, tweet, Facebook or Google. Sure, that is changing, but not to the extent that we can expect the communication strategies that work for the PPPE to be equally effective the FFOFs.

The PPPE still feel immortal. They don't get sick. They want their "healthcare" to deal with accidents - car, bike, skateboard, tri-athletic, whatever. They will not be the important stakeholders in this issue - except to the extent that their lack of attention might make things more difficult for their parents who tend to be FFOFs.

As Mr. Zeleny does point out in his article, to leverage the support of the FFOFs who are concerned about healthcare, the Obama administration is going to have to address the negotiation differently, perhaps starting with a new container.


  1. The changing of the container makes complete sense to me. When im trying to convince my kids(daughter 14, boy 9) to do something, or agree with me about something I talk to them in two diffrent ways. They will probably agree with me if I give them an argument that agrees with their agenda.

  2. The approach method does need to be considered in reference with the targeted audience. I really couldn't agree more.