In the spin following the GOP’s game-changing Senate win in Massachusetts, the White House defended its beleaguered health care legislation with an old standard: What we have here is a failure to communicate.
"We lost some of that sense,” President Obama told ABC News, “…of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are and why we have to make sure those institutions are matching up with those values.”
That talking point has been played down since then. Good thing, too. Because it’s terrible PR.
Think of health care reform as a high-profile but controversial consumer product being introduced into a marketplace of extreme fans and critics (like New Coke or Windows Vista). Blaming a flat-out rejection on poor communications might seem a safe strategy. You hold yourself accountable but without faulting your intentions.
It’s not that your product’s bad. It’s the stupid packaging.
Except a lot of people will instead think you’re saying, “It’s the packaging, stupid.”
Your competitors will do everything they can to promote that interpretation. As MSNBC points out, administration opponents are literally institutionalizing the word “arrogance” in reference to what Massachusetts voters were complaining about and how the White House has responded to it.
At the core of almost every public’s fear and loathing are legitimate issues. You may think your smarts in creating a value-added product trumps all that. They don’t.
You can’t win people who think you’re dismissing them. Even if you suspect they don’t have a clue what you’re really selling.
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