President Obama’s unsuccessful bid for Chicago to host the 2016 Olympic Games may have come and gone, but there are lasting lessons we can glean from that experience. Of course, Obama was all for his adopted hometown having spent a good portion of his adult life there. In his bid to appeal to the International Olympic Committee early on, Obama alongside the First Lady, Michelle Obama and Mayor Richard Daley hosted a White House event on Olympics. Although enthusiastic, Obama appeared to waiver on how much more support to publicly give Chicago. When initially asked whether he would make a personal trip to Copenhagen to lobby for the games, the president deferred to his wife as being the better candidate of the two to make the case for Chicago in Europe.
But as the date for the IOC Session drew nearer, the president, perhaps responding to pressure from Chicago’s formidable Mayor Daley decided to make a quick trip to Copenhagen to augment the efforts of his wife, Mayor Daley himself, Oprah Winfrey and a myriad of sports celebs.
Palpable enthusiasm? Very likely. Overkill? Possibly. A fine line that the Obama inadvertently crossed. Had Chicago won the bid, chances are no one would have noticed the misstep. But as fate would have it, Rio stole the glory and we temporarily wondered how Obama’s inability to “bring home” the games would impact the other pressing issues he is working on.
In most areas, Obama has skillfully grappled with his transition from presidential candidate to Commander-in-Chief. But in other areas, he leaves us scratching our heads. While he is extremely popular he is not an entertainer, but you wouldn’t know it from his late night show appearances in the recent past. He will ultimately be judged by what he’s able to accomplish during his administration not by how many balls he can keep in the air.
In the meantime though, here are some key lessons we can learn from the president’s Chicago Olympic bid:
Identify your primary messages and utilize the best mediums to deliver messages to specific audiences: In any communications initiative it’s fundamental to identify your primary goals. We typically help our clients identify three to five primary goals that form the foundation for many other secondary goals. Only after doing this do we start exploring the best ways to reach their audiences. Convincing the IOC to host the 2016 in Chicago was a primary message for the Obama team. However, the manner in which that message was delivered mattered tremendously with this particular audience than emphasis on exuberance.
Stay on message: Take the time to identify your messages and then stick with them! One week the President declined going to Copenhagen, another week he was boarding the Air Force bound for the capital of Denmark. This move made at such a time came across as jerky and inadvertently portrayed the IOC as one easily swayed by star power. A misstep with this particular audience.
Fully utilize your team: You know your team’s strengths well, so use them effectively. Who is the most capable and appropriate person to deliver certain message(s)? Under which circumstance(s)? Identify them, bring them to speed and have them go at it. Obama at the onset said Michelle Obama, would make the best candidate to make the case for Chicago in Copenhagen. He was right. Mrs. Obama, a native Chicagoan, spoke passionately about the city where she was born, grew up, started her career and gave birth to her own children. The IOC said they were truly impressed with her delivery. But not so much with the President’s – a rare criticism of Obama from an international body.