One of my bucket list goals is to be invited to the White House. I’ve met the president before (briefly), but I’d love to meet him and his team at the White House. Unfortunate most Americans will never meet the president or be invited to the White House.
However, what the White House communication team has smartly done is to fully use the power of digital communications to give us as close as possible access to the White House – from our computer screens. There is a lot we can all learn from the White House.
1. Multiple communication streams
There is a lot of activity happening at the White House – events, meetings, policy decisions, and more. You might only want to see a press releases, others might want to see just a photo and some might want to see everything White House- related. The White House has a photo of the day, where you can see one photo of the president or someone else, for that day. They also have press releases and so much more.
For your business, especially if you have a lot of information, give people a choice of how much or how little to receive; don’t just have one stream of communication.
2. Be Simple and Creative
To explain some pretty complex concepts, like the budget, the White House has implemented the “White House White Board.” During these three-to-five-minute sessions, a White House senior adviser/official explains a concept using a dry erase board. An image is already neatly drawn on the White Board and an Administration official stands in front of the board explaining the concept. At times the official will use a dry eraser marker and write a note on the board or add a drawing.
While blogs, e-mails and “talking head” videos are great, creative thinking like this can add some differentiation to your business, while still communicating to your customers. Who knows – maybe the video will go viral.
3. Solicit Input
The White House can get access to any adviser it wants to for advice to solve the world's and America’s problems and challenges. However, the White House has also implemented an “Advise the Advisor” blog wherein a senior White House official asks a question, through video. And through a form, anyone can provide answers.
Want more communication tips?
Your customers, employees, vendors – anyone you work with – if given the chance will give you input. Just ask. Maybe you don’t have time to visit all your employees and customers – through online communication everyone can type and click, and comment.
4. Use Photos and Video Liberally
The White House documents everything the President does and publishes a photo of the day, blogs, and West Wing Week by Arun Chaudhry (who I would love to meet one day). West Wing Week gives you a behind-the-scenes and over-the-shoulder view of the president and his week.
Instead of your customers just buying from you for your products, why not deepen the relation a bit and humanize what you sell. When you have to raise prices and screw up an order – they’ll be likely to forgive you since they “know you” a bit better.
5. Produce Lots of (Good) Segmented Content
With 2,000 staff in the Executive Office of the President, the White House is no “small business” and you might not be able to produce all the content that the White House does, but it serves as a good model. The first link in the top navigation of WhiteHouse.gov is to the White House blog. There are 14 different blogs with content for the various constituents the White House wants to serve.
Instead of sending all your customers all your information, why not segment your content so that customers who only want to purchase socks get information about socks and those who want men’s suits can just get information about suits. Whether e-mail or blogs, segment your content and make it good.
6. Internal Cross Marketing
The White House does a great job in cross marketing its own information. If you see the “photo of the day,” a note below it might suggest you check out “West Wing Week." If you see a press release, it might refer to a White House blog.
Maybe you can’t buy a Super Bowl advertisement, but you can surely place an advertisement or mention your new line of suits in your newsletter about socks.
7. Nothing Beats Real-Time Information
Are you afraid of real-time information? The White House isn't. During the State of the Union speech in January, the White House’s live feed was even better than the New York Times or other outlets. This proves that the White House wants to engage citizens, as best it can, in real time through live-streaming information. And it proves that the White House wants people to come to its website and not just get the information from others.
There are only a finite number of customers who can engage with you in person. For your next event or company meeting, why not live-stream it and attract an audience that can’t be with you in person but would be interested in “checking you out” from computer desktops. Second lesson, always drive people back to your website.
8. Build Interactivity Into Everything You Do
Just about every communication the White House does, they give viewers or readers an opportunity to give feedback to the White House and discuss with others – through Facebook or a White House discussion board. Doing this requires a bit of “thick skin” as you will invariablly get feedback from those who “support you” as it were, and those who do not support you.
In your business, as you service customers, sell products, and make sales calls, provide ways for customers (or employees) to give feedback. Maybe it’s a comment card or maybe it’s a survey form. Either way, enable customers to provide feedback to you and discuss with others. You will gain so much intelligence and insight about your customers.