Nelson Mandela once observed that ‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”.
The White House has taken these words seriously, and has decided to reach out to the critical 20 – 40 year old market for “Obamacare” directly, using the comedy show hosted by Zach Galifianakis – their “language”.
At first glance it may seem frivolous for the President of the United States to go on a youth oriented comedy show when so many important events are occurring globally – the ongoing slaughter in Syria and the crisis in Ukraine to mention only two. However, he had an important message to send to an important demographic group before the time limit for registering for “Obamacare”. His staff realized a critical communications principle — to reach your target audience, you must first know how they get their messages and news, and who speaks directly to them and influences their decisions so that you can speak with them using their language and media.
It has been shown that the key demographic target audience for “Obamacare” needs to succeed is the healthy 20 to 40 year old American professional who feels “invincible”, in the President’s own words, but whose participation will secure affordable health insurance prices for all who need insurance. This important group does not rely on the mainstream media for their news and views of the world. They are more likely to treat Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, or Bill Maher as their source for serious news and views. Political leaders who ignore these outlets do so at their own peril.
So President Obama appeared on the Zack Galifianakis program and engaged in several minutes of banter with the comedian/host, using humor to get his message across to this captive audience.
He reached this important audience by bypassing the mainstream media (which this group doesn’t follow), and engaged youth in their medium of choice, a comedy interview program.
They also did not limit themselves to the passive audience that simply tunes in to the show. They uploaded the clip to YouTube, and it has had five million hits to date – in less than a week! That is, five million people have actively sought out this message.
By speaking to youth in their language, President Obama “spoke to their hearts”, and at least ensured his message reached them directly. Time will tell how well they listened, and how successful the impact was. At the time of writing, the Hollywood Reporter said the healthcare.gov site received over three million visits within the hour of the posting of the segment. As well, the segment enjoyed five million hits the first week it was on. Not bad for seven minutes work.
You may ask how this affects your organization, since you don’t have a President of the United States as your spokesperson. The truth is, you can follow his example relatively inexpensively by using your imagination and creativity.
The next time you have a message you need to get to your target young audience, you might consider hiring a young comedian to work with your communications people to produce an offbeat, humorous script around your main message. Rehearse the script until your spokesperson and the comedian banter effectively, with self-assuredness and self-deprecating humor. Then video-record it digitally (you can use your smart phone) and upload it to your channel on YouTube (you should have a channel on YouTube if you plan to seriously reach the prime youth market).
Send the link to your target media so that journalists can visit it. If it is offbeat and funny enough, send your link to national mainstream media as well as the more youth oriented media (such as the Daily Show, Bill Maher, and others who reach youthful audiences). It may become a story on CNN or some other national or global network that are always looking for quirky news items – and go viral.
The important thing is to get the digital universe speaking about your message and creating a “buzz”. For a relatively small investment in time and money, you might just succeed.
Try it and let me know how it goes at email@example.com.
Eduardo del Buey
Crosshairs Communications Ltd.