Sunday, August 16, 2009

Healthcare: Where's the Obama Marketing Machine?

The news reports discuss boisterous town halls and death panels. "Government is taking over healthcare," say those who peddle fear. There's the 35 year old middle class woman who worries about fairness for the insurance company. Healthcare, an issue that Obama and Clinton ran on, has gotten away from him.

As much as the disinformation campaign has wore on, Obama's campaign machine has not shown much luster. Sure, he's doing well on his Facebook and Twitter page, but his folks are not reaching out. Obama acts like he has a coherent message. He is one of the best communicators ever, but his answers are long and complex. Rarely does he break it down as well as he did with his campaign about Change and Hope. The Yes We Can slogan on every bumper in California.

Here's a response from the Smerconish interview on August 2oth on the whether Secretary Sebelius misspoke on the public option. First, Obama addressed her statement. Then, he began to discuss his plan:

"We have consistently talked about the need for health care reform because family premiums are going up three times faster than inflation and wages. The costs of Medicare and Medicaid will bankrupt this country if we don't reduce the cost inflation of health care. You've got families who can't get health care because of preexisting conditions or they bump up against some lifetime cap if a family member gets really ill.

So what we've said is there are a number of components of health care. One is that for people who already have health insurance, they can keep their health insurance, but we're going to have some consumer protections to regulate how insurers operate. For example, they can't prohibit people from getting it, health insurance, because of a preexisting condition. They can't have lifetime caps or yearly caps that prevent people from getting the care that they need.

We're also going -- for people who don't have health insurance -- to set up a system similar to what Congress has, where you can buy into a bigger pool, get better rates, have better protections around you. You would be buying that insurance from private insurers."

Wow, that's a mouthful, and I'm just quoting a section of the response. President Obama clearly knows what he's talking about, but there are far too many messages. There are far too many words. There are no human interest stories. Too few questions and answers. Then there's no repetition of a few key slogans.

There's just no marketing.

Imagine if Obama broke down his American Healthcare Security Program into 3 components: Access for All, Lower Costs, High Quality. He could deliver a message that is appealing to the needs of each group and then overall to everyone:

  • Access for All: Everyone gets healthcare. No one is left out in the cold, forced to fend for themselves when emergencies strike or when diseases take their toll. Tell a story about the underemployed family at risk of losing healthcare for their sick kid. The breadwinner is working his out, but is scared of layoffs and not having enough money to pay for his family. If every advanced country in the world can get healthcare, so can we.
  • Lower Costs: Americans aren't getting raises because rising costs are forcing businesses to put your raising into exploding healthcare costs. That's money out of your pocket. If everyone has it, then we can get care at a lower cost. Right now, Americans with healthcare are subsidizing those without care. Those who don't have care go to the emergency room for smaller problems that could have been taken care of with a doctor's visit - like a fever or back pain. Or they have an expensive heart surgery when they could have been treated earlier with cholesterol medication and a change in diet. Imagine putting $2,500 in every families pocket because everyone is covered.
  • High Quality: America has the best medical technology in the world. We have the best trained doctors and nurses. We have the best information technology. People all around the world come here. Then how come people around the world are living longer than us? Some of you have choices. Most of you don't. You have to take one of a few plans offered by your employer. Many times, you can't go outside your designated provider network. This plan delivers high quality by opening up choice for plans. You can choose one that makes sense for you.
Then you can get into details like greater choices through healthcare exchanges, a public option backstop, keeping your current plan, electronic records, saving Medicare, etc. But keep using the benefits over and over. Keep talking about healthcare security and the need for change.

Use real people, not policy wonks. Americans were captivated by "Joe the Plumber." Find people who represent real stories and bring them with you. Use their stories and videos to create an emotional connection to the need for reform. Create novellas on each problem and how they would be solved by the 3 features of the Healthcare Security Plan.

Right now on Whitehouse.gov, Obama has a cool Reality Check section. However, the problem is that the answers are by policy wonks in the White House staff. Why not have Obama Ambassadors who look like the people asking the questions, answering questions via video? Go a step further, and have a 24 hour chat response line. I'm sure many of the questions would be repetitious, but imagine the how comforted people would feel by getting their individual questions answered.

Then, there would be button to press to inform your Senator or Representative of your support. They would be overwhelmed.

President Obama, this is a game you could win. Just go back to those marketing principles you mastered during your successful campaign. And go back to the 3 features and benefits. And pound it until you drown out the din.

1 comment:

dmgsouth said...

Great Post. We all need to do more thinking and less listening to the media.