Wainger Group in the Huffington PostLeadership Communications Bust

It’s an interesting communications phenom:  opponents disdained the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act as “Obamacare” in hopes of scoring a negative PR hit.  But even in the heat of campaign battle last year, the President himself embraced the nickname, presuming that the actual rollout would cement a lasting legacy.  Instead, in the very antithesis of good leadership communications, the early days of the healthcare.gov portal have torpedoed that reputational potential — at least in the short term.  How could the tide have been turned?  We have seven suggestions for his — or any — communications team, which we detailed in the Huffington Post this past weekend:

Wainger Group in the Huffington Post

Effective communications — great leadership communications — involves setting appropriate expectations. Whenever an enterprise launches a communications campaign, it is making promises.  “Buy this product; it will improve your life.” Or, “Support our cause; we will change our community.”  If the promise is too small, no one will be interested.  If the promise is too big, you risk fueling great disappointment and even more damaging anger.

The latter seems to be part of what happened with the launch of the healthcare.gov website, the new portal at the centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act.  By several news accounts, the White House PR machine was in high gear in the days before the site’s debut, touting its elegant design, simplicity of use, and capacity to handle the large numbers of people who would sign up.  Unfortunately, the product — in this case, the communications vehicle — did not live up to its promise.

Only time will tell about the ultimate popularity or possible effect of the initiative; but, as was noted in The Huffington Post this past weekend, the result here is not only great damage to the reputation of the initiative — but a blot with possible sticking power on the entire Obama administration.

The PR that preceded the launch of healthcare.gov reminds us just how important it is to make sure any communications effort does not get too far ahead of the product or cause being promoted.  So how do you avoid the quagmire?

Read more at www.huffingtonpost.com/liz-wainger/communications-and-obamacare.