In any PR campaign – big or small, long-term or immediate, political or market-focused – the importance of framing the issue, and framing it early, cannot be overstated.
Last Tuesday, President Barack Obama demonstrated his recognition of this reality, using his State of the Union address as a platform for framing – on his terms – his upcoming re-election bid, and establishing early the themes he wants guiding the remainder of his first term, as well as the debate about whether he should get a second term.
During the 62-minute speech, Obama used the phrases "win the future" and "winning the future" a combined nine times, and conveyed the clear, thematic notion that "we do big things" three times in less than five minutes toward the end of the address.
Obama knows his presidency is at a critical juncture. He also knows, especially given the repetition of these themes in the days following the State of the Union, that he has a lot of work to do in order to undo the perception – real or not – that his presidency lacks a theme, a mission statement, a vision. People have lost sense of just what it is Obama wants to accomplish in terms of the big picture.
And as anyone who's ever worked on a campaign knows, if you can't communicate a vision for your product, your issue, or yourself, you're going to have a tough time selling it, especially if your competition cements a theme before you do.
The power of the presidency offers a clear advantage in this regard, provided you harness it. In the coming months, expect Obama to repeatedly reiterate that America "does big things," that he's focused on "winning the future," and that, under his leadership, he'll make sure that both of those things happen.
Jackson Dunn is MD and practice leader of public affairs for the Americas at FD.