I felt pretty let down when I recently heard that Sanjay Gupta – chief medical correspondent for the health and medical unit at CNN – turned down the Surgeon General position, citing family obligations and his interest in continuing his current career path.

When Gupta was first suggested as an appointee, the Washington Post reported that it was evidence that the incoming administration was starting to put a greater value on “advisers who can drive a public message.”  It was said that the new administration would put great value on accessibility and transparency – so an already-trusted health authority welcomed into our living room via the nightly news seems like a perfect fit.

Although I think the administration will still focus on a surgeon general—as well as other public officials—that can help engage the public, it’s interesting to see what other tactics the presidential team has tried to engage to level the playing field.  Some points that immediately come to mind are Obama’s historic TV addresses, his interest in meeting constituents on their own territory with social media and the Web, and communicating with not only words, but with photos, pictures, charts and other interesting visuals.

As many of us here at the agency are driving social media campaigns for clients, I think that by observing the president’s communicational paradigm shift, we’re also now given the opportunity to look at our own clients—and our clients’ clients—with fresh eyes and from square one.  Whom are we talking to? What do we need them to know and why? And, growing more important each day: Where can we meet that’s halfway for both of us?

On one side, if companies aren’t on Twitter or using new media- or any medium at all- to engage with customers or their clients, it doesn’t mean that they are not being talked about.  On the flip side, as communications professionals, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be complacent and think that social media is a solution to all of our communications needs.  Just because John McCain is on Twitter doesn’t mean that his core audience is listening. It is, however, important to listen and respond where appropriate.

— Kaitlin Slattery

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