Wednesday, April 15, 2009, 11:58 AM

Bernanke's public relations offensive

Today's Wall Street Journal explores Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's rare public relations offensive in the wake of global financial uncertainty. You can view a quick video below or read the complete article by clicking here.



Here's a quick excerpt from the article:

"Fed officials have been struck by the public response to Mr. Bernanke's "60 Minutes" appearance, which took him to his hometown of Dillon, S.C., to reminisce about his modest upbringing and to visit his childhood home, which a subsequent owner recently lost to foreclosure.

"Strangers have been coming up to him in airports and supermarkets to compliment him. One Fed employee approached him in the Fed's top-floor cafeteria after the television interview. She told him she was touched to learn his mother was reluctant to send him off to Harvard as a teen because he didn't have the proper clothes."
The strategy reinforces two lessons:

1.) The economy is changing rapidly and public opinion is changing with it. Leaders in business and government are wise to respond with unconventional communications. The Fed has a long history of avoiding overt publicity campaigns, and Mr. Bernanke strikes few observers as an attention hound. Yet the chairman and his team deserve kudos for applying a precedent-breaking communications strategy to an unprecedented economic climate.

2.) Few things are as effective as a compelling personal story. The "60 Minutes" excerpt about Bernanke's upbringing helps to elevate the chairman above an unpopular backdrop: the marble halls of Washington, the impeccable pin-stripe suits, and the corridors of Wall Street. Elevating Bernanke above that backdrop allows a big slice of his audience, the American taxpayer, to view him and his decisions in a new light. His audience may not agree with his actions, but his outreach makes them more familiar with the humble life experiences that help guide his decisions. The implicit message: Every decision Bernanke makes, he makes in the best interests of towns like Dillon, S.C.

"60 Minutes" is only one interview, but it's a start. Let's hear from you. Is Bernanke's communications strategy smart, or is he needlessly inviting backlash from the market if he flubs an interview?

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Brandon Wright said...

An appearance on 60 Minutes can do wonders for your cause! I speak from experience.

April 15, 2009 at 4:09 PM  
Blogger Henry Fawell said...

Thanks for the post, Brandon. You are correct about 60 Minutes. 24 million viewers can't be ignored, which is why everyone from Ben Bernanke to Roger Clemens has sought to make their case on the show.

April 16, 2009 at 8:34 AM  

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