Why Obama’s Youtube channel sucks

I was impressed when I first heard Obama was going to have a weekly videocast.  It’s a great idea because Youtube is a very personal medium with tremendous reach.  Sure, it’s a lot more raw than television, but that’s also what gives the site its most valuable asset: authenticity.  Unfortunately, Obama’s marketers seem to have overlooked that…

That video seems like an address you’d see on TV.  In fact, all of Obama’s videocasts have felt scripted, cold, and cookie-cutter.  There’s no connection with the audience.

You might be thinking, “Of course they’re scripted!  Do you expect him to just say whatever is on his mind?”  YES!  After eight years of being patronized and deceived by the Bush administration, we need someone who will be straightforward and authentic. Americans (and the rest of the world) are disgruntled and sick of lies.  We don’t want a slick politician — we want a real, honest leader.

Obama’s videocast formula needs to be tweaked until it feels more like a warm, personal interaction.  Right now, he’s doing boring, scripted monologues at the viewer.  But Youtube is a social medium, so he needs to be genuinely engaged with us.  His videos have to feel real, even if he’s rehearsed a million times. So here are a few ideas (that can be implemented immediately and cheaply) for Obama to improve his channel:

  • Stop making it look scripted. I know Barack has a lot more important stuff to do than learn lines each week for a 5-minute Youtube video, so I think he should just ax the script and teleprompters altogether.  He should make a rough outline of what he wants to talk about, film a few different takes, and upload the best one.  He’s a great speaker, with or without a script, so this shouldn’t be an issue.  Which leads me to my next overlapping point…
  • Loosen up on the formalities. Youtube viewers are very used to raw videos, so don’t be afraid of imperfections.  He shouldn’t always be surrounded by the American flag and scholarly books.  Film some of the updates out on the deck, or backstage at a conference, or even in the limo.  Right now, it’s visually bland and mediocre.  Make the videos feel more natural and less staged.
  • Interact with your viewers. Put a few interns in charge of filtering through the thousands of insane/moronic/racist comments and messages, then give Obama 2-3 good questions to answer each week for the videocast.  Have the interns write personal messages back to those selected viewers, saying their question will be addressed in next week’s video.  Now it’s a dialogue that people are emotionally invested in, and the message spreads.  “Obama picked my question!  Check out this video!”

After witnessing such a brilliant online marketing campaign during the elections, I’m honestly surprised to find myself criticizing Obama’s Youtube channel.  But here we are.

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Charlie Hoehn is the author of Play It Away, Play for a Living and Recession Proof Graduate. His work has been featured on NPR's TED Radio Hour, Forbes, Fast Company, and Harvard Business Review. Previously, he was the Director of Special Projects for Tim Ferriss. Currently, he is the Head of Author Marketing at Book In A Box. He lives in Austin, Texas.

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