Obama Speech May Have Gone Over Head Of Many In Televised Audience — That’s Okay!


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Saw this news item about President Obama’s recent televised speech about the Gulf Oil Crisis:

(CNN) — President Obama’s speech on the gulf oil disaster may have gone over the heads of many in his audience, according to an analysis of the 18-minute talk released Wednesday.

Tuesday night’s speech from the Oval Office of the White House was written to a 9.8 grade level, said Paul J.J. Payack, president of Global Language Monitor. The Austin, Texas-based company analyzes and catalogues trends in word usage and word choice and their impact on culture.

Though the president used slightly less than four sentences per paragraph, his 19.8 words per sentence “added some difficulty for his target audience,” Payack said.

In order to clearly convey your message, one must always keep in mind your target audience and the tone of the message you are trying to communicate. It is inconceivable that President Obama’s staff did not purposely craft and deliver this speech as intended.

My View

Without opining on the state of American education, general guidance is to craft important messages at a 6th grade level. And without expressing a view on clearly divisive politics, I believe President Obama purposely took a different tact.

Why? I think that the Gulf Oil Crisis is a serious and complicated issue, one that requires careful description, planning, and messaging. The President needed to communicate to multiple audiences in an even-handed, yet compassionate way. While BP is an obvious villain in this episode, it is also a necessary partner in the fix, both in terms of capping the “spewing” oil and in funding the cleanup.

The President knows that using flip or overly simplistic antagonistic rhetoric will not remedy the situation any faster. The day following the speech, Obama met with BP officials and secured $20 billion for a recovery fund.

It is expected that citizens impacted by this disaster are angered. Those directly representing them must also express outrage. This outrage can be easily described in language concepts that are simple, emotional, and elementary.

However, when the senior leader speaks during difficult times, he or she must always be mindful of the exponential impact of his or her words on those listening. Those words must be consistent, factual, empathetic, but solution-based and hopeful.

To do this, President Obama stepped up the level of communication in his speech. He sounded like he understood the complicated issue, tried to put it in perspective with examples of other disasters, and was working all angles to minimize its impact. I think there has to be some comfort that the leader is in charge, even if the message sounded more professorial than preacher.

Senior leaders must understand their audiences, but should not simply communicate in simple terms. Rather, thinking through the intended outcome, and then crafting an appropriate message and medium is preferred.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Christopher Myers
Benefits Services Consulting
For more than 2 years, Chris Myers has designed and managed industry leading Employee Benefits service organizations. His passionate and innovative approach to service is widely recognized in the benefits field. His "Perfect Service" approach was created in 21 and within two years improved his company's satisfaction ratings to the top of the industry.


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