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#PR: Obama's “Walkabouts”—PR Stunt or Gamble?
By: Gerard E. Mayers
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The online news service McClatchy just recently had an online article titled, “Obama increasingly taking his message beyond Washington.” The article's first paragraphs commented on something Mr Obama seems to be doing quite a bit of lately:

“President Barack Obama is often seen this summer outside the White House, strolling down a city street, joking with ordinary Americans, grabbing a burger or a waffle cone. Just a regular guy.
This week it's in Denver. A few weeks ago, in St. Paul and Minneapolis. In between, it's in Washington, escaping the White House.”

Continuing further, the piece noted, “Obama is 'traveling around the country this week to give campaign speeches — not working with Congress (to) help middle-class families struggling under the weight of his policies,' Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday.”

Reading the entire story brought to my mind something that aboriginal Australians are said to do. An entry in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia quoted the Merriam-Webster online dictionary's definiton of the term “walkabout” as "a short period of wandering bush life engaged in by an Australian Aborigine as an occasional interruption of regular work."

I hate to say this, but that sounds exactly like what Mr Obama is doing. Indeed, the White House is even using the exact term to describe Obama's excursions from the White House.

Returning to the McClatchy article, it was noted that the Obama “forays into ice cream parlors and even a Chipotle are less spontaneous strolls than carefully orchestrated campaign-style events aimed at bolstering an unpopular president's image, along with his spirits.” Add to this the President's recent decision to hobnob with Hollywood immigration activists rather than visit the beleaguered US-Mexico border (particularly in California and in Texas), it would seem to this blogger Mr Obama is giving his opponents plenty of ammunition. Republicans are loudly denouncing his recent tactics, according to an accompanying piece from The Associated Press, noting sagely:

“For President Barack Obama, the humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border is increasingly becoming a political liability, giving Republicans a fresh opportunity to question his administration's competence and complicating the debate over the nation's fractured immigration laws.”

There are those who claim Obama's “walkabouts” are an opportunity to talk to average Americans on the street, to score some much-needed public relations points with regards to jobs, the economy, and the need for immigration reform. There are also those who can claim the President is taking a big gamble in seeming to be unconcerned about the current immigration crisis.

This flack hopes the President knows what he is doing, because it could boomerang on him in a big way.

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About the Author
Gerard E. "Gerry" Mayers writes about PR and other relevant topics for PR professionals. A former PR manager for Sensor Products, Inc. (currently based in Madison, NJ), he lives in Milford, NJ.
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