Obama and Netanyahu reach out to the masses – how the net helps as well as hinders the message

Politicians who use digital for their messaging need to remember that once it's online, it's there forever (image source: YouTube)

Politicians who use digital for their messaging need to remember that once it’s online, it’s there forever (image source: YouTube)

Politicians love to talk, at least those in the West do. Some politicians talk with a purpose, while others talk for the sake of rhetoric. We’ve had plenty of talk over the past couple of weeks, thanks in part to both global and regional political campaigns.

The net has completely changed how leaders communicate with their audiences. For example, leaders can now directly reach out to whole nations directly and without the need for a medium or intermediary such as the media. Two examples come to mind this week. The first is that of Benyamin Netanyahu, who went over the heads of Israeli media to directly address the Jewish Israeli public to exhort them to vote. In his address, which was posted to his Facebook page, he warned of the Israeli Arab threat. You can have a look at the video below.

While the demagoguery may have worked with the right-wing voters, this and other responses to questions such as the possibility of there being a two-state solution are not helping Netanyahu internationally. In a day and age where everything is on the internet and can be translated by a machine, there’s little to no opportunity for politicians to say one thing to one audience and then do a 180 with a different audience. Netanyahu’s media assertions that his words were misinterpreted are difficult to understand for anyone with an internet connection who can watch his words directly online.

Obama has also been using video this week, to address Iranians on the eve of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. Using the opportunity to reach out directly and talk about the opportunity for an agreement over their nuclear ambitions, Obama’s message is simple and sincere. He’s stepped over the Ayatollahs and the government-controlled media to appeal to Iranians, who can access his speech online (the video is not recorded in high definition, for faster loading for Iranians). I’ve included both the comments and the video below.

“This moment may not come again soon. I believe that our nations have an historic opportunity to resolve this issue peacefully — an opportunity we should not miss. The days and weeks ahead will be critical. Our negotiations have made progress, but gaps remain. And there are people, in both our countries and beyond, who oppose a diplomatic resolution. My message to you — the people of Iran — is that, together, we have to speak up for the future we seek. This year, we have the best opportunity in decades to pursue a different future between our countries.”

There’s no doubt the power of digital to step over the media and appeal directly to the masses. What our leaders need to remember is that whatever is put on this medium is immutable. For politicians who are known for changing their position based on whom they’re talking to such as Netanyahu, digital may come back to haunt them. For others who are trying to reach out and build bridges, such as Obama, video represents the best medium to send a message out to as big an audience as possible.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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