Republican House Speaker John Boehner wanted to express his opposition to President Obama’s proposal for free community college for “responsible students.” So he did what anyone would do: He turned to Taylor Swift to articulate his response in GIF format.
ICYMI: Here’s the announcement that the President made back on the 8th, which calls for thousands in tuition aid for students who maintain a 2.5 GPA and more.
Speaker Boehner’s camp says the program isn’t free, but rather would cost $60 billion. He says:
Still, 60 billion dollars is a lot of money…you can’t just shake it off.
This is a program that would probably apply more to younger, traditionally college-age adults than older ones. So we see where Speaker Boehner’s team was going with the Taylor Swift strategy. But it misses the mark for a few key reasons.
First, Taylor Swift has never taken a stand one way or another on the issue. (She did recently send a fan a check to help pay for her student loans.) As Christian Science Monitor points out, this could lead to a sticky situation if Swift decides she doesn’t want her image or face used as part of this statement. (Musicians have a history of asking politicians, particularly Republican ones, not to use their music.)
Second, this is a serious issue and the tone of this response is off. Millennials are suffering financially because of the cost of going to college. But to be competitive in the job market, most everyone is opting for higher education. So while Taylor Swift resonates with this group, you have to question whether a listicle of GIFs is the most appropriate way to engage with this voting age demographic.
Worth noting this bit from Engadget:
But there is a problem: [Digital comms director Caleb] Smith’s goal was almost certainly irreverence, but the attempt at levity instead comes off as glib. And therein lies the danger of politicians using the medium of the moment to get their message across.
From a messaging POV, it might have been better, for instance, to highlight the problems that Boehner sees with the plan, propose an alternative, and then, if they wanted to make a funny, supplement that with a tweet or something that uses a GIF to grab attention and drive traffic.
Finally, the tactic muddied the message. Coverage of the Swift GIF-o-rama hasn’t debated the points that Boehner is making in the post. Rather, the conversation has revolved around the fact that he went this route to make his point. For instance, this is the headline from Business Insider, “John Boehner Trolls Obama With A Bunch Of Taylor Swift GIFs.” No mention of what Boehner is talking about at all.
“We are always looking for fun, effective ways to communicate with the American people about President Obama’s failed policies, and our better solutions,” Michael Steel, Rep. Boehner’s spokesman said. “As Speaker Boehner says, ‘you have to reach people where they are.”
The strategy is fine. But the execution could use some fine tuning.