Obama Engages Through Jimmy Fallon And Wins
Peter Panda

Last week in Forbes I wrote about how commonly leaders — from CEOs to politicians — are counseled to disengage, simply ignore their detractors, and oftentimes not even address the critics.

Disengagement is what I believe constitutes a recipe for disaster in today’s media environment, as the the facilitation of personal relationships via digital tools and social media has, to some degree, made it incumbent upon corporate or political leadership to engage, humanize themselves, behave like actual human beings, and interact with detractors as if on an equal plane.

Last night, while appearing on “The Jimmy Fallon Show” on NBC, President Barack Obama (and his advisors) proved that the White House collectively understands who and how to engage as he slow jammed about student loans.

The President was clearly aiming to engage college students — and whether you agree with it or not — delivering a message that Congressional Republicans want nothing more than to further tax college students with potentially increased interest rates on loans while protecting the billionaires that the those on the left want centrist voters to believe politicians on the right shield.

And what was the result? Morning news stories on NBC’s “The Today Show” and across NBC affiliates, and more important, mass sharing across Facebook and Twitter — further penetrating that 18 – 24-year-old demographic.

President Obama’s “win” should serve as a reminder to the relics of the past about the importance of an open engagement. Leaders can, in fact, behave like real human beings, shaping the perception of people in touch with their constituencies and driving affinity for the organizations they represent.

Peter Panda

Pioneering social media panda bear Tagawa “Peter” Panda was born on a Chinese game reserve in 1969. He emigrated to the United States in 1987 speaking no English, with only the fur on his back and $97 stored in a Jansport fanny-pack wrapped around his waist.

In 2003 while searching for food on the campus of Washington University, he discovered a computer lab where he would ultimately teach himself web development, graphic design, and immerse himself into the growing digital media evolution that was erupting at the time.

With his trademark surly demeanor developed during beatings on his boat ride from China to the U.S., as well as having a penchant for eating vast quantities of bamboo, and enjoying Scotch and cigars, Peter is broadly recognized for coining the phrase “social media” in 2004. He joined Elasticity in late 2009 as the agency’s director of social media strategy and wildlife relations. Friend him on Facebook here.

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