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How The White House uses digital

News, 12 October 2016

WASHINGTON, DC: The White House has successfully employed "personas" to help craft digital messaging which engages consumers and encourages them to spread information from the Obama administration.

Ashleigh Axios spent more than four years working at The White House, including two years as Creative Director/Office of Digital Strategy, before leaving the organization in April 2016.

And she drilled down into its strategy under the Obama administration during the Spikes Asia 2016 conference, reporting that a careful consideration of the target audience was a key guiding principle for disseminating the President's ideas.

"You have to narrow in and try to focus on personas. Who are those people that you're really trying to communicate with?" she said. (For more details of this approach, read Warc's exclusive report: How The White House developed a content marketing and social media juggernaut.)

"And, at the White House, this was something that we're always driving home … If you try to make something viral, and you try to make it to go to a massive audience and appeal to every single person, the result is going to be something that is generic," she said.

"You're weathering it down to communicate to way too many people, at best. So we focus on personas a lot of the time, whenever we could, to really narrow in on a specific audience."

Axios led a team of 20 while working at The White House. And one core task for this group was finding ways to break down complex policy issues into digestible, and shareable, forms.

One demonstration saw President Obama trek in Alaska with adventurer Bear Grylls to highlight climate change, while another resulted in him appearing on "Between Two Ferns", an online parody talk show hosted by comedian Zach Galifinakis, to discuss healthcare.

"Instead of doing it in a way that everybody wants to change the channel or scroll right past it in their Facebook feed, we found a way that was engaging, interesting to watch and had a lot of share value as well," Axios said of the latter initiative.

A further example of this idea has involved "animated whiteboards", which were uploaded to YouTube and leveraged eye-catching visuals to explain complex topics like the minimum wage, infrastructure development and the budget.

"We're using every trick and tool that we have, including doing animated whiteboard explainers. I hand-animated an explainer that just broke down immigration reform that benefits the American economy," Axios said.

Data sourced from Warc