Between Two Ferns

How To Engage With Your Audience – Presidential Style

So the President of the United States knows what Between Two Ferns is. Big deal. Well, actually it is.

Quick update: Between Two Ferns is an online series hosted by Zach Galifianakis in which he interviews celebrities in a hilariously awkward fashion. Last week he interviewed none other than US President Barack Obama.

screen3

As you can imagine, the internet went berserk.

The video notched up impressively fast views and became the Funny Or Die network’s fastest growing production yet.

Now if you only watch the first minute or so, you probably only see the barb- slinging between Galifianakis and Obama. Which ain’t bad. But if you watch it the whole way through you see the actual point of the video.

Rather than, as some commentators have suggested, appearing on BTF as a time-wasting exercise, Obama appeared on Between Two Ferns to efficiently engage with a younger audience. Why? Well in short, to spruik his healthcare package to younger Americans and encourage them to sign up before the March 31 deadline. Reading between the lines, it was a PR stunt.

And therein lies what I absolutely love about the internet.

A Lesson in How to Engage with Your Audience

I’m all about politicians using social media and viral videos to engage with a younger audience. It’s a smart decision. And believe me there are lessons to be learned.

The decision for the President to appear on Between Two Ferns was a considered one, made after months of discussions between the White House and Funny Or Die. The White House was well aware that appealing to young Americans meant grabbing their attention in a space they trusted – and young voters are savvy. They don’t trust or relate to political speak. So why not use a celebrity they like to endorse something that benefits them?

The results in this exercise speak for themselves. The video drove thousands of visitors to the healthcare.gov website, with the White House confirming the video was the website’s top referrer.

So what can we learn from Between Two Ferns vs Obama? Know your audience- it will lead you to knowing how to engage with your audience. Find out what they like, engage with them on their level and take a risk. If the most powerful administration in the world is prepared to do it, you really don’t have any excuses.

– Sophie