Wednesday, 27 September 2017 - 2 minute read

It’s 7am and I’m queuing to get into the Boston Convention Center along with thousands of other people. The reason? There could only be one: Michelle Obama, the former first lady of the US is making her appearance at Inbound 2017.

The talk with writer Roxanne Gay covered the expected topics, with Mrs. Obama’s personality shining through all the time. This made me wonder: what makes Michelle Obama so universally appealing? And what lessons can we marketers take?

Lesson 1: say smart things, but stay close to your audience

People are inspired by the things they hear Mrs. Obama saying – not because they’re particularly new or groundbreaking, but because she eloquently points out the things we were all thinking but hadn’t quite put our fingers on. As a marketer you need to make sure you bring about new insights, often simply by connecting the dots. Avoid alienating people by getting too high level. Show intelligence, but don’t stretch it. In the age of mass content, that might not be as obvious as it sounds.

Lesson 2: show vision and strategy

“I didn’t want to be a first lady of slogans or symbolic gestures, I hope I brought a bit of vision and strategy to the role.”

Michelle Obama garnered a huge following over her time as a first lady because of her personality, but also because of the things she achieved ánd set out to achieve. She believed that Americans should get healthier, that all children should have proper schooling, among other things, and she made sure that people knew about it.

As a brand, it’s also up to you to show what you stand for. Present a vision that transcends yourself and inspires people, and work out a way to make it happen.

Lesson 3: discover who you are, then stay true of yourself

“I’ve always been Michelle Robinson Obama, I’ve always been my authentic self.”

Being genuine took up an important part of Mrs. Obama and Roxanne’s talk. Mrs. Obama attributed much of her much-need resilience to her being comfortable with and true to herself. It has helped her remain graceful throughout challenging times.

Audiences pick up on this authenticity like sniffer dogs. It appeals to people because that is how they aspire to be as well. And that is what they look for in your brand. Whatever channel you’re on, whatever you’re saying – make sure it resonates with your core identity. Don’t know what that is? Then that is your place to start.

Lesson 4: be humorous

“We gotta get outta here. The Trumps are coming!”

…is what Michelle Obama told her kids to hurry them out of the White House. It was easily the biggest laugh in the audience, and it signifies what I think is Michelle Obama’s most admirable trait: humour.

Why? Because humour shows that you don’t take yourself too seriously, no matter how influential and powerful you are – or have been. It helps you remain human, and most of all: relatable. You need humour too in your communication. Because, no matter how abstract or complex your solutions are, it never hurts to be a bit more human.


Like what you read? Check out our other articles on Inbound 2017.


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