White House partnering with social media influencers to sell agenda

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The White House is partnering with social media influencers and online platforms to sell its message directly to the American people in a fresh facet of its digital strategy, administration officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: The “digital media tour” mimics an approach used last year, when the Biden campaign sought to reach a younger demographic wary of the possibility of an older, out-of-touch president.

In its first deployment of the strategy, the White House offered up two National Economic Council directors for interviews last week with social media influencers like “Budgetnista” and “The Money Coach."

  • The goal was to have them help persuade Americans — and their representatives in Congress — to support President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan.
  • The bill ended up passing the Senate on Saturday, and without any Republican support, as it had the House.
  • The White House tried its direct-to-constituent approach because a majority of Americans strongly supported the bill, including 60% of Republicans who either strongly supported or somewhat supported the package, per a Morning Consult/Politico poll.

The White House will use this strategy as it continues to introduce new policies and proposals.

  • The idea is to find influencers who've earned the trust of dedicated audiences. They come with a set of unique followers on platforms like Instagram that the White House would be unable to reach through its own social media following.
  • Some of the influencers have solicited questions from their followers.
  • The White House officials offered for interviews go through a series of one-on-ones in a round-robin format, staying in place while interviewees are “switchboarded” in on Zoom.
  • Those influencers are then allowed to use the content however they see fit on their platforms.

The bottom line: This style of outreach is an outgrowth of the COVID-19 pandemic public health restrictions, which limited the Biden campaign’s ability to do in-person outreach.

  • The direct-through-influencer approach also comes as White House reporters have become impatient waiting for the president's first press conference.
  • Press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that Biden will hold one "before the end of the month."

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