Ben Bernanke’s press conference Wednesday has been dubbed a precedent-breaking foray into public relations for the historically insulated Federal Reserve. Sounds momentous. It’s just not entirely true.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1YLPYix0kM]
Bernanke’s PR offensive began two years ago and we took note of it then on a blog we authored. As the economy sunk in 2009, the Fed Chair broke the mold by holding Q & A’s, engaging with the public at forums and sitting for an in-depth interview about the economy with “60 Minutes.”
Two years have passed since then. Our economic fortunes have changed, but the broader motivations behind Bernanke’s press conference have not. In his eyes, the Fed he inherited lacked communications clarity. That’s an understatement. Former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan delighted in the “purposeful obfuscation” that was his communications style.
Bernanke’s press conference is important. It continues to break a mold of the Fed that was cast decades ago. But it’s not entirely new. It represents a new sensitivity toward public opinion that Bernanke initiated years ago.