In politics, it is critical to the candidate or legislator to get information to his or her constituents. The type of communication to constituents is vital to transmitting a policy makers’ message. The wrong form of communication could result in a lost campaign or harsh public backlash.
In 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt began his fireside chats. Through the radio, the President was able to communicate his message to the nation. He was funny, happy, and had the ability and time to explain policy decisions and gossip. It also allowed him to be more confident, instead of hiding his transpiring polio symptoms every time he addressed his constituents. Roosevelt’s fireside chats were a strategic communication medium that allowed him to personally connect to the public.
Another example is the JFK Nixon debate in 1960. It was the first public televised debate and John F. Kennedy had done his research. He has makeup artists and practiced under the lights. When the debate began, he was poised, calm, and collected. Nixon on the other hand, was not familiar with this new form of communication and struggled to maintain composure under the hot, bright lights. People who watched the debate on TV, gave the
win to JFK.
Today, politicians face a new communication adversary – social media. Social media can be an official’s best friend or worse enemy. If used properly, it is a direct avenue between legislators and the people. Voters feel connected to what is happening in Washington, in state capitols, and even local municipalities.
President Obama’s ’08 campaign was labeled the pioneer campaign of social media. Since ’08 Obama’s Twitter and Facebook followers have more than doubled, allowing him to appear transparent and real. Social media gives policy makers the opportunity to be
constantly in communication with voters and updating them with new information.
For example, policy makers use social to alert voters about town hall meetings, rallies, new issues, and even where they can donate money. It can also be used as a communication tool for rallying constituents and pushing them to get on the band wagon. A study showed that 43% of social media uses learned more about a political issue after they saw something on social about that issue.*
Another essential tool of social has been Twitter town halls. Legislators open up the Twitter platform to users and allow them to ask questions. It is not only a form of direct communication but it allows twitter participants to hashtag and retweet what is being said during these online town halls. Therefore, outreach is maximized and the message is translated to so many more people.
Social media guarantees a visual platform for policy makers with their words set in text. Long gone are the days where politicians can say one thing and do another because those type words will haunt them. Therefore, policy makers must use social media as a strategic
tool to connect with voters.
Regardless of how social media is utilized, it is important to remember that it is not just a technological advancement, it is a brand new form of communication that is vital to a policy makers’ success. Implementing a strategic social media presents is the key to future politicians and the campaign process.