As far as epic Twitter battles go, the recent Hilary Rosen/Ann Romney throw down reminds us of the power, perils and instantaneous response capability afforded by this social media platform. The response from the left, right, punditry and media helped take this moment and elevate the exchange of tweets and helped define this moment as a teachable moment in Twitter and campaign politics.
If you think about it, an unaffiliated commentator said something off message – nothing remarkable about that. The real story is the how the aggressive and savvy response, stoked the fire, and gave legs to the story so it would live on through a multi-day cycle. As the campaign marches on, we’ll have a chance to study how the responses out of the messaging machines of Boston and Chicago handled the entire affair.
Regardless of who ends up winning this joust, team Romney’s success in having Mrs. Romney join Twitter, tweet once and overtake Justin Bieber’s dominance of the Twitterverse, is evidence enough for all us to think how we could leverage the platform for our candidate, cause or campaign. For all of the reasons we use Twitter, it’s even more of a potential political weapon than Facebook. It can easily help us win the messaging battle for the day.
As media strategists and campaign advisors we cringe at the idea of giving the candidate or executive a direct outlet to voters, customers, employees and the media. The risk of our candidate sitting in traffic firing away can make us want to run to the store for a bottle of antacid. But, I think there’s another lesson to be learned and it’s the option of being preemptive in controlling your message, reputation and audience on Twitter.
We all admit there isn’t a perfect candidate. Everyone has a flaw or drawback to a certain voter demographic. However, at the end of the day voters either vote for or vote against them based on the frame and context we’ve helped construct. An errant Tweet from our candidate either adds to, or subtracts from, that reputation but if we’ve done our job, it shouldn’t define the campaign.
Encouraging a candidate or (business executive) let their personality live on through their twitter account provides voters a direct outlet to the candidate and can reinforce the narrative we’ve crafted. For the OCD amongst us, the good news about Twitter, you can never be misquoted. Your missive lives on, 140 characters for all to see forever.
As the Rosen/Romney affair escalated as a trending topic, I couldn’t help but think of the Twitter account of the distinguished septuagenarian, iPhone toting, senior Senator from Iowa, Chuck Grassley.
Politico provides a helpful rundown of Senator Grassley’s top twitter moments, notably, “P” and his rants on the History channel, “I turn to History channel frequently bc I like history. There is nevr any history unless u r an antique dealer. Change name!”
The Democrats who find his tweets annoying weren’t going to vote for him in the first place. To his Republican faithful, it’s another sign of his attempts to connect with “real” voters. But his use of the medium, typos and random rants on cable programming and all, does provide a compelling case study in giving the candidate a voice and reputation on Twitter.
So while we may cringe at the idea of explaining what our client and candidate meant through a message on Twitter, the rewards and messaging opportunities are there for the taking.
As the hired professionals, we should always be prepared to take advantage of this growing and powerful weapon of political warfare. The first step may be convincing ourselves to allow our candidate to speak freely on Twitter, as they do on the campaign trail and at town hall meetings.