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Can Politicians Tweet and Get Good PR?
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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When Barack Obama was elected president, it was national history. Yes, there's that, but I mean what he did — he made Twitter a tool for campaigning. And it worked. Politicians on every level perked up like prairie dogs in a cube farm. Before President Obama took to Twitter, those ol' codgers looked at social media as the national hipster weapon of rebellion. After the election, things changed and said curmudgeons found their name in Twitter and tried to speak to constituents. Granted, the engagement of constituents was left to an intern whose password was "password123" (you know, to be unique), but they thought that was how it was done. 

While the president "personally signs" his tweets with his initials in an attempt at transparency, most politicians vying for public awareness and a sweet Klout score do it themselves on "the Twitter." Most impressively is Newark, New Jersey Mayor and U.S. senate hopeful Cory Booker. His presence on Twitter is among the most genuine of any public figure. How can you tell? Well, besides reading the tweets...look at the skin. No pomp. No circumstance. No call-to-action. Just a sweet picture of the Mayor with some kids and a bad skyline clip art background. Oh, it's his...and it's great. Check out this article from PR News entitled "What PR Pros Can Learn from Cory Booker." 

Booker is a political wunderkind in that he tweets himself and the personality you see at a lectern in Newark is the same you read on the Web. That contagious and infectious personality of his has raised about $1.5 million for the past three months to build his senatorial war chest. And although he has federal aspirations, think that's going to change him on social media? Not at all. And it's only paying big dividends on PR. Here are a few tips he provides to flacks, communicators, colleagues and hipsters alike:
  • Pay attention to your feed. Yes, the famous snow-shoveling incident evolved from a Twitter exchange, but Booker regularly interacts with his 1,398,298 followers, no matter how seemingly small the comment or request. Often, it's as simple as thanking them for support.
  • Don't shy away from the haters. Recently, "@Maz713" tweeted at the mayor "Lost all respect 4 Cory Booker." Instead of ignoring the tweet or lashing out, Booker responded, "Wow "All" respect? U & I may disagree on some issues but I'll always respect u. I wish u the best." It was a strong and effective answer, but not overly aggressive. Plus, it incentivized his followers to rally for him.
  • Be yourself. Booker is in politics, a sector that is not known for its authenticity, yet he still manages to come across as a real person and not a Stepford automaton. His voice is his own, and people respond to that, whether it's at the ballot or with their wallets. 
I live in a state where its CEO blocks people for disagreement. Booker engages them. Yet, no phallic pics...no scandal...no temper tantrum and bleeped-out tweets...just Cory Booker, as his mama made him. Why can't more politicians take a page out of this playbook? You know, the one entitled "How to stop being a fake talking head and just be real with the folk who voted you in office." It's not like social media — specifically, Twitter — has been around for decades. Yet, most politicians approach their keyboards and login information with serious trepidation. They are fearful of ghost tweets. They are concerned about engaging with people. They are worried about conversation. It makes you wonder why they got in politics in the first place with all that kissing hands and shaking babies stuff. 

Whatever Booker's reason, that one-to-one involvement is what makes him successful, followed, real...and most importantly, entrusted by voters. Where's that playbook again, Washington?

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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