Tweets have more Capitol Clout than Email

Before I began my career in health care, I worked for 14 years in political and government jobs at the local, state and national level. The last of those was as press secretary for former U.S. Rep. Gil Gutknecht. I had helped Gil set up his first Web site, but when I left in 2000 the Internet hadn’t yet gotten to be a big thing in politics. And social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter were nonexistent.

In the post-9/11 era and in the aftermath of the anthrax scare, email took over as the highest impact means for citizens to communicate with their members of Congress. This morning Gil passed along an interesting article indicating that social channels are having more impact than email campaigns. Here’s an excerpt:

Advocacy campaigns have relied heavily on email for more than two decades, but a recent survey shows that a handful of well-conceived comments on social media may be just as effective as thousands of emails.

In a poll of House and Senate offices by the Congressional Management Foundation, three quarters of senior staff said that between one and 30 comments on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter were enough to grab their attention on an issue. Thirty-five percent said that fewer than 10 comments were enough.

“The contrast is shocking between Twitter volume and email volume,” CMF President and CEO Brad Fitch said.

The article, which was published just before the last election, goes on to explore some of the reasons for the higher relative impact of social compared with email.

Having worked in a congressional office, here’s what I think:

Even if an advocacy group can generate messages from several hundred constituents, those messages feel less authentic to the congressional staff than social posts do.

If I send my congressman an email, a staffer in his office reads it and will likely categorize it along with others in a report to the congressman. If I’m one of a handful of people sharing the same concern or idea, it’s not going to register.

But if mine is one of thousands, and the language of the messages are similar, it feels more like astroturf than grassroots.

An email message is the end, while a social post is a beginning. Organized campaigns can get constituents to send email messages, but those messages are invisible to the broader public.

But when you or I comment on Facebook or Twitter, we’re not just addressing our elected officials: we’re sharing sentiments with our friends and connections, too. Instead of going into the email black hole, the messages are out in the wild, and able to influence others.

Members of Congress pay attention to public opinion, but they can tell when activists are juicing the numbers.

So if you have something to say to your government officials, tweet it in your own words. It might encourage others to speak up. And over time, that can make an impact.

It’s not about flash mobs and splash. It’s about authentic involvement.

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Unbroken: Paying it Forward

I vividly remember reading this post by Scott Johnson on Power Line in Nov. 2010 about Unbroken, Lauren Hillenbrand’s book on the life of Olympic athlete/WW II bombadier/shark fighter/Japanese POW camp survivor Louis Zamperini. As Johnson wrote:

Reading Janet Maslin’s review of the book last week, I felt bad not even to have heard of Zamperini previously. But, as Oney and Journal reviewer James Hornfischer point out, Hillenbrand hadn’t heard of him either before she undertook the research for Seabiscuit…Zamperini’s story should be common knowledge, especially while we can still express our gratitude to him for his sacrifice.

So I downloaded the Audible version so I could listen to Unbroken during an overnight flight to Sweden, on Nov. 30, 2010. As I started to mutter about my discomfort and inability to sleep on a cramped airplane, I was chastened as I listened to the narrator tell the story of Zamperini’s 47-day ordeal on a life raft floating in the Pacific and his two years of torment in the POW camp. I was astounded at his strength and resolve, and like Johnson I wondered how it was possible that I hadn’t heard of him. I also couldn’t believe his story hadn’t been made into a movie.

Finally, it has. Lisa and I went to the matinee today, and it was excellent. Director Angelina Jolie didn’t shrink from portraying the brutality Louis endured. It was a faithful representation of the book and his life. Here’s the trailer:

I highly recommend both the book (it’s in paperback now) and the movie. I’m grateful to have been introduced to Louis’ story, and glad to encourage you to get to know more about him, too.

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A PDA for My BFF and Holiday Greetings for You

Wedding pictureOn December 22, 1984 at 11 a.m. I stood at the front of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in New Richland, Minnesota with a lump in my throat as the most beautiful vision I can imagine walked down the aisle on the arm of my soon-to-be Father-in-Law.

On that day, I married my best friend, and for three decades the Lord has blessed us with a wonderful life together. As we heard on our Wedding Day, He told our first parents, Adam and Eve, to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it. Since then, Lisa and I have done our part to fulfill that cultural mandate.

Here’s what we have to show for it, in the first generation:

Jacob, John, Joseph, Rebekah, Ruth and Rachel

(Clockwise from lower left) Jacob, John, Joseph, Rebekah, Ruth and Rachel

…and the second:

Graham, Evelyn, Mabel, Aletta and Judah

Graham, Evelyn, Mabel, Aletta and Judah

Our first 29 years together were wonderful, and this year the blessings have continued:

Rachel and her husband Kyle, a Presyterian pastor, are happily married and living with their four children (the ones on the right in the photo above) in Winchester, Kansas. They were in Grand Rapids, Michigan for several years while Kyle was in seminary, and it’s great that now it’s only a six-hour drive for us to get together.

Jacob completed school and passed his boards, and is now working as a Physical Therapist in Milwaukee. As a Gophers/Vikings/Timberworlves/Wild fan he is adjusting to his exile  among the Cheeseheads, but he and Alexi are doing well. Their son Graham (at left) had his first birthday on Halloween, and they’re expecting a second son in March.

Rebekah and Ruth will possibly resent being in the same paragraph (we’re individuals, you know, Dad!), but it’s hard to their stories separately. Both finished their BSN degrees at the end of September. They’re living in a house in St. Paul with one of their best friends from high school. And they’re working as nurses in the same nursing home, and are involved as member of City Life church.

Joe transferred from Davidson College at the end of his Freshman year and is now at Minnesota State University, Mankato where he is playing basketball. We’re delighted to have him so close to home. We celebrated our family Christmas last week, and he was able to drive back and forth for practice every day. He enjoyed his Davidson experience, and last year we got to attend about a dozen games. This year they’ll all be a lot closer, and we’ll get to most of them.

John is a sophomore in high school, in his last year at Aase Academy. Next year he will be going to Riverland Community College (as his four oldest siblings did), and Lisa will have completed her 23rd year of homeschooling. John is in the Austin High School Symphony Orchestra and Bible Bowl, and enjoys being in Youth Group at our church, Trinity Presbyterian in Rochester.

Lee and LisaLisa and I enjoyed some getaways and got a lot more familiar with North Carolina last winter (combining with some work-related travel) as we attended some of Joe’s games. We’re both involved at church, where I’m and Elder and Lisa teaches Sunday School and manages the book ministry. My work at Mayo Clinic in social media has remained interesting and challenging (in a good way), and led to my first trip to Alaska and also a chance to go to Dubai as part of my service on the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Social Media. That was unforgettable.

As you can see, our appearance has changed a bit over the years. Our deep affection and commitment haven’t.

We look forward to another year of fruitful work, Lord willing, and wish you and yours the best of everything in 2015.

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Day One in Dubai

Note: As described in this post, I’m in Dubai as a member of the Global Agenda Council on Social Media for the World Economic Forum. I’ll be sharing some of experiences here on SMUG.

I arrived in Dubai about 7:30 p.m. Saturday night, feeling reasonably well-rested after the 14-hour flight from Seattle by way of the North Pole. The service on Emirates Air Boeing 777 was outstanding, as was the seating (or bedding) in Business Class.

Flying over North Pole

 

Flat bed Emirates

 

So the result was that I was energized for a big day yesterday. The coordinator for our Global Agenda Council on Social Media advised us that we should be sure to bring sunglasses and sunscreen, which led me into a few adventures on the way to the convention centre, inspiring this tweet:

For those who may not recall the cultural significance, see this clip for the background:

After a lunch during which our council got to meet face-to-face for the first time, and then an opening plenary session with all of the other councils, we settled in for an afternoon of brainstorming on what high impact projects we should consider for our two-year term.

This morning we have some cross-council meetings, and I get to participate in a breakfast discussing the global response to Ebola.

You can follow, and join in the discussion, on Twitter via the #WEFSocMed hashtag.

 

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Off to Dubai!

WEF Global Agenda Screen ShotI’m writing this from the International Lounge at the airport in Seattle, as I am waiting for the boarding call for my flight to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.

In September, I was invited and accepted an appointment to a two-year term on the Global Agenda Council on Social Media, which is sponsored by the World Economic Forum.

Most of our meetings are by videoconference, but we meet face-to-face once per year in Dubai. The first of these meetings starts Sunday afternoon.

I have a lot of reading to do to prepare, and thankfully have a 14-hour flight on Emirates Air in which to do it. We’ll be using the #WEFSocMed tag for our part of the Summit. As I get more info about other hashtags I’ll be updating. I think I’ll use #LeeInDubai for some personal tweets.

 

 

 

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