Big Government Makes Twitter Work

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    Frequent and personable communication pays off for US State Department

    With many businesses still struggling to understand and utilize social media to the fullest, nobody expects a government agency to be proficient. Surprisingly, the State Department is surpassing expectations by not only holding accounts on Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr, but also maintaining an active and successful Twitter feed. An article by Matthew Lee, published in The Philidelphia Inquirer, provided some examples of recent State Department activity on Twitter:

    In recent days, department spokesman P.J. Crowley has tweeted to knock down rumors, amplify U.S. policy positions, appeal for calm, and urge reforms in Haiti, Tunisia, and Lebanon.

    Well before he addressed the State Department press corps on the return to Haiti of former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier and the possible return of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Crowley took to Twitter to pronounce the U.S. position.

    “We are surprised by the timing of Duvalier’s visit to Haiti,” he wrote last Monday. “It adds unpredictability at an uncertain time in Haiti’s election process.”

    Late Thursday, Crowley commented on Aristide. “We do not doubt President Aristide’s desire to help the people of Haiti. But today Haiti needs to focus on its future, not its past.”

    He has posted sharp responses to WikiLeaks and promoted the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to Chicago by comparing it to Sunday’s NFC championship playoff game between Chicago and Green Bay. “Chicago copes with two blitzes: today the visit of the President of China, Hu Jintao, and then Sunday the Green Bay Packers,” he tweeted on Friday.

    According to the article, Crowley has nearly 10,000 followers in addition to a network of re-Tweeters that stretches across more than 100 countries. Nothing to scoff at, to say the least, and the more Crowley continues to establish the Twitter as the ideal place to head for current information and updates, the more influence the department will have when faced with a crisis.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. , an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training.]