My Remarks to Congressional Staffers Today

I’ve been invited to speak to two groups of Congressional staffers today. In about 30 mins, I’ll speak to Republican staffers at the Capitol Hill Club. Later today, at 1:30, I’ll be speaking to the Democrats in their Capitol Building office. The topic is Blogging, microblogging and social media and the event is hosted by NextGenWeb and the DCI Group.

These are my planned opening remarks:

First of all, I want to thank NextGenWeb and the DCI Group for inviting me to be with you today. I want to thank all of you for taking time out of your Friday morning to be here as well.
The U.S. Capitol at Night
We have a lot to talk about today because, frankly, the landscape of news, reporting, politics and effective organizing isn’t changing. It already has changed.

comScore, the metrics organization that measures website popularity and user engagement and leads the industry in much the same way that Nielsen has led the more traditional media rating media, reported that sites like Facebook and MySpace are owning over 100M unique visitors every month. Universal McCann, another measurement company, reports that 77% of active internet users read blogs.

Whether you agree or disagree with these numbers, and whether you like the trend or not, it is undeniable that the new media space has emerged. It is difficult to turn on your television without seeing personalities – and I do mean personalities – such as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow or CNN’s Rick Sanchez engaging their audiences with Twitter.

Up until recently, your own rules here in Congress have prevented you from effectively engaging the citizens on your districts, states and this country. You were hampered by antiquated rules that required separation of content from endorsements in the form of ads. I led the way in helping America see this, through my blog, public radio and conversation on and off the Hill. Though I cannot take full credit for any changes that have occurs, changes have still have occurred. Your House and Senate rules now allow you to utilize Twitter, YouTube and other social media avenues.

The news cycle is there and it’s different than it was before. In another lifetime, you played the game by talking to the press and hoping that they found interest in your cause. Now, you can go directly to the American people.

However, with much power comes much responsibility. Blogs have given us as citizens an expectation for engagement. For conversation. For exchange of information, ideas and transparency. Major media for the most part has not figured this out yet, and that is why more Americans get their news on the internet. There are, of course, exceptions. If you are to use this effectively, you will need to treat the internet, not as a faceless drop box where constituent mail comes from. Not as an anonymous voicemail box. Not as a nameless email inbox that sends an automated reply to the sender.

You must engage. You must converse. More importantly, you must listen.

Today, we’re going to talk about blogs, Twitter and new media. I hope that we can all learn from one another and build a better interaction platform for constituents. Thank you, again.

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Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

10 thoughts on “My Remarks to Congressional Staffers Today”

  1. Whether you take the attitude that the mainstream media is your friend or your foe, there are certain realities that they deal with that you as a blogger don’t have to worry about. They are limited by deadlines, time or word requirements and editors breathing down their necks. Your only limit is how many words you can write that you know people would actually read. Since they are limited and you are not, that’s one of the most important benefits of citizen journalism, you can provide more information.

  2. A good opportunity Aaron. I hope they truly “get” the SOCIAL in social media. It is about engagement, conversation, back & forth, give & take and, dare I say, listening to constituents.

  3. I’m speaking tomorrow at Chicks Who Click on how I have transitioned from traditional media to blogging. I think the info you are providing Government officials will help EVERYONE transition.

  4. That’s great Aaron. Why are you always called upon to speak at Government conferences and things of that in nature? Not that you aren’t qualified, however I noticed that you are constantly a point of contact for government agencies trying to innovate. Did you previously work on projects in the government?

  5. I think that you have a good plan for the discussion.

    1) Show them what’s the reality.
    2) Show them how they behave (you said it very well in the part with their own rules)
    3) Tell them how they can improve.

    Don’t forget to use some topics that break their standard patterns when thinking. This is one of the best hooks to draw attention, as Chip and Dan Heath explain in their book “Made to Stick”.

    Anyway good luck!

  6. Words of great wisdom, wish I was there to hear them and to see and to hear the reaction that they bring up for discussion.
    Best of Luck!
    Cheryl Beckham

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