This is starting to become quite the epidemic for communications professionals. Not all communications professionals, but those who still insist on operating in the pre-2.0 mindset of a centralized command and control structure. These people still think they can dictate the terms of engagement to the social media-sphere. The actor in question this time is Matt Farrauto, the former N.M. Democratic party head honcho and currently working as a communications professional on Capitol Hill.
In an exchange with myself and with the Albuquerque Journal’s Washington Bureau chief Michael Coleman, Farrauto claimed we didn’t get his point about not commenting on his Tweets. They were off the record – he said so.
Specifically, Farrauto put up a sentence on his Twitter account stating that all of his “musings” are off of the record. It’s like standing in the middle of a room of people, some of whom are his friends and others of whom are reporters, and shouting at the top of his lungs, then not expecting the reporters to write about any stupid things he said. Right, I really see reporters giving up that kind of control.
(Plus, going “off the record” is nothing more than a hope that the reporter you are spilling the beans to will not publish your name next to the beans.)
Then he decides to get in an argument with those same reporters and bloggers who are really the lifeblood of his profession. PR people know that’s usually not the best thing to do, especially after trying to dictate to them what they can and can’t report about.
In the age of Media 2.0 and social networking, the role of communications personnel has to change. We are no longer the “gatekeeper” for the company, customer or candidate. We are now part-facilitator, part-diplomat, and part-community relations peeps – communicating a positive message about our organization, responding to negative attacks, but most importantly collaborating with people. Talking back and forth with them, listening to what they have to say and responding like human beings, instead of regurgitating prescreened talking points.
(that’s not to say talking points don’t have their place in social media, but don’t spit them out at people, explain it to them. Why are these “talking points” important? Are they actually “talking points” or are they now “conversation starters?”)
If Farrauto doesn’t want reporters to write about what he says on Twitter, he should either make all of his comments private, or take the advice all of our mothers have given us in the past and think about what he says before he says it.
I understand why Farrauto has a hard time dealing with new media, as my friend Mark Bralley pointed out here, Farrauto’s used to being the 800-lb gorilla in the room, pushing people around, as Mark explains. But in the new media-sphere, he’s just another person – one who can no longer exert total control over the message.