Should a politician blog?

In most cases, social media use for elected officials is both natural and a no brainer.  Facebook, Twitter and the like have countless applications for those who represent the public.  Where things start to get a little murkier, however, is when it comes to blogging.  I don’t see a ton of local elected officials who have a blog that focuses on their experiences in office, and I’m certainly among that group – while I run this blog, I don’t have one that focuses on my specific role as State Representative.  I’m not saying that a blog has no use, but I do think more caution needs to go into starting and operating one, as opposed to using Facebook or Twitter.

Why should an elected official blog?  And why not?  Here are some thoughts:

Pros:

  • In-depth posting: Twitter and Facebook updates have to be short to get to the point.  There is usually no room for nuance or details in these types of format.  Blogs, however, offer a longer format and more in-depth look at any topic  Of course, this has its drawbacks too – if you are too long, no one will listen!
  • Easy integration:  Blogs can easily be integrated with our social media efforts, and with your website.  To that end, a blog entry can become part of any multimedia strategy.

Cons:

  • Time commitment: Doing a regular blog entry takes a lot of time, and sometimes it also takes a good chunk of research and editing.  To that end, carving out enough time to always blog can be difficult – trust me on that!
  • More skill is required: Getting Facebook and Twitter right involves a little bit of time and experience.  Blogging right, however, is more difficult, particularly when it comes to formatting, using hyperlinks, inserting pictures, etc.
  • Commenters:  As we’ve previously discussed, online commenters are frequently just the worst kinds of people.  If you are an elected official and you blog, you are almost guaranteed to get trolls commenting.  Disabling comments is one possible solution, but I don’t advise that – you look like you aren’t willing to hear back from the public.  A happy medium is to make it so no one can comment anonymously.  That tends to slow down the worst commenters while still leaving room for a constructive dialog.
  • Easier to get yourself into trouble:  More space can sometimes equal more problems.  Going into a long, in-depth post can sometimes leave more room for comments that, in one way or another, can get you into trouble.

My advice?  Only blog these two circumstances:

  1. You have plenty of time on your hands, or a staff that can maintain the blog.  If you have staff working on the blog, make sure that you disclose that in your blog.
  2. You have a major readership that would make such a time investment useful, or you know you can touch a large segment of your constituents with the blog.

Do you think I have this wrong?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

6 Comments

  1. If your Facebook fan page is public, then all of your posts are public, and all of your notes are public. This means that folks even without a Facebook account and access the information.

    Facebook posts allow you to make quick announcements. Facebook notes allow you to do lengthy posts and basic formatting. This means that Facebook can essentially be a blog for basic users.

    Unless you require the ability to customize the layout and design, a blog really isn’t necessary.

    Reply

      1. I’m inclined to agree with Ron on this. Doug, I think you are right, but the format of a blog is just nicer. Plus it lives on a separate website and you can easily integrate a blog with FB and Twitter. One of my struggles is determining what blog entries to put on my FB. I don’t want to overdo it, but posting an entry to FB automatically gives me a huge spike.

  2. I’m a local official who blogs. My blog is a hybrid around 50% local issues relating to my role as an elected official including meeting previews and 50% advocacy for smart growth issues from a right of center perspective. The latter cross posts with two national blogs where I contribute.

    For me the benefits make the time commitment worthwhile. One item I’ll add is yes, I have local visitors and that makes it worthwhile but beyond that my blog is a tool for myself. It helps me parse out and organize my thoughts on issues. Every local official should be able to write an informational blurb on issues considered. Important to make time to process things as a part time non-professional local official.

    Reply

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