Since becoming GOP Conference vice chairman in January, Sen. Roy Blunt has sought to improve communication and push social media use among Conference members.
A GOP lobbyist with relationships in the Senate suggested that the miscommunication between House and Senate Republicans that occurred over the payroll tax holiday extension is unlikely to happen again, at least as long as Blunt is in leadership. “He’s keeping the Senate better apprised of House strategy and vice versa. The House will not ever again be surprised by a mood change in the Senate,” this Republican said.
The Senator’s other priority as vice chairman has been to educate his colleagues about social media and help them use it as an effective tool to communicate with voters as they make the case for a Republican Senate. Blunt said GOP Senators have some catching up to do to match what House Republicans have accomplished using social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter.
To the extent that Senate Republicans have used social media to communicate, they have done so to varying degrees. Blunt is attempting to bring structure and consistency to how the Conference uses Facebook, Twitter and email and to help each office share strategies that prove effective.
Upon assuming the vice chairmanship, the first thing Blunt did was have his new media director, Lori Weberg, work with each GOP Senate office to determine its proficiency with new media. She meets weekly with staff in Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) office and Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune’s (S.D.) office to chart new media strategy for the week ahead. Monthly meetings with GOP new media staffers in the House also were instituted.
Each month, Blunt’s leadership office arranges for a new media professional from off of Capitol Hill to speak to GOP new media staffers, and every Tuesday, the Conference vice chairman sends around to Member offices his own “Weekly Online Report” to brief colleagues on what’s trending online and provide new media messaging guidance, such as which tweets or hashtags are trending on Twitter.
Staff working for Blunt and Thune in the vice chairman’s office and at the Policy Committee, respectively, are jointly developing a mobile app, set to launch later this year. It is intended to serve as a one-stop resource, with video, fact sheets and other information about what Senate Republicans are talking about. At the same time, Blunt is planning a daylong new media conference for staffers to be held in August. It is set to feature keynote speakers, panels of experts and breakout sessions to discuss best strategic practices.
Although Blunt is spearheading this effort — even organizing Twitter town hall meetings with GOP Senators last week to coincide with the Supreme Court review of Obama’s health care law — he conceded much of it is new to him. Blunt’s goal, however, is to push GOP Senators to communicate with constituents in the manner in which they reach out to Member offices, which increasingly is through new media.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.