As the shutters went down on US federal offices yesterday, several Twitter, social media accounts and websites of key government departments were suspended. While President Barack Obama and certain members of the Congress still have their feeds active, major agencies such as the US Department of Homeland Security, NASA and the US Federal Trade Commission, among others have announced a blackout phase on Twitter ‘until further notice.’
Sorry, but we won’t be tweeting/responding to replies during the government shutdown. Be back as soon as possible. http://t.co/qIx8cigrnb
— NASA (@NASA) October 1, 2013
Unfortunately, the FTC is closed due to gov shutdown. We won’t be available to answer questions via Twitter. We hope to be open soon.
— FTC (@FTC) October 1, 2013
There are many lessons to be learnt from America’s administrative gridlock – and how (not) to communicate in times of a crisis is perhaps a critical one to take home.
The important questions here are, should the government shut off communications at a time when its citizens and the global audience requires clarity and transparency the most?
Moreover, in this particular circumstance, (where 70,000 federal employees have been sent home on indefinite unpaid leave) has the US government cut off all communication to protect itself, and the public from misinformation (often a by-product of social media), till a solution is sought?
Both questions are valid, and it will be interesting to hear what readers think is the best communication strategy for the US, and for that matter, any corporate brand and organisation in time of crisis.
Suzie McCarthy, director of Social Media Today, in her piece titled, ‘Twitter Feeds Go Dark during the government shutdown,‘ suggests: ‘should the shutdown continue, it would behoove the government to consider reopening their Twitter accounts, even if it is simply a handful of tweets each day with updates. As many brands will tell you, these relatively simple and low-cost actions can have exponential benefits when it comes to consumer confidence and trust.’