“This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it!” That’s what President Trump said live, via his personal @realDonaldTrump Twitter feed, as FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee yesterday.
Trump, in real time, delivered a running commentary on the proceedings happening in the U.S. Congress, just a few blocks from the White House. Comey told Congress that the FBI has been conducting a criminal investigation into possible links between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian operatives.
President Trump’s official Twitter ID @POTUS also tweeted live during the testimony. Among other tweets, the @POTUS feed showed a brief video clip from C-Span with the comment “The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process.”
The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process. pic.twitter.com/d9HqkxYBt5— President Trump (@POTUS) March 20, 2017
We’re living in a real-time world
I’m utterly fascinated how President Trump has continued to use Twitter during the first 60 days of his presidency. While I applaud him for showing how real-time communications can be used by somebody at the top of an organization, I think he’s gone too far with his tweets on some occasions. In this example, the hearings in Congress were about the Trump campaign and therefore he should have left it alone.
Yes, Twitter was an essential component for Trump to win the Presidency. He was able to beat some 20 major party candidates by focusing on modern marketing strategies and tactics, which I wrote about a lot over the 16-month campaign. I said Donald Trump is a marketing genius at the time and I still believe that today.
But now he is the President of the United States. Trump’s live Tweets as President ensure that his personal take on the news of the day is included in all of the stories that come out.
Every reporter knows that as they prepare their report on Comey’s testimony that they must check the President’s two Twitter feeds for quotes that they can copy and paste into their drafts.
Unlike every past president, Trump uses Twitter to pre-empt his spokesperson’s once-a-day press briefing. We know exactly what’s on Trump’s mind because he tells us.
You can live tweet the important news in your area of expertise too
This is a technique that we can all use to generate attention. If there is breaking news, a government hearing, or a regulatory change, why not be the first to comment, perhaps using an appropriate hashtag. This is newsjacking at its best.
However, sometimes the top person in your organization needs to show restraint. While the CEO of your company offering real-time commentary is an excellent way to get quoted in the news, sometimes a fast moving story will need a little time to settle down. Certain stories need to be thought about for a while before you offer your commentary. That’s especially true if the news is about you or your organization.
For somebody in a highly visible position, there is a fine line between defiantly delivering your thoughts to the world and appearing unhinged and impulsive. When the story is directly related to you or your business, restraint might be the best course of action.
Write the tweet. But take a deep breath and wait before you send it. Walk around the block. Have a cup of tea. Check with your colleagues. And if all still seems well, go ahead and send.
Without getting into the politics of this particular example, my take is that President Trump should have let this hearing go on without his personal commentary.