JANEK MÄGGI: WE HAVE ENTERED A NEW CULTURE OF GIVING INFORMATION – HEADS OF STATE POST ON FACEBOOK BEFORE TALKING TO THE PRESS
, Eesti Päevaleht
The president, the prime minister and the members of the government using their personal Facebook wall or Twitter to announce decisions of national importance is a growing trend. Is this the right thing to do or should such announcements remain within the scope of official press conferences and releases?
An exquisite option for communicating pleasant or unpleasant messages is available today – social media. No matter if you're the president, a minister or a member of parliament, no need to be shy if you have something to say to the public, the stage is right there.
Put your costume on, do your make-up, clear your throat and the curtains will open as soon as you want them to. You don't have to let the audience know when the show will begin. The show will begin when the audience enters the theatre.
Private messages are shared in the same manner: your dog is missing, your mother died or you went winter swimming again. Or people split up and make an announcement: this is the only time we'll be commenting on this very difficult decision, we'll stay friends and continue raising our wonderful children together.
There is no need for torturous personal messages and communication whereby the recipient of the message can ask: what happened? Maybe you'll change your minds? Social media is the place where the final truth and state of affairs are published. The best thing is that you can delete the truth. You feel emotional and spit something out, someone saw it, but they cannot see it again.
Official forms have been replaced
In many cases, the top officials of the state have replaced press releases and press conferences with social media. On social media, editors cannot give these messages headlines that they find suitable, interesting or attractive. In fact, they cannot give any headlines at all, much less change them.
All they can do is chase the information, as they are not the first to publish it. Conventional media has to chase social media and this has changed the entire culture of communicating information. The leaders of Estonia are obviously no exception.
Every step taken by the members of the British royal family is covered on social media. The service of Queen Elizabeth II has two main functions: to be visible and to be present. This is also the role of every other member of the royal family, and without social media, it's impossible to be visible or present.
Because people live on social media, not in their own homes or countries. The face masks of the royal family have a bigger impact on fashion than their hats and ties. There are all kinds of colourful style examples from the ladies, whether it's Kate or Camilla. The Queen is more modest. Social media is the catwalk of the royal mask fashion shows.
Prince William recently posted on social media that his dog had died, which became the main news on portals but wouldn't have been a suitable message for a press release, not to speak of a press conference.
Bringing people together
The newsworthy messages posted on social media have something in common: they are of a more personal nature. It can be an opinion, a comment, an achievement, but also a failure that you think should be shared.
Social media brings people together. If a public figure posts a photo of themselves putting the national flag out on 24 February, other people will follow their example, express their approval and like, like, like.
However, if a hard-working minister posts a photo of their meeting with someone, many friends find it tedious and boring. Conventional media doesn't usually cover such meetings, no matter how hard the participants try.
It pays to post the kinds of messages that people desire, that the public demands rather than expects. Then there are the messages that everyone wants to read, but in secret. Liking or not liking a message does not indicate whether or not you understood it.
The virtue of social media is the possibility to only say what you want to say and to say it in the way you want to say it and when you want to say it. The goal of many posts is not to inform friends, but to find leverage.
A message becomes freeware on social media and if a media publication twists it, there is no need to argue with anyone about the initial meaning of the message. Go to Facebook and check it out.
The main weapons for informing people – press releases, opinion pieces, press conferences – have not gone anywhere. Social media has merely added some colour. It is a newspaper, the radio, the TV and a message board at the same time and it serves its purpose very well – it speaks to people where they are.