While I don’t typically discuss anything related to politics anymore (spent too many years in the political realm), I do want to discuss the recent Treasury Department meeting. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner held a meeting on Nov. 2 – which doesn’t seem out of the ordinary – except for the fact that he invited 20 key financial bloggers to attend in person.
Many of these bloggers had chastised the department and Geithner in the past, but have now changed their tune. Why? Because they were included in the real-world conversation – a first in the Treasury’s history. Of the 20 invited, eight showed up at their own expense. Not bad considering the economy; but fitting since it was at the Treasury Department.
According to an article in The New York Times yesterday, Tyler Cowen, an economics professor at George Mason University, who writes for the Marginal Revolution blog and contributes to The Times, said:
The meeting shows that the Obama administration is working very hard on outreach to a lot of different media sources… I think we were much better informed than the groups they’re used to talking to.
Andrew Williams, a spokesman for the Treasury who helped plan the event, stated that Geithner has “long valued the blogosphere.” Geithner had also commented that while serving as the president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, he requested relevant daily blog posts.
Williams said another reason for the outreach is that the “blogs are influential, especially because they are read by reporters at more traditional outlets.”
How did PR impact this?
Geithner and his team made a smart decision to include financial bloggers in an ordinary, run-of-the-mill meeting. It made the bloggers, who usually feel disconnected, part of the conversation and decision-making process. They were able to ask questions in person, rather than make assumptions after hearing about it via a blog post.
Social Media is all about inclusion and developing strong conversations that resonate with your target audiences. I applaud the Treasury Department for its desire to take a step in the right direction – creating transparency, trust and advocates among their once weary target audience.
This is a great example of how a PR professional can influence the dissemination of information among target publics by being forward-thinking and proactive.
Steve Randy Waldman, blogger for the blog Interfluidity sums it up perfectly when he said:
I’d like to thank the “senior Treasury officials” for taking the time to meet with us, and for being very gracious hosts. Whatever disagreements one might have… It was an extreme privilege to sit across a conference table and have a chance to speak with these people… The mere invitation made me more favorably disposed to policy makers…