Ted Kennedy’s August 25 passing marked the end to his year-long battle with brain cancer, and preparations for his funeral and Arlington Cemetery burial immediately began in earnest. Given the Kennedy family’s historical prominence and long-standing notoriety, it was no surprise that traditional and social media platforms began buzzing with coverage and conversations.
What was a surprise (to me, at least) was the August 26 launch of @KennedyNews, the official Twitter account of the Kennedy family and staff. The family is steeped in tradition, which made me see the announcement as a departure from their stately mystique and, in turn, an entrée into direct communication with various publics.
Upon further consideration, though, the family’s creation of a Twitter account (which, they say, will be used to keep the public informed about funeral activities, not to discuss politics) makes a lot of sense. For starters, the Kennedys are a brand unto themselves. But, when taken in the context of many corporate brand owners’ resistance to adopting social media because of the perceived loss of control, the Kennedy family’s decision to join the conversation contradicts this widely held fear; after all, one could argue that their motivation was none other than the desire to control access to family-related information.
Indeed, that is exactly what a Twitter account will do. By no means will it reduce the conversations related to Ted’s funeral—or to the family in general—but it will act as the “official” Kennedy voice and, in turn, manage the maelstrom of incoming media inquiries, etc. It just goes to show you that the “loss of control” argument continues to be one worth examining closely before using it as a reason to abstain from social media. As for the use of the @KennedyNews account after Ted’s burial, it will be interesting to see if the family makes their social media presence a permanent one.
By Courtney Barnes