In the age of social media, employee messages can be very slippery indeed: The harder you squeeze to keep them in your grasp, the more they slip between your fingers and out into the world.
Such seems to be the case with President Donald Trump's latest attempts to stifle his "employees." The administration gave orders to the Environmental Protection Agency, National Park Service and the Forest Service to cease all communications with news media and otherwise stop disseminating facts about the climate, a clear message that has reverberated throughout federal agencies; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for instance, suddenly canceled a major summit on the climate.
But a surge of resistance to this clampdown has appeared in the form of numerous rogue Twitter accounts purporting to be unofficial voices of bodies like NASA, the FDA and the USDA. (EUobserver board member Alice Stollmeyer maintains a list of such accounts.) Some representative tweets from the above:
— Rogue NASA (@RogueNASA) January 26, 2017
Scientists are considering running for US office to counter the anti-science efforts of Trump's administration
— ALTUSNatParkSer (@ALTUSNatParkSer) January 26, 2017
Advocating for climate science and environmental protection is the most pro-life you can be. The future of the planet depends on it. #resist
— Rogue NASA (@RogueNASA) January 25, 2017
Not only do these tweets go against President Trump's desired messaging, but since these are unofficial accounts, there's also no way to know that they're really coming from people working at these agencies. It's a chaotic situation through and through. Collectively, these accounts have picked up lots of followers, likely due in part to the widely reported gag order.
Time for a thought exercise, PR pros. Imagine you were counseling Trump through his messaging shift. What would be your advice to prevent this kind of outcome? Perhaps allow the agencies to continue communications as usual as you work with them to gradually establish the kind of messaging you have in mind? That's the first thing that comes to mind for me, but we'd love to hear your ideas at @PRNews.
Follow Ian on Twitter: @ianwright0101