The NCSL Blog


By Jennifer Stewart

Those words of wisdom come from the Centers for Disease Control and are applicable to every branch of government. While it’s not always possible to be first, legislative staff can control the factual content of their message and the credibility of their members.

Staff Week logoNCSL Public Affairs Director Mick Bullock offers five recommendations:

  • Facebook live sessions. The key is to advertise this a day or two in advance. Use your other social channels to help promote it. He also advises the need to “think about where you are shooting and what is around you.” Facebook Q&A sessions can be a great way to show the public that members are still available to take questions and get out factual, timely information. An example of a Facebook Live Townhall in Colorado can be viewed here.  There is also a number of platforms you can use that works with Facebook live to stream your video, such as
  • Video updates. These are just like Facebook Live – but you can edit them. You can easily shoot with a phone. Mick recommends keeping these to 1-2 minutes. “Remember the average person’s attention span with video content is 10-15 seconds,” he said. “So make the front part interesting. Think about where you are shooting and what is around you.” Legislators and staff may be hearing the same concern from multiple constituents. A short video can be useful to target that one topic of the day or week. Virtual press briefings can go a long way in getting information out to the public. States are also doing “Stay Safe” videos that are effective. One example is Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann of Mississippi’s #HealthyAtHomevideo recently. Video updates can be posted to social media pages and official websites for the public to reference at a later time.
  • Live Twitter chat. “These are not a thing of the past. [And] if used right can be really effective. Do advertise a day or two in advance. Negative in doing this, you do get the occasional naysayer. Beware and try not to let them take over your conversation.” Several states are utilizing this feature. Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan recently hosted a Twitter chat. It was advertised 48 hours in advance. Additionally, Missouri’s Governor Mike Parson hosted a similar Twitter chat and followed up on Facebook Live to discuss questions that were asked. These tools are helpful to answer questions in a virtual face-to-face setting.
  • Share helpful and relevant information from state and federal counterparts that could be useful in spreading good info. An example of sharing helpful and relevant information is NCSL’s recent tweet sharing the resources of the White House “Stop the Spread” campaign. States are sharing official information from their governor’s offices and health agencies as a reliable and factual source on their social media accounts and websites.
  • Blog posting – and then share on social media, which offers a way to go more in-depth about what you need to communicate. Blogs and newsletters can both be utilized for crisis communication. Blogs can offer more flexibility than newsletters as to when and how they are posted; their formatting and “bite size” presentation can link to more detailed information. Newsletters are less flexible than a blog as they are released on a regular basis and sometimes with set sections. Newsletters have the benefit of people already recognizing them as a source of reliable information.

Jennifer Stewart is a research analyst in the Legislative Staff Services Program. She helps to support the Legislative Information and Communication Staff (LINCS) association.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.