Using Online Comments to Deliver Your Message

Online publications and blogs often allow comments. Some of these sites require you to sign up before commenting and give you the option of creating a username or giving your real name. Others require you to comment using Facebook.

Often these sites will only show the first few comments which are visible to everyone viewing the article. These comments can be a unique opportunity for your organization’s active members to help deliver your message.

AFT Connecticut’s Rapid Response Team

During the 2012 state legislative session, AFT Connecticut created a Rapid Response Team of more than twenty members willing to post comments on the issue of Education Reform.

The Response Team received a welcome email explaining what was expected of them:

Greetings AFTCT Response Team Member!

Articles, blogs, and editorials are being written every day about education reform. We are calling on you to be our voice on the Internet.

Each day we will be emailing you links to stories where we need comments. We will provide you talking points to help you write your comments.

Some of these sites require you to sign up before commenting and give you the option of creating a username or giving your real name. We will leave that to you as to which name you want to give. Others require you to comment using Facebook.

If each of you comments on 2-3 of these posts each day we will greatly increase the reach of our message on education reform.

Each day the Rapid Response Team received an email containing links to online news stories and blog posts about Education Reform and the issue(s) they covered. Team members were given talking points on these issues that contained the union’s message.

Articles and Blog Posts for Feb. 16

Evaluations:
The New Haven Experiment
Talking Points: New Haven has shown that teachers, unions, and administrators can work together to develop an evaluation system that gives teachers the support they need while creating an efficient system for the removal of ineffective teachers.

Tenure:
“…only thing you have to do is show up for four years,” – Dan Malloy
Talking Points: If we are going to recruit and retain teachers, especially in our urban areas, we need a system that treats teachers with dignity and respect, and gives them the support they need to be successful.

Retiree Healthcare
Up next: Shared sacrifice for retired teachers
Talking Points: Teachers have to work 37 years before they can retire. The state must honor its promise to those retired teachers. Options like healthcare pooling can help reduce health care costs for retirees and the state.

Anti-Teacher Groups:
Michelle Rhee’s Unafraid To Stir Things Up, And Maybe That’s Not So Bad
Malloy to Join Anti-Teacher, Anti-Union Forces at Capitol
Talking Points: Michelle Rhee was an ineffective educator and a failed school chancellor in DC who refuses to work together with teachers. Now she’s funded by right-wing corporate groups intent on destroying teachers unions and public education. Connecticut needs people who are willing to work together, not a snake oil salesman like Rhee.

Legislation:
Two Hearings Next Week On Malloy’s Education Bill
Talking Points: Legislators need to listen to Connecticut’s 50,000 educators who are doing the work in the classroom every day. They understand best what works and what doesn’t.

End Result

Virtually every post contained at least one comment from a Rapid Response Team member. Over the course of the first month, there was an increase in comments that mirrored the organization’s message from non-Response Team Members. Several state legislators cited comments they had seen online as a gauge of public opinion on the issue.

Ultimately the education reform bill passed had the direct input of AFT Connecticut in the language. Whether online comments had a direct impact on this cannot be measured; however, there is evidence that shows that the tenor of comments can change the interpretation of the news story (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/03/opinion/sunday/this-story-stinks.html?_r=0)

Creating a Rapid Response Team can be a useful way of engaging members who are very active online (e.g. social media) and expand your union’s message.