Courtesy of the BBC, we all know just how much snow has fallen in the North East. No, not Scotland; I mean, why would anyone care how much snow had hit there? Much more interesting and relevant to our lives is the news of snow chaos in the North Eastern part of the USA. Apparently….
It’s also featured in Twitterland with all manner of interesting pics and snippets reaching this side of the Atlantic. Which is how the burd stumbled across Cory Booker.
Allow me to introduce the mayoral phenomenon that is Cory Booker, the Democrat Mayor of Newark, New Jersey. Here is a mayor with a mission. With a clear sense of purpose and a mapped out journey of how he intends to get there. Everything he says and does screams leader and man in charge. Not in an aggressive way, just in an honest, upfront and reassuringly trustworthy way.
Perhaps most importantly of all, Mayor Booker has a keen sense of how and when to communicate it all to his electorate.
There is a website, a blog, a Facebook page – well actually a whole set of pages – and a Twitter account.
Unlike public sector Twitter accounts here, Mayor Booker’s is interactive. Throughout Newark’s snowmaggedon, worried residents have been tweeting in asking for help and wait for it, he responds. In a refreshingly honest way. He tells it straight and ain’t afraid to use ordinary language and also to – sharp intake of breath here – disagree. Cory is the action mayor, everywhere he needs to be, making sure the job is getting done, praising his officials and public servants as he goes and even finding time to crack a joke or two. Heck, he even has the sore back – and the media headlines – to prove that he’s been out on the front line, with a shovel.
Go read his tweets, it’s a case study in how to use social networking as a tool to communicate with and reassure the public during difficult times.
Then take a look at his website. “Cory Booker dreams of making Newark, one-time worst city in the nation, a glorious place full of hope, jobs, impressive schools, and happy people. Is he out of his mind—or the greatest mayor in America?”
Admittedly there are sections in need of an update and it’s a tad Obama-esque (complete with obligatory endorsement from Oprah). But it tells you all you need to know about the Mayor – what moves him! – and his objectives for his term in office. There’s an events diary that shows where the Mayor is and what he is doing at any given time (though the Twitter feed is serving that function for now). How many MSPs or councillors in Scotland are that transparent about how they spend their time?
The Facebook pages too ensure he is engaging with a different demographic. There’s a wall, an info page, a section on his fundraising campaign to improve Newark education, a video explaining the budget, discussion threads, a place for others to share their stories, photos, and a care notes section where citizens can express thanks or concerns.
It all adds up to an impressive strategy of real time engagement with voters and citizens. Which would be useless if the man himself – did I mention he is 39, handsome, black and proud to be a Christian? – did not live up to the billing.
Oh Cory Booker, how we could use you, or a politician like you, in Scotland.
No doubt, closer analysis could unpick the man and the myth. There are bound to be areas and issues upon which the Mayor is faltering: no one after all is perfect.
But Cory Booker could teach politicians in Scotland a thing or two. About how to articulate your vision. Then implement it – and be seen to be implementing it. To lead from the front and to be the politician you were elected to be. And to communicate and engage with voters outwith election periods, clearly, concisely and humanly.
Tempted though I am to have him shipped over to Scotland when his work in Newark is done, I suspect bigger and greater prizes in US politics await Mayor Booker.