Inside #EconTwitter’s White House Messaging Takeover

The new government roles would almost certainly limit the participation of prominent members of the unofficial group which carries its own hashtag – #EconTwitter.

But what was less appreciated at the time was how their presence in the administration would guide an overhaul in communicating the details and nuances of the most critical economic data releases.

“If you want to communicate in this time about what’s happening in the economy, Twitter is an incredibly important and powerful tool,” Heather Boushey, a member of Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers, told CNN in an interview this week. his office.

But for officials at Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers, the 19-tweet thread digging into the details of a strong June jobs report that started rolling just after 9:30 a.m. ET on Friday sought to provide exactly that type. analysis.
It’s something that The CEA account earned a reputation for delivering important economic data every day during Biden’s first 18 months in office — whether the data was good, bad or ugly.

“The best inflation news Twitter feed every month – play it straight as always (no surprises there),” tweeted Jason Furman, the former chairman of the CEA under President Barack Obama, who didn’t. was quick to criticize some of Biden’s economic policies. month.

Furman was commenting on CEA’s 16-tweet analysis of inflation data that came in hotter than expected — and undermining any notion (or White House hope) that the 40-year price increases that plagued the administration had peaked and started to slow down.

“Our mandate is to provide the president with economic analysis so he can make economic policy,” Boushey said when asked about the direct approach. “Everything we do is driven by data and evidence, and it’s so central to our mission that there’s almost nothing else to say.”

“Saver nerds”

Martha Gimbel was a card-carrying member of #EconTwitter before joining Biden’s CEA as a senior adviser, once short-terming the group in a podcast as “essentially a group of economists getting very nerdy about the economy on Twitter”.

Gimbel, who, with his economic savvy, was known for his frequent use of the “Fire Elmo” GIF, received the keys to the CEA’s Twitter account shortly after entering administration.

Boushey calls him “the genius behind” CEA’s Twitter approach. Gimbel, who goes to great lengths to make it clear that this is a team effort, has another take on things.

“CEA is a place full of economics nerds,” said Gimbel, who shares an office in Eisenhower’s executive office building with fellow #EconTwitter Ernie Tedeschi, now a senior political economist at CEA. “And we’re really excited about the data.”

Gimbel and about half a dozen colleagues have one clear advantage in their administration roles: quick access to this data. It’s a small group that officials say takes data security very seriously given that these numbers can move markets significantly.

But the first glimpse goes a long way in shaping the messaging approach taken by these officials, which tries to go well beyond the numbers released by the Departments of Labor or Commerce at 8:30 a.m. ET the next morning. They say the work takes a lot of time, effort and fact-checking before it appears in less than 280 characters.

“We’re trying to be helpful in trying to figure out patterns that might not be clear just with a quick glance at 8:31,” Gimbel said. “But also take the opportunity to take a step back and reflect on broader trends.”

Although each thread is full of charts and data, there is an effort to maintain a continuous line over several months – something that closely mirrors a caveat included in each thread.

“It’s important not to read too much into a monthly report, and it’s instructive to consider each report in the context of other data as it becomes available,” reads the thread’s final tweet. of Friday.

Watching the trends

Job Day threads focused on the graphical representation of the labor force participation rate – a variable that remains relatively static from month to month, but which over time time, can serve as an important barometer of progress.

The June employment data was no different, although the rate fell for all workers and prime-age workers. The following tweet sought to contextualize the fact that, even after several months of stagnation, “labour force participation growth has been solid over the past 12 months.”

Relying on a handful of regular metrics sometimes means there’s less opportunity to break down a single piece of data or a chart that might look interesting to the team in a single month – a harsh reality for self-proclaimed nerds, but a which is useful for something.

“One thing we try to do is not always get distracted by the cool chart of the month,” Gimbel said. “I think one thing we’ve done that’s been helpful is trying to have some charts that we provide on a regular basis so that we help people have frameworks that they put on the data.”

The approach, even on days with bumpy or generally negative data, elicited no reaction from a West Wing known for carefully, and sometimes eagerly, calibrating its messaging.

Gimbel said she had received only one change to threads since she was in administration — a correction to a spelling mistake.

How a graph becomes a tweet

That doesn’t mean working in government doesn’t come with its own set of social media obstacles. White House officials are not allowed to use different Twitter-based apps or schedule tweets in advance given the extremely sensitive nature of non-public data.

They also face a dark, hour-long window between when the data is publicly released and when administration officials can start talking about it publicly.

Gimbel has since handed over the reins of the account to a communications assistant, so Zehra Khan is responsible for loading and sending the tweets, one by one, as soon as the clock hits 9:30 a.m. ET.

While many team members have remained silent on their personal Twitter accounts, Gimbel is not one of them. Although the “Fire Elmo” GIF may be removed professionally (the CEA account strictly adheres to a policy of no interacting or participating in real-time Twitter wars every day), it will occasionally appear on his personal account.

But the takes or research related to the economic policy of the administration are indeed absent, sometimes replaced by the live-tweet of the Tony Awards. Gimbel’s colleagues note that she had an excuse to clog the deadlines on June 12: her husband is a Tony Award winner.

Twitter, of course, is not the primary focus or focal point of Biden’s team of economists. Biden’s AEC, chaired by Cecilia Rouse, plays an important role in the administration’s intensive economic policy debates, produces research and produces the president’s annual economic report, which this year runs to 432 pages.

Boushey and Gimbel both made it clear that despite the presence of #EconTwitter on staff, many team members carry impeccable resumes and no Twitter accounts.

But the approach is tailored to a very specific audience — one that includes outside economists who can carry outsized clout when criticizing administration policies. Gimbel says one of the things she is most proud of is seeing outside economists take and use some of the charts or data points presented in various threads for their own use.

This is something that underlines the idea that this is an approach designed with a much larger intention.

“If we don’t help the world understand and the media understand, and #EconTwitter understand, what the big economic challenges of the day are, how can we help the President understand so that we can actually do things that help the American people?” Boushey said. “Because that’s our goal.”

Comments are closed.