How many government officials does it take to screw in a tweet?

Stephanie Levitz discovers how many officials are required to help a minister demonstrate his support for open government and social media engagement.

The two 45-minute chats — one in English, one in French — took more than a month to organize. Three dry runs were held ahead of the main event, with staff even creating bogus Twitter accounts in order to practise using the service. 

More than 40 stock responses were drafted so they could be quickly copied and pasted to reply to questions, while a ghostwriter was engaged to get Clement’s responses out faster. A spokesman for Clement called that a natural practice. “Use of a moderator (what the department called a “ghost writer”) was a practical decision based on the fact that the minister could respond quicker verbally as the moderator simply typed out the response keeping it within the 140-character limit for Twitter,” Sean Osmar said in an email. “I should point out too that the minister did take to the keyboard himself for a few responses — he does like to get hands-on sometimes,” he added. Clement was flanked at the Twitter table by two subject matter experts and two other communications staff, in addition to the one moderating the chat and the one acting as his ghostwriter.