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House Dems Look to Go Viral With Health Care Push

BY Miranda Neubauer | Tuesday, July 10 2012

Nancy Pelosi/Facebook

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's newly minted new media director, Faiz Shakir, is out to challenge House Republicans' stranglehold on social media.

House Democrats' latest work is an image shared on Pelosi's Facebook page that links a call for health insurance for firefighters to the Affordable Health Care Act. It uses a pullquote from John Lauer, a "hotshot crew" firefighter with a South Dakota-based outfit in the United States Forest Service that recently worked a massive blaze in Colorado. Lauer, who started a petition in support of health care for firefighters that has 126,241 signatures out of a goal of 150,000, was quoted in an A.P. article as saying, "You pray you don't get sick ... I wonder if people know we're uninsured."

Shakir, who has four weeks on the job after coming from the progressive advocacy group ThinkProgress, said this signals a new direction online for Pelosi's caucus.

"After years of helping to build up ThinkProgress, I'm now trying to begin an effort to establish a stronger new media presence among House Democrats," Shakir told techPresident in an email. "I had been focused on trying to find a graphic that would help people understand the consequences of the GOP’s repeal vote. We had put together a video already, but as part of an effort to get attention on Facebook, I really wanted some kind of visual."

The attention to messaging on social media is interesting because House Democrats are now trying new things online after quite a while spent playing second fiddle to Republicans. The House GOP holds annual contests to see which Republican can outperform the rest of the caucus on social media within a set timeframe, regularly releases new microsites and videos, and has been rolling out online gadgets like Majority Leader Eric Cantor's "YouCut" initiative or the House Oversight Committee's MADISON platform to comment on bills. While being in the majority gives Republicans more opportunities to do this kind of thing, silence from this Congress' Democratic caucus about new media efforts has been deafening until now.