In politics, there are two communication theories that are especially prevalent: agenda-setting and gatekeeping. The agenda-setting theory states that mass media have a significant impact on what people deem as important issues. Gatekeeping, however, describes the process through which media distribute information. If news was a physical entity, the gatekeepers would be those who open and close the doors, determining what news that we, the public, receive.
With presidential candidates furiously campaigning for the next year, these theories can easily be applied to the candidates’ communication strategies. Keeping these ideas in mind and utilizing the contemporary and influential tools known as social media, the presidential aspirants could create advantages for themselves.
Let’s first start by looking at agenda setting. By tactfully setting the agenda, a candidate can draw a lot of attention to his or herself and receive a significant amount of media coverage. As my theory group discussed in class, it is because of agenda setting that most of us are familiar with five or six popular candidates and cannot even identify most of the people running. So far, Donald Trump has been setting the agenda for this election period by constantly spewing brass and controversial sound bytes and tweets such as the one seen below.
Remember that Carson, Bush and Rubio are VERY weak on illegal immigration. They will do NOTHING to stop it. Our country will be overrun!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 25, 2015
Other candidates could also use social media to set the agenda, although perhaps, in a more politically correct manner. By tweeting about issues that are ignored by other candidates, a potential president could draw attention to his or her campaign. Agenda setting is undoubtedly beneficial to those running as it gets people talking about and paying attention to a particular person.
Aside from agenda setting, there is also gate-keeping. Gatekeeping, in its simplest form is a means of filtration. While publics often demand whole truths from their presidential candidates, personal censorship is extremely important for professionals using social media. Those running for president must be especially careful when creating publicly visible content.
This applies not only to personal matters but the news and political issues that they choose to comment on, support and create content around. For example, in the tweet below Hillary Clinton in choosing to disseminate a piece of news and support the decision ruled within the article.
Well done, Ole Miss. Symbols of hate have no business flying over a place of learning. -H https://t.co/t3WL4pJcjV
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 26, 2015
Once a candidate identifies their specific target audiences, gatekeeping can be an extremely useful tool when crafting and censoring content on social media. Candidates can appeal to their publics by providing them with news they are interested in and choosing to hold back some of their more controversial thoughts and perhaps, beliefs.
For a presidential candidate, there is a lot to consider when navigating the realm of social media. By understanding and utilizing theories such as agenda setting and gatekeeping they can create advantages for themselves and rise above the noise of the other candidates.
“Agenda Setting Theory.” University of Twente. Utwente.nl. 26 October 2015. Web.
“Gatekeeping.” University of Twente. Utwente.nl. 29 October 2015. Web.