Five Minutes With the New Speaker of the House of Representatives

By Robert Traynham

The new speaker of the House will have his hands full legislating in the post–John Boehner era. But how will he convey the Republican legislative message without stepping on the toes of his Republican colleagues running for president?


Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is a seasoned communicator, having embraced new media technologies when he was the vice-presidential nominee in 2012. Will he use those techniques in the speaker’s chair? His communications staff is young and hungry to position their boss as a new-generation Republican. But what does this mean? Will we see the speaker participating in Google Hangouts? What about some of the other disruptive media platforms? Here are some tips the speaker may want to consider:


Get up close and personal. Stop talking legislative jargon and start getting personal.


Think dialogue, not monologue. Here’s the thing: the more personal and engaging the conversation is, the more effective it will be. If there is one communication tip Presidents Reagan and Obama have taught us, it is that the more you can personalize things, the more you can invoke action from the listener.


Don’t discount your in-the-weeds knowledge of the federal budget. Americans appreciate policy when you couch it in terms of how it impacts their daily lives.


Speaker Ryan previously chaired the Ways and Means Committee, so he is no stranger finding bipartisan common ground or to translating complicated policy ideas into understandable terms for his constituents. Presenting the budget in terms of its impact on the average American is a skill that can be applied to many policy debates, especially those down the road.


Speak declaratively. Communicating in succinct sentences is much better than vagueness 99.9 percent of the time.


In other words, simple and concise is always better than complicated and confusing. If there is one thing that social media and the 24-hour news cycle has taught us, it is that time has never been a more precious commodity than it is today. Speaker Ryan has a head start since he got an intense media-workout session four years ago, and he has learned how to cut to the chase and hit the high points—it’s also important for him to instill this skill in House colleagues.


There is great truth in the following axiom:

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.


Stay tuned to see how effective he is.