President Barack Obama answered questions at the July 28 town hall. Most of the 40 past virtual town halls were led by AARP spokespeople and board members, elected officials, and policy experts.
“These calls have been a very effective way for us to reach a high percentage of our members directly and answer their questions directly,” said Drew Nannis, VP of media relations for the AARP. “While we're advocating for our members, we need to make sure that we're advocating for what they want.”
The organization is using Twitter and Facebook as well as AARP's Web site, e-mail lists, and online communities to raise awareness about the town halls, which are averaging 70,000 people each call and have been occurring over the last two to three months.
Nannis said that until Obama's participation in the town hall the organization had done no media outreach. The Obama event was streamed live at MSNBC, USA Today, CNN, CSPAN 3, AARP, and the White House Web sites.
“To be able to sit down and directly speak to the person you're trying to reach, instead of, say, going through a writer or an editorial board or even buying an ad, is so much more effective,” said Nannis.
He said July 30 that AARP was mentioned more than 2,000 times on Twitter, starting from mid-day on July 27 through the end of July 28.
Updated July 30, 2009, 5:23pm
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