TL;DR: Monitoring Still Matters, Photoshop Flop, And Dance Dance Emissions
Here’s what you need to know…
If you’re a campaign or advocacy professional, you likely receive news clips compiling stories relevant to your issue set every day. This has been standard operating procedure for many firms over decades, and entire generations of workers have cut their teeth on skimming, pulling, and formatting notable press articles for their principals. But like the action of “clipping” articles from the physical paper, from which the moniker derives, traditional news clips are becoming obsolete in today’s fluid, noisy, and unrelenting media environment.
In a piece published in Campaigns & Elections, Delve CEO Jeff Berkowitz explores how new solutions are helping campaign and advocacy professionals keep on top of key trends and developments, modernize advocacy work, and achieve their objectives in a more efficient and effective manner. Because while traditional news clips may be obsolete, what you don’t know still can hurt your ability to achieve your public policy objectives:
- The Times Have Changed: As any campaign and advocacy professional knows, the days of the famed “smoke-filled rooms” where key policy decisions were once made are long gone. With advances in technology and communication, the general public is paying more attention to the policy and advocacy process than ever before. They’re also engaging on more issues in greater numbers, a trend that’s enabled by a high and rapidly-improving quality of life for more people unparalleled in human history, as well as the politicization of everything from sportswear to chicken sandwiches. Therefore, it’s critical for staffs of organizations needing supportive governmental and political environments to achieve objectives to keep on top of developments and how they may impact their priorities.
- Traditional News Clips Are No Longer Enough: Whether compiled by a trusted assistant or earnest intern, simply compiling article text is time-consuming to both produce and read. During a busy day, it may be that you only get a chance to skim over the clips for a few moments while eating lunch – after you have already been working to further your priorities for half a day. Such skimming leaves little time to discern what these news developments mean for your organization, or how to leverage this news to your advantage.
- When It Comes To Value, You Get What You Pay For: While there are many services seeking to improve the usability of traditional news clips including social media listening platforms, as well as free tools such as curated newsletters, keyword alerts, and aggregators, it’s clear that artificial intelligence (AI) isn’t yet capable of analyzing and distilling useful information on its own. Collection of information is the easy part — it’s discerning trends, anticipating where the issue discussion moves next, that’s hard. Free tools without the training and skills to analyze information through the right lens are worth exactly what you paid for them, and only add to the abundance of noise and information flows out there.
- Monitoring And Analysis Points The Way Forward: At Delve, we’ve revolutionized the time-tested practice of issue set monitoring for today’s media landscape that has increased the speed and intensity of consequential developments – to say nothing of the heightened political and reputational risks accompanying them. To provide a timely, relevant, and actionable alternative to news clippings, we are investing deeply in training analysts to find the signal in the abundance of noise. Companies and cause organizations have already discovered the value that robust monitoring and analysis programs provide for them and their clients, receiving pertinent insights expertly culled by human analysts from primary and secondary sources to apprise principals of key trends, current developments, and changes in the state-of-play that help them see around the corner on what happens next and what issues need to be watched and acted upon.
At the current pace, both news clips and collection tools without analysis may too soon be relegated to the “smoke-filled rooms” of history in just a few short years. The nature of advocacy work is changing, and the only question now is how companies and cause organizations engaged in public policy issues will adapt as well.
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GQ recently published a photo of Silicon Valley executives’ trip to visit European designer Brunello Cucinelli in a small Italian village. At first glance the photo looks innocuous, until one takes a closer look. The two women CEOs featured in the photo, Sunrun CEO Lynn Jurich and Peek.com CEO Ruzwana Bashir, were photoshopped into what was originally a photo featuring 15 men. The doctored photo was posted on Cucinelli’s Instagram account and even served as the lead image for a June story in GQ.
Silicon Valley has come under fire for being hostile to women (not to mention those with viewpoint diversity), and this blunder certainly won’t help end that scrutiny. The incident is a stark reminder for companies and cause organizations that there is no substitute for facing and telling the truth. It can always be exposed, and there is no way to photoshop to a new reality.
DANCE DANCE EMISSIONS
Environmental activists may have found a whole new definition for noise pollution. A recent study conducted by two European professors suggests that streaming music leads to 200 to 350 million kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions. The study averaged the number of songs streamed and downloaded in the U.S. in 2015 and 2016 and factored it with the amount of electricity it takes to download one gigabyte of data. Though he claims to not be on an “anti-streaming crusade,” University of Oslo professor Kyle Devine estimates that the numbers will get “even uglier” once “places where streaming is huge,” like China, Africa, or India, are included in the calculations.
Music streaming giants are already responding to calls to action by environmental activists by working to improve the sustainability of their facilities and operations. Meanwhile, Spotify now publishes a public sustainability report and has committed to achieving carbon neutrality. In 2019, no industry is safe—first it was plastic straws, now music is under attack.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
We have all heard by now of foreign governments’ efforts to sow discord in the U.S. by spreading “fake news” on social media. Now researchers are tracking a new kind of social media influence operation that aims to divide Americans by “repackaging” old news from legitimate media outlets about racism, terrorism, and other controversial topics. New research by threat intelligence firm Recorded Future shows that there are more than 215 Twitter accounts engaged in this operation and that they use URL shorteners to make the headlines appear current.
By posting news about actual events, the accounts are able to dodge any violations of Twitter’s terms of service. The recently uncovered operation is another example of the uphill battle technology companies face in monitoring how their products are used. As we move closer to the 2020 presidential election, expect social media companies to face even more challenges.
Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang has qualified for the first presidential debate, and once promised his nonprofit would create 100,000 jobs and revitalize broken American cities. Six years later, Yang quit Venture for America (VFA) and the organization has created just 4,000 jobs to this day. Now, he’s running for president – although noticeably not on his record – instead promising to give every American $1,000 a month.
Yang claims he quit VFA because he realized startups could never create enough jobs to make up for all those that robots are predicted to displace, and according to interviews with over a dozen VFA fellows, VFA is struggling and almost half of the fellows no longer live in the cities where they were originally placed. This episode demonstrates precisely why digging deeper and thorough vetting are a crucial aspect of campaigns and public affairs challenges: because key vulnerabilities will be uncovered and exposed, often at a less than ideal time, particularly when one is running for the highest office in the land.