In the Circle

Breaking Through the Noise in an Election Year

Didn’t we just get done with a contentious election? Have we had enough time to take a breather? Whatever the answers, the tides of democracy are rolling again and that means another midterm election.

It can be a tough time to fight for earned media. While you may have great stories to tell and spokespeople to tell them, it often feels like news outlets are all politics, all of the time. It leaves you stuck between two treacherous choices: wade into the rising political waters or bow out and revert to the safety of processing incoming inquiries.

So, to help you in election season, here are four ways to earn more coverage and strengthen your position, regardless of what this year’s races throw at us.

Let’s Get Real...

About your priorities and goals. Everyone wants to have their stories featured in TIME Magazine or have their CEO pen an op-ed in The Washington Post. And wouldn’t it be great if we could go on primetime cable news to share ourselves?

But it’s important to consider your audience before you hunt the big game. Going on the big-time networks for a live interview is exhilarating, no doubt, and seeing a published piece or perfectly situated quote in a major print or online publication is a mic-drop moment. But you need to make sure those shiny, feel-good media moments will actually serve your long-term interests and resonate with your key audiences and influencers.

In other words, be purposeful in your pursuit of top-tier media hits and be deliberative in creating your plan to get there. If that’s the best way to reach your audience, great. But if your people are all reading trade publications, then that’s where you should be aiming.

Have Fun with Geography

America is home to a vast and diverse synaptic web of media outlets. From local television to talk radio, and from mom blogs to online magazines, there’s no shortage of targets.

The sheer number of potential homes for your organization’s best stories is intimidating. But you don’t have to get fancy. Instead, harken back to the happy days of third-grade geography. Look at each state as its own ecosystem. Work with your team to identify interesting data points (media loves these) or policy objectives in each state. Narrow the field and the job becomes easier.

Of course, not all issues and messages fit nicely within the boundaries of states, so considering regions of the country is also useful. The success of your state- or region-based strategy will always depend on the quality of your pitches and your stories, but narrowing the universe of possibilities almost always helps.

Local News Needs You

As you well know,  restaurants often serve locally grown foods and it is a major selling point for customers. In the same way, local media are eager for locally grown stories. If the stories have national appeal, even better. The point is the stories are local, they’re original and they’re timely.

Local news needs these stories to keep eyeballs tuned in. At a time when cable news outlets suffer from low trust with viewers, local news is seizing a crucial opportunity to provide trustworthy coverage. Even Facebook has shifted towards a more localized model when it comes to bringing news stories to users.

When you pitch local stories, you are taking advantage of a trend in action -- and the results should speak for themselves.

Create Solid Content

Boost your credibility by creating and distributing solid content to your audiences. Maintaining a blog with relevant and interesting content (that’s also quick and easy to read) will fortify your social media channels and can be linked in media pitches to lend topical credibility.

And don’t forget your internal dispatches. How are your people getting their news? Are they satisfied with the midterm coverage? These are fair questions and good organizational communication includes providing your employees with good content. When it comes to your policy priorities, it’s less about the day-to-day gossip of the 24-hour news cycle and more about what impact the midterm elections will have on your issues. Purchasing an analysis package like VoteWatch can help a great deal, giving you everything you need to know about the midterms.

Perhaps most important is this: midterms come and then they go. If your program is focused and tactical, you can punch through even at the noisiest of times. Use local news and geographic boundaries to your advantage. Create content that cannot be ignored. Eventually, the noise will dial down—and your program will be that much stronger.