Virtually every brand, politician, trade association, NGO and average citizen produces and consumes content across a wide range of digital channels. We're all trying to get our messages to the right people at the right time but fighting the sheer deluge of information online is a serious challenge - especially when you're communicating niche policy issues that don't get a lot of air time.
The internet is an incredibly noisy place.
Virtually every brand, politician, trade association, NGO and average citizen produces and consumes content across a wide range of digital channels. We’re all trying to get our messages to the right people at the right time but fighting the sheer deluge of information online is a serious challenge – especially when you’re communicating niche policy issues that don’t get a lot of air time.
If you’re struggling with this, you are not alone!
The World Bank is one of the most well-known and highly regarded organisations out there and even they struggle. In 2014, they announced that 31% of their policy reports are never downloaded. Not once. And almost 87% of policy reports were never cited1.
In this crowded digital landscape, it’s very easy to be ignored.
Recent research by Dr Homero Gil de Zúñiga at the Universidad Europea de Madrid shows that audiences now expect news and opinion to work its way in front of them as they browse the web or use their phones. People no longer feel the need to actively seek out news or public affairs information – known as the ‘News Finds Me’ perception.
And this is a widespread opinion2: 36% of people in the US feel it; 40% in New Zealand; 50% in South Korea; 50% in Germany; 59% in Italy; 72% in Ukraine and a massive 85% in Spain.
Audiences today are so bombarded by information from millions of different sources that they expect it to reach them wherever they are, whatever platform they’re using and at any time of day.
Policy audiences are not different when it comes to this challenge.
People are spending an average of 6 hours 42 minutes online everyday3. The information they’re getting can come from anyone. Close family, high-school friends, old co-workers, niche blogs, forums – the list is endless. Not only are those sources potentially crowding you out, they also might be the delivery mechanism for your messaging.
It’s a vital point for public affairs professionals to remember: our audiences probably don’t get public affairs information directly from a brand, journalist or expert.
This can seem like an overwhelming problem.
I have a lot of conversations with Brussels public affairs teams who are inclined to completely disengage from online channels because being seen and heard seems far too time intensive.
The good news is we have a methodology that speeds things up and ensures your online content is arriving on time and pushes your target audiences back to you.
1.Know your campaign goal.
It’s surprising how often this one gets forgotten. Make sure your campaign is striving to reach something tangible and realistic, all the better if you have a KPI attached to it. The more focused the goal is, the easier it is to design a content strategy that works towards it.
2. Choose your audience.
Who is vital for reaching this goal? Can you reach them directly or do you need to go via their constituents, staff members or colleagues? Think long and hard about the policy tunnel which starts with the general population and then ladders through the “connected policy community” of NGOs, Think Tanks and key influencers, through into the “direct policy community.” Which of these audiences do you need to engage and at what point with your content to reach your campaign goal? After running a lot of audience analyses, we’ve found that even the most supposedly niche topics have an audience they can tap into.
3. Understand who they are and what they care about.
Look at what they talk about, which channels they use, who they follow, which brands they prefer, relevant demographic info – learn your audience inside-out. If you don’t understand them you won’t be able to create content they want to read, watch and share.
4. Match your needs with their needs.
Where is the overlap in interest between your campaign goals and what your audience cares about? That’s where you focus your content.
If you’re like most of our clients, you probably don’t have just one audience for your campaign. You’ll need to repeat the process above several times and produce a range of content, tailored in tone, format and delivery based on what you’ve learned about your target audiences.
Even if you have just one audience, that doesn’t mean they want the same thing all the time.
This chart showing six different audience needs comes from a very insightful piece of research by the BBC World Service4. Their digital team found that when they focused on one type of content too much, they drove audience engagement down.
This makes a lot of sense. When I go online, I have different reasons. Sometimes I’m trying to find more information, sometimes I want to connect to family and friends, sometimes I’m just a little bored.
If you can get into the head of your reader you’ll start seeing those reach and engagement numbers rising.
That first audience analysis isn’t going to solve all your issues.
The great thing about digital communications platforms is that everything is live and editable. Every time you post something online, you create data that can help you improve the next post.
There is a wide range of factors that have an impact on how your messages will be received. The same message can be delivered in different forms, using different headlines, fonts and letter sizes, colour-schemes or different calls to action – generating different results. Therefore, testing these variations on a smaller segment of your audience (test audience) before settling for the winner, is a good way forward.
The devil is in the detail and rigorous analysis can help you make the most of it.
There are hundreds of tests you can run but they generally fall under one of four categories: topic, messaging, production and promotion.
If you did the four step process above than your topics should be aligned with your audience already, however you might be able to find a way to talk about your topic in relation to another area – for instance, using the World Cup to talk about how the insurance sector estimates economic value5.
Messaging is likely to be the most fruitful area of testing. That’s all about finessing your content to suit your audience and figuring out how to make your point land. Production is where you think about the myriad of formats available online – a blog, a tweet thread, an interactive quiz etc…
Lastly, did you simply promote the content in the wrong way at the wrong time? Use Google Analytics, for example, to figure out when most people are clicking through to your website – that’s the best time to post links to your content on social media.
We actually advise spending 20% of your time creating content and 80% promoting it.
Ultimately, this is the key lesson.
Figuring out what your audience wants and delivering that is difficult and time consuming – but worth it.
As public affairs professionals, we can only arrange so many face-to-face meetings in a month. You need to give yourself alternative ways to reach your target audience and a public platform to build support for your point of view.
The modern political landscape is more chaotic and competitive than ever before. Building a public affairs content marketing strategy will set you apart.
Written by Rowan Emslie
Head of Digital, Edelman Brussels
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Thought leadership, influencer engagement, stakeholder mapping, competitor analysis or digital event support.
1. That report can be found here – ironically it has been downloaded almost 10,000 times.
2. The figures listed here come from a paper that is as yet unpublished but you can hear Dr de Zúñiga discuss it on the Social Media & Politics Podcast.
3. According to the Digital in 2019 report from We Are Social.
4. This study was presented at the GNI Innovation Forum in 2018.
5. Lloyd’s have actually done this twice, both times predicting the winner correctly.
“Now is the time to look ahead, at the future of taxation, for a competitive and fairer Europe”. This statement from Pierre Moscovici, the EU’s top taxation official, comes after a succession of tax evasions...
“Now is the time to look ahead, at the future of taxation, for a competitive and fairer Europe”.
This statement from Pierre Moscovici, the EU’s top taxation official, comes after a succession of tax evasions scandals in recent years which have pushed the European Commission to adopt a strong position on the issue and focus its efforts on improving tax legislation and hunting down alleged tax-dodging companies and tax havens.
Interested in tracking the European debate and gaining insight into how it may impact you and your business?
The situation in Catalonia is complex. For more than three decades the Regional Government of Catalonia (with a strong ruling and executive autonomy according to the Spanish Constitution) is trying to obtain further fiscal benefits...
The situation in Catalonia is complex. For more than three decades the Regional Government of Catalonia (with a strong ruling and executive autonomy according to the Spanish Constitution) is trying to obtain further fiscal benefits from the Central Government. Negotiations on this front have had little success and for that and for other historical demands over the last few years the Catalan government (Generalitat) has boosted its positioning claiming for an independence from Spain. To do so over the last couple of years the Catalan government has undertaken a campaign aiming at celebrating a referendum for Catalonia to decide its independence on October 1st.
This process is illegal as it does not respect the Spanish Constitution requirements nor the Catalan government’s current legislation. This situation has led to a strong mobilization by the Catalan government and a segment of Catalan citizens, students and supporters of independentists parties. From a civil society perspective this process is being opposed by the business community, most of the media, academia and intellectuals. The latter are mostly on the left ideology spectrum but strongly oppose the lack of democracy and respect of the law from the Catalan government in managing this so-called independence process.
From a legal perspective, though the Catalan government is keeping on saying publicly that the referendum will take place on October 1st, it will have no legal value at all in case it happens. We can expect ongoing street demonstrations in the next few days which will be echoed by the national and international media. The only way forward is that both, central and Catalan governments, engage in a political dialogue to set up the basis for a legal revision of Catalonia membership to Spain according to the Constitution and the full respect of the civil rights of all Catalonia citizens including the ones not in favour the independence process.
Another important part of the civil society supports ‘the right to decide’ and stands up for an open dialogue and the possibility of negotiating a future referendum with guarantees within the legal framework.
Despite measures being taken by the Spanish justice system and the authorities to prevent a planned illegal referendum on Catalan independence from taking place on Sunday, the regional premier, Carles Puigdemont, was determined on Thursday night that the poll would go ahead.
Summaries of the recent events and some decoders to understand this awkward political situation have been prepared by Edelman Spain
Germany has voted yesterday. The government of CDU/CSU and SPD – the Grand Coalition – suffered significant losses. The Social Democrats have already announced that they will no longer continue with the coalition. Thus, Angela...
Germany has voted yesterday. The government of CDU/CSU and SPD – the Grand Coalition – suffered significant losses. The Social Democrats have already announced that they will no longer continue with the coalition. Thus, Angela Merkel has a chance to form a new coalition with the FDP and The Greens. At the same time, the AfD (Alternative for Germany), a right-wing populist and nationalist party, have entered parliament as the third strongest party – and will change the political climate in Germany.
An overview of the current developments and initial assessments has been prepared by Edelman.ergo
This past weekend, an assembly election for Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government resulted in a sweeping victory for populist Governor Yuriko Koike’s Tomin First no Kai, or “Tokyo Citizens First” Party. Most notably, it saw Prime Minister...
This past weekend, an assembly election for Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government resulted in a sweeping victory for populist Governor Yuriko Koike’s Tomin First no Kai, or “Tokyo Citizens First” Party. Most notably, it saw Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the nation’s long-standing ruling party, receive a record low of only 23 out of 127 assembly seats—down from its current 57 seats. This is a direct reflection of the recent nose dive in popularity experienced by Prime Minister Abe and the LDP following a string of scandals and criticisms in recent months.
The city election is widely considered a precursor to the national election. Until recently, Prime Minister Abe—who is currently Japan’s third-longest serving premier since World War II—has been expected to be re-elected by the LDP for a third term next year, which would make him the longest-serving Prime Minister in history. In fact, a Prime Minister is currently allowed only two terms with the LDP, but, due to Abe’s high popularity, the LDP has been planning to adjust the rules to permit a candidate to run for a third term. This would allow him to carry out his agenda and retain the legacy of serving during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. However, this sudden revelation signals the possibility that he could be replaced by the national elections in December 2018.
A former LDP member, Governor Koike is the first female leader of the nation’s capital. She angered senior LDP members when she ran for Tokyo governor last year and, again, when she defected from the party last month to form Tomin First no Kai, citing the LDP as an anti-reform “old boys’ club.” She campaigned on a reformist agenda focused on open government and cost-cutting. Now at 64, she was formerly a TV newscaster before serving as Minister of Environment and Minister of Defense. Several speculate that she will eventually return to parliament to run for Prime Minister. Considering her strong track record in government, her high approval ratings, recognition for being media-savvy, and fluency in English and Arabic, she is well-positioned for the role.
People in Japan have generally been apathetic toward politics, but a recent wave of energy and attention is coming to the surface. With a background as a newscaster and one of the first prominent female political personalities in Japan, Koike has attracted audiences previously uninterested in politics. In fact, this election had an 8% increase in voter turnout from the previous poll four years ago—up from 43% to 51%, which is higher than usual for Japanese voters. This is due to both her popularity, as well as the recent public incidents faced by Prime Minister Abe and his party. For example, a highly uncommon occurrence, this weekend brought protestors to rally at a public speech by the Prime Minister; LDP members were later disparaged for trying to cover their signs and criticizing them for their interference.
However, this swing in public favor is not a complete surprise. Over the past 12 months, Prime Minister Abe and the LDP, which has been the ruling political party in Japan for all but four years since 1955, has received significant criticism for ramming through several pieces of controversial legislation which lacked public support. Among these include an “anti-conspiracy law” which allows arrests to be made before a criminal act, another law which allows Japan to exercise its right to collective self-defense, and the legalization of casino gambling in Japan. Abe has also been aggressively pushing to revise the national Constitution which has gone untouched since the end of the war. In addition to all of this, the Prime Minister has become entangled in allegations of favoritism and rumors of corruption.
At the same time, a heightened interest in the Tokyo Governor has developed due to heated debate about the relocation of The Tsukiji Market, Tokyo’s famous international fish market, and government spending for the 2020 Olympics. Additionally, three Tokyo governors preceding Koike stepped down because of public scandals. It has also become clear there is a groundswell of frustration with the old, traditional system and a desire for reform—a societal momentum which Governor Koike leveraged successfully. Not only has she emerged as the only politician who poses a real threat to the dominance of the LDP, but the prominence of her role as the Tokyo Governor will be stronger over the next few years than previously expected.
We can expect an equal level of attention to be given to the national election next year. Additionally, we can expect a flood of new LDP candidates shooting to replace Prime Minister Abe and primed to compete against a possible Koike run in a few years’ time. In the near term, although it is obvious all discussion about Constitutional reform will be muted, we don’t expect much to change in terms of the existing legislative calendar.
Interestingly, the scenario playing out now is a realization of the findings in Edelman’s 2017 Trust Barometer released earlier this year, which indicated a possible movement in Japan toward populism as seen in other parts of the globe. In the survey, Japan was ranked “below global average” for their faith in the system—only 13% of respondents in Japan said they believe the system is working—and 53% expressed concern for widespread corruption. Most notably, nearly 3/4 of respondents in Japan found the “Reformer” more believable than the “Preserver of the Status Quo”. Although it’s unlikely Governor Koike, the reformer, will scale her “Tokyo First” platform to a national level, its clear that Japan’s political environment is heading for change.
Written by the Edelman Japan Public Affairs team
President Macron will benefit from a stable majority in the French National Assembly. Our colleagues in Paris have prepared a snapshot of the French Parliamentary Elections' result. Download the briefing here
President Macron will benefit from a stable majority in the French National Assembly. Our colleagues in Paris have prepared a snapshot of the French Parliamentary Elections’ result.
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