EDay: What did we learn?

In our latest e-newsletter, we explored how good communications strategy helped trigger the blue avalanche in Colorado Here’s what we wrote:

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We don't know about you but we were pretty darn euphoric the night of November 6! While we're not always partisan, we are ALWAYS progressive and a Democratic Governor-Senate-House trifecta means our issues and clients should see some serious wins for hardworking families, public education and Colorado's great outdoors, including public lands, clean water and air quality. Hooray!

It took a village to trigger the blue avalanche, with many candidates, campaigns, organizations and individuals laying the groundwork. We'll leave the field and electioneering analysis to others but we'd like to share our top three takeaways showing how campaigns leveraged communications to win:

Consistency is important. Newcomer Jason Crow clobbered incumbent Congressman Mike Coffman with a strong, steady campaign that focused on his blue-collar roots, military service and commitment to elevating working families. Coffman, on the other hand, was bogged down in a swamp of his own making, trying to position himself as standing up to Trump while scoring a 96% pro-Trump policy voting record. Lesson learned: Develop an authentic, resonant message and stick to it to win.

Long game online is best. When we had the ability to start online ads early – before ballots even dropped – not only were we able to define the issue or candidate on our own terms (sometimes without interference from our opponents!), but also we could contact our target voters more frequently with the extra time. More time to create a variety of content allowed us to show our consistent messaging to voters in different ways, too. Campaigns waiting until the last week found the competition for online ad space was brutal, making it difficult and expensive to deliver ads with the desired frequency. And don't forget to add voting resources to your online content the last few days – the most searched-for terms 48 hours prior to polls closing was "how to vote at home," signaling that people really needed how-to-vote information! Lesson learned: Start as early as possible to maximize your contacts and budget.

Flexibility is your friend. Taking advantage of unplanned developments and new opportunities can be a great opportunity if you allow some time and room to be flexible. When a Koch Brothers mailer attacked Senator-elect Faith Winter on her paid family leave position, she posted a blog about it – and FAMLI Act – that very same day. Similarly, when we found that an ad for an out-of-state progressive campaign was garnering fewer clicks than others, we tested slightly different language and voila, the ad performance bounced up. Lesson learned: Develop solid plans that allow for on-the-fly changes. 

Campaign comms tips: 41 days to go!

Campaign comms tips: 41 days to go!

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While this appeared in our latest newsletter, we figure there are enough of you handling election press and social media who could use a down-and-dirty list of ways to get the most out of your communications in the midst of campaign chaos:

Stick to your message! Now is not the time to change your essential value statement and persuasion approach. Sure, capitalize on what’s happening day-by-day, but make sure it fits within your existing messaging framework.

Pitch only newsworthy stories. Please don’t waste political reporters’ time unless you have something they can use. If it has more than one news element (conflict, timeliness, proximity, impact, novelty, prominence/celebrity), go for it. So the average volunteer canvass, no… a Republicans for Democrat canvass led by a former elected official, yes.

Be ready for rapid response. Before anything hits the fan, make sure your facts are at your fingertips and your spokespeople are at the ready. That way, if your issue or candidate is attacked, you’ll be able to hit back quickly, whether it’s in the media, online, mailers or on the phones.

Capture tons of photos, videos and stories. Your online presence should invite your supporters to be a part of your team and create a personal connection. Post photos, videos and even blogs that tell the story of your campaign so your folks feel like they’re on the trail with you.

Ensure visual and message consistency. While this probably sounds like no fun, you should actually be bored by your own digital ads. This is because they should distill your essential campaign message and visuals and hammer it home over and over and over.

Best of luck as we head toward November – may we all win big!

Is the media is accurate?

Is the media is accurate?

New research shows what Americans think about news

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The Knight Foundation and Gallup paired up on a report about what American news consumers think about accuracy (and bias) in the media. Even though their polling showed that Americans believe that the news media have a critical role to play in U.S. democracy, there's a great deal of skepticism about how well they are performing that role.

The good news is that Americans believe the majority of reporting (newspapers, TV, radio) is accurate; the bad news is they believe 44% of it is inaccurate. The results are even worse for news on social media – folks think that 64% of news they get online is inaccurate. And almost all of them are VERY unhappy about inaccurate news wherever it's found – more than nine out of 10 report being angry or annoyed by it.

While it's probably no surprise, liberals trust the traditional media more than conservatives, while moderates split the difference. Folks of all political persuasions are skeptical about the news they see online.

So what does this information mean for us – and more importantly, for you and your organization?

Investing time and energy in cultivating reporter and editor relationships continues to be worthwhile because the majority of our target audiences  – liberals and moderates – still trust and value what they read in newspapers, see on TV (provided it's not Fox News) and hear on mainstream radio. And since we know many folks are getting their news online, posting news clips from trusted outlets is also a good idea – although we have ideas for a robust mix of engaging online content (just ask us!).

Let’s Get Digital (News)

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In fact, the study had some pretty telling numbers about how people consume their weekly news.

So what does this mean for our trustworthy publications? As more people jump from print to digital to obtain their news, publications need to be more strategic about how they deliver news to their readers. As noted in the study, they need to strike the right balance of push notifications and personalization - as well as consider alternative revenue streams since a majority of readers are still unwilling to pay for high-quality news.

For many, it’s all about trial and error. But it’s important to remember: If you meet your audience where they are, they will be more receptive.

As for those of us pitching stories to the media, keep in mind what kind of stories will appeal to online audiences and how to best make sure those stories are shareable. And if you’re an organization that needs help packaging your story for the news, give us a call – we’d love to help you.

 

Truth: Does it even matter anymore?

Since Trump took office, it seems like the media exposes new administration falsehoods – little lies to big whoppers – virtually every day. 

Inauguration crowd sizes. Porn star hush payment details. The origin of misleading statements on meetings with Russians. FBI spies on his campaign. The Philadelphia Eagles team "taking a knee" (they didn't). The list goes on and on and on and on. 

It's infuriating, for sure, and it degrades the office, the country and its citizens. But it most definitely has purpose – 1) solidify the Trump base and 2) distract the rest of us from our own agenda.

While it might seem counterintuitive, his supporters dig in even deeper when the latest lie is exposed in the mainstream media because they view it as their duty to defend Team Trump (the classic us vs. them approach). It's about identity and making them feel that they belong to an important movement.

And from the administration's point of view, it's useful to throw out a number of outrageous, shiny objects for reporters and resistance fighters to distract from ruthlessly efficient dismantling the federal government that is happening in Washington, DC and around the country. The more he bashes NFL players, the more his supporters think "right on, gotta stand for 'Murica" and the more the rest of us obsess about the outrageous cluelessness about unfair policing in minority communities.

All this begs the question: Does the truth even matter anymore?

At the risk of being accused of being overly optimistic, my answer is yes – and not just because Trumpistas make up just 30% of the electorate with no hope for growth. And I'll admit that it definitely makes me feel better believing there are still norms we can count on in communications. But more than that, I'd like to think that the last several months of electoral wins have come in for candidates taking a firm stance against constant dissembling and divisive policies – even in areas where the Orange One won big in 2016.

But the truth alone isn't going to persuade our audiences because humans make decisions based on emotion, not reason; even though we say our choices are rational, years of neuroscience tells us otherwise. We're big believers in crafting messaging that encompasses shared values (to capture the gut), a clear problem (to engage the heart) and an obvious solution (to invite the brain) to move audiences through the know-->care--do continuum.

So yes, the truth matters – but how you tell the truth matters, too. Make your audience feel the truth in addition to knowing it in order to win, whether it's at the legislature, the ballot box or your next event.

#Media Matters in Colorado

#Media Matters in Colorado

 What can we do to nurture a healthy fourth estate in Colorado?

We think we can speak for you when we say the media fulfills an essential role in democracy – a free press is what makes our government accountable, speaking truth to power. Reporters are our institutional watchdogs.

Without it, we the people wouldn't have been able to end Rep. Joseph McCarthy's "Un-American Activities Committee" scourge, advance the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s, force the resignation of President Richard Nixon for the Watergate scandal nor rein in NSA intelligence gathering of U.S. citizens' phone records.

In between the allegations of "fake news," censorship, an iffy business model and brutal newsroom downsizing, journalism is in serious danger. 

Here in Colorado the situation is escalating at the Denver Post. Recently current and former Denver Post employees protested Alden Global Capital's abuse of our only statewide daily newspaper, as reported by the Colorado Independent and many other outlets. At this point, Alden Global is sucking the cash out of the Post to fund other investments as fast as possible, even as the newspaper has been profitable. As the Nieman Lab analyst Ken Doctor wrote, “Alden Global Capital is making so much money wrecking local journalism it might not want to stop anytime soon.” 

What does this look like? Censorship of opinion pieces critical of their management – which has sparked an exodus of top editors and even the DP board chair. The newsroom staff has shrunk from 200+ in the good old days to about 60 today, which means that coverage is spotty and copyediting is a joke. The editorial page has been shoehorned into one page of national wire columns from two larger-sized pages that were full of local opinions just a few years ago.

Every action Alden Global takes means we get less news and makes our subscriptions less worthwhile. Honestly, the paper could die, leading one legislator to quip, "Hey, that means we can do whatever we want, apparently gleeful that lawmakers might have the opportunity to run amok without scrutiny from the watchful media. This is bad for Colorado and our people.

How To Help: No one knows exactly how to save the Denver Post – but here are some initial ideas for concrete actions to help:
1. Sign a petition to Alden asking them to sell to Coloradans who want to run the paper – plus post on social media with #NewsMatters and talk to folks IRL to about the petition, too
2. Subscribe online to continue supporting the remaining journalists
3. Attend this lunch next week to learn how to survive the Colorado news apocalypse

It's up to all of us to protect local journalism (and our democracy) – do your part today.

New Yale Study: Op-Eds Work!

New Yale Study: Op-Eds Work!

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Have you ever wondered if people are actually persuaded by reading op-eds? Given the time and energy needed to write and pitch them, it's an important question for busy advocates. 

The good news is: YES! New research found that after reading an op-ed, Democrats and Republicans alike altered their views toward the piece's arguments. Even better, the effects were long-lasting among both the general public and policy experts.

As Alexander Coppock, assistant professor of political science at Yale and the study’s lead author, said, “We found that op-ed pieces have a lasting effect on people’s views regardless of their political affiliation or their initial stance on an issue. People read an argument and were persuaded by it. It’s that simple.”

More than 3,500 "everyday people" and 2,200 "elites" (like journalists, law professors, policy wonks and congressional staffers) were part of the experiment – half read libertarian op-eds on issues like climate change and infrastructure funding before being surveyed on their attitudes on the issues 10 days and one month later, while the half in the control group read nothing before their surveys.

While half of control group participants who hadn't read the op-eds agreed with the arguments, 65 – 70% of the op-ed readers reported agreement after reading them, after 10 AND 30 days. While the general public was slightly more likely to shift their opinions, that shift held for Democrats and Republicans alike. The bottom line: readers were persuaded by what they read.

So next time you're pressed for time and are wondering if you should just skip writing that opinion piece on your issue, thing again – op-eds work!

PS: If you're wondering what makes a powerful op-ed, get in touch – we're pros at writing and pitching op-eds around the state.

#NewsMatters

#NewsMatters

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On Sunday, The Denver Post’s Perspective section ran 10 commentaries on the impending death of the newspaper, both blowing our minds and calling us to action.

This wasn't the work of disgruntled soon-to-be-former employees. This was a display of passionate citizens defending the free press and advocating for an informed public.

The Post’s editorial board members are bolder and braver than many of us. Taking on the Post’s owner, the hedge fund Alden Global Capital, couldn’t have been an easy decision. The writers know that their heads could soon be on Alden’s chopping block, right alongside two dozen of their colleagues.

If you ever looked forward to the headlines on your computer, to the shared posts on Facebook, or to the paper on your driveway, then it’s time for you to take action. Let’s save our paper by selling it to an owner who cares about news, not just profits.

Start here with signing this petition started by Digital First Media journalists – and don't forget this Change.org one, too

Consider keeping or starting a subscription. The truth is, it's only about $12 a month for a digital subscription, but they'll knock it down to less than eight bucks if you let them drop an honest-to-goodness newspaper full of coupons on (or near) your driveway every Sunday. Either way, the first month is just 99 cents.

Or hold a really big bake sale and buy the darn thing: For only $100 million, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune was saved by a local supporter!

It’s up to all of us to do our part to protect the reporting that brings the truth to light, educates the public and generates grassroots responses. 

Capitol reporting still robust despite newsroom cuts

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It was heartbreaking to learn that the hedge fund Alden Global Capital is cutting almost one-third of the Denver Post’s newsroom staff, especially when put in historical context. 

Just four months ago, Alden laid-off 12 Post employees, four from the newsroom -- and there have been similar layoffs and buyouts for years. In fact, as Mike Littwin writes, a decade ago there were over 400 newsroom employees between the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News and the Post. Now, there are just 70 or so in the Post’s gaunt newsroom.

Trying to put the brakes on our despair, we looked into the state of political coverage at the Statehouse. Believe it or not, it could be worse. While Capitol bureaus have shrunk and some political reporters’ cubbies are unclaimed, there is still a significant core providing a large quantity of political journalism.

Colorado is better off than many other states who have lost all or almost all of their Capitol reporters. We’ve lost on-site coverage from many papers from Durango to Fort Collins and the AP bureau is now down to one – but the sizable gang at Colorado Politics manages to fill much of that void. The Grand Junction Sentinel has kept their reporter for nine years; The Denver Business Journal and the Colorado Independent provide a diverse range of journalism, each with just one designated reporter on hand; and for the moment, the Post has a bureau of three. Denverite and Westword occasionally step up to cover legislative action, too.

Broadcast-wise, each Denver station has a least one Capitol reporter, and most have a team. Telemundo and Univision do yeoman’s work, especially when provided a Spanish speaker. When stretched thin, TV stations share a pool camera to cover rallies, press conferences, hearings and votes. Two on-site journalists provide stories for 2 different public radio networks, and KOA’s reporter might as well have a desk in the Capitol. 

We’ll admit these are dark days for print journalism but appreciate the many reporters -- print, online, TV and radio -- who are still shining a light on Colorado politics. And allow us to remind you: it’s up to all of us to support local journalism, so please subscribe and pledge to your favorite outlets so they can continue to cover the stories that matter to our state and democracy.

What Your Digital Strategy Should Look Like in 2018 (and beyond)

What Your Digital Strategy Should Look Like in 2018 (and beyond)

With a new year, there are many new developments for nonprofits to debate when strategizing their online outreach and communications plans - luckily, we’re putting all of digital strategy news in one place to make it easy on you.

Don’t be overwhelmed! One trait remains consistent among all platforms: quality (shareable) content = quality engagements with your supporters = impact and results. Each platform has the same goal: to keep you on their site longer and to keep you coming back; they each just have a different way of going about it.