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Trends in Politics – Digital is Everything

The November election is under a month away and the 85th legislative session is around the corner. Lobby contracts are in place, teams are assembling. Who is managing the communications piece of the puzzle? Are you ready?

Over the summer I conducted a number of interviews with political insiders throughout Texas; some within the pink building and some running campaigns. I interviewed seasoned veterans and young whipper-snappers; both Democrat and Republican. I interviewed men and women. I interviewed those who work for long-serving politicians and those who work with newcomers. The only ground rule was that all discussion outcomes would maintain anonymity. Some chats lasted 15 minutes, others went for over an hour. I left the duration to the interviewee.

The biggest lesson learned is that politics as usual is gone. Now it’s politics as digital. Traditional communications efforts and personal relationships are important but now only part of the equation. If you aren’t present on social media, you are not present at all, and this can be a real challenge.

Take for example the different style approaches for an association activating members for a call to action – an internal message, while also presenting an external message/position to legislators on the same issue. Or, a corporation with one message to consumers and business media and another throughout the Capitol. One staff member said that their legislator looks at Twitter “6-8 times/day on any given day and Facebook at least twice a day. Every day.” It is uniformly expected that any successful public affairs effort will have a digital message and strategic communications message to complement its lobby effort.

Facebook is seen as a place to engage with constituents and also a resource to “really see what an organization is about”. Facebook is a “reliable source for information” on any given topic. Twitter is more about the here and now – the tit for tat – the back and forth. Twitter is also seen as the most reliable source for relevant news articles. Everyone is following #txlege.

Social media matters – a lot. A whole lot and so does your website. Information and research gathering remains imperative in this digital age. We discussed the relevance of third parties/think tanks. The trust and authenticity of issue groups. How to leverage constituents in a district to support your public policy effort in Austin. We talked about impressions of trade associations. One commonality among all-the use of social media to influence and advance messaging.

There was much discussion on the transformation of the party (both parties) grassroots becoming a lobby tool. There was much discussion on Texas as a red state and when it will turn purple or even back to blue (spoiler alert – everyone said a shift is in the air). In short, we covered a significant amount of ground and I learned a tremendous amount. My gratitude to those who so willingly gave me their time and expertise – you shall remain anonymous. With such diverse backgrounds and experiences, I was surprised to find significant consistency in the answers to the questions. I look forward to sharing the collective wisdom of these nearly two dozen+ politicos.

“What I Did On My Summer Vacation” by Jennifer Stevens. Are you ready for session? Call JHL. We build strategic messages and connect you to your audience.