In our current online environment, massive quantities of information move at hyper-speed. During an election campaign, the already-complex and interconnected media landscape intensifies, and the volume and speed of data can become overwhelming and even intimidating.

So, it is more important than ever to cut through the campaign noise, find clarity and deliver data-driven insights in a way that can be quickly digested and strategically acted upon.

Of note, you don’t necessarily need a granular view of every statement related to the election. Most importantly, you will want to stay on top of what the candidates are saying and what issues are important to your brand and your business. 

Your reaction times need to be lightning-fast and smart, based on solid data. An effective approach involves analyzing the data through the point of view of your brand, your industry and the issues. 

Sifting through the clutter isn’t easy, but powerful, real-time media and data analytics are crucial.

Let’s examine how brands can use analytics to understand and respond to (if necessary) the cadence of election discussions. 

Brands, Industries and Issues

First and foremost, it’s critical to track whether your brand is part of any election conversation so that you can develop a data-driven response strategy without delay.

Second, it’s also important to stay in touch with any election-related mention of your industry, whether it’s energy, insurance, healthcare, financial services, technology, manufacturing or others.

For example, in the 2016 race, candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump expressed concerns about the impact of international trade on the U.S. economy. Specifically, they discussed jobs and manufacturing in states where one of my clients had manufacturing facilities. One campaign promise focused on taking apart trade deals and imposing tariffs to bring back more highly paid blue-collar manufacturing jobs. My client needed to have a good understanding of how this industry topic was discussed and perceived throughout the race, because this would directly affect business.

Third, you need to know which issues are driving the conversation. In another 2016 election example, the issue of pipelines took center stage in an intense energy fight. A different client of mine had a stake in this discussion. 

Part of the hot debate focused on the Keystone XL pipeline. The conversation concentrated on whether jobs were more important than environmental concerns. Early in the 2016 campaign trail, Sanders and candidate Hillary Clinton opposed the pipeline, while most of the Republican candidates supported it. 

Furthermore, the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, which would transport crude oil from North Dakota across four states, generated tension and clashes between police and protesters trying to block the pipeline’s path. The numerous stakeholders for this hot-button topic included corporations, labor unions, Native American activists and environmentalists.

It was crucial for my client to be aware of this debate, which was divided by labor unions who wanted the jobs created by the project, and Native Americans and environmentalists who said the pipeline would violate sacred land and pollute water.

In both cases, my clients used media and data analytics to keep their fingers on the pulse of conversations about their brand, industry and issues. This helped them to identify opportunities and craft their strategic communications responses, when necessary. 

Steps to Take

As mentioned, staying on top of the election noise can be overwhelming. To break through the din and refine your focus, one approach is to layer your analytics strategy with three interlinked lenses: the candidates, their online supporters and the media.

Not surprisingly, these three groups generate the most content throughout the campaign. Analyzing the candidates’ comments and promises is critical to your approach to election monitoring. But their online supporters form the largest group of the three. And combined media channels – traditional, digital and social – should be evaluated for national, regional, local and niche coverage.

But where do you begin? With search strings, of course. 

In 2016, my teams for the two clients mentioned above had to create multiple, massive search strings. They crafted individual industry search strings with keywords and phrases about manufacturing, jobs, energy and pipelines. They also developed search strings for each of the candidates and all of the stakeholders in conjunction with those keywords. And, they needed connected strings with additional keywords for their company, brand, stock ticker symbol, products, services, nicknames, abbreviations, acronyms, and social media handles and hashtags. 

The junior people on my team found this intimidating, even scary.

Thankfully, these days, artificial intelligence and machine learning make it easier to answer the question, “What’s going on in the election, and how does it affect my brand and my industry?” AI and machine learning can spot trends, anomalies and patterns, helping you summarize tens of thousands of stories to recognize context, key drivers, themes and messages. With this data-driven analysis, you can track and analyze the answers to the following questions:

  • Is your brand directly connected to the election discussion?
  • What are the campaign issues or hot topics that are important to your brand?
  • What is the sentiment about these topics?
  • Are your competitors and/or your industry mentioned?

With AI and machine learning, your analytics tool should also feature powerful Boolean search capabilities that return relevant results because you can laser-target specific keywords and phrases.

For more information about steps to take to build search strings for key metrics, see my earlier posts:

Summary

With limitless online knowledge at your fingertips, a powerful media analytics tool provides data-driven insights to help you understand candidates’ messages and campaign issues, in addition to the roles that their supporters, the media, your stakeholders and competitors play in the conversation.

During this lengthy election race, these insights can help you to craft strategy that is rooted in data, and create a steady drumbeat of messaging to engage audiences and share your narrative, when needed.

As highlighted in the introduction to Zignal Labs’ Election 2020 Report: Brands on the Ballot: “In a world where political soundbites and information can circle the world in seconds, it’s critical for brands to be aware of how the election is impacting them in real time.”

The Zignal Labs special report recommends that you embrace the noise, monitor smart and practice constant vigilance, because any part of the campaign cycle can change on a dime. So, charge headfirst into the data to arm yourself with media intelligence and situational awareness. 

Throughout the many months leading up to the 2020 election, keep your fingers on the cadence of data that can help you answer the question, “What’s going on in the election, and how does it affect my brand and my industry?”

For more information, download Zignal Labs’ Election 2020 Report: Brands on the Ballot.