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15 May 2020

Coronavirus & the Campaign Trail: How Research for Consultants Will Help Political Hopefuls Pivot to the New Normal

Does anyone remember what trends were set to impact political consulting at the start of 2020? As the novel coronavirus began its surge across the globe, January’s predictions seemed to evaporate in its wake. By April, Jean Sinzdak, Associate Director of the Center for American Women and Politics, told CBS News, “Campaigning is not what it was before, and nobody quite knows what exactly it's going to be.” One fact is clear: Political consultants will rely on research even more to capture the political campaign intelligence needed to navigate this year’s campaign trail and bring home the win. One area of research that can provide immediate value is identifying emerging trends. Let’s take a look at some of the new trends that have surfaced as a result of COVID-19 and one trend highlighted in our 2020 Political Consulting Trend Report that can help you adapt your campaign strategies moving forward.

It’s time to rethink voter engagement

Earlier this year, the presidential campaign trail was crowded with Democratic candidates, stumping away in early primary states. By March 13, however, Democratic front-runners Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders began cancelling public campaign rallies, as did the Republican incumbent. Democratic strategist Jared Leopold, told Time that, “The idea of a campaign without handshaking and big crowd events would be a fundamental change to the way every presidential campaign has been run.” But guess what? That’s where we’re at for the foreseeable future.

Consultants can help political candidates make the changes needed to still connect with likely voters. For example, some political consulting firms, like Mosaic Strategies Group, are expanding their work to include IT support for the newest type of campaign event:  a Zoom meeting. It’s a good plan since the campaign trail going forward will be largely digital. A recent blog by The Campaign Workshop looked at how prospective voters’ are connecting with the outside world as they practice social distancing. Here’s what consultants should consider:

  • TV viewership is up—from kids programming to local and national broadcast news. Even the game show Jeopardy saw a 12% increase in viewership.
  • Website traffic has climbed too, particularly trusted news sites which have seen up to 22% increase in traffic.
  • Paywalls are coming down, at least temporarily. Many web news publishers are offering access to COVID-19 news, presenting a good opportunity for premium digital ads.
  • Streaming services have seen a jump in use too, and while the big ones don’t sell ad space, many of the smaller services do.
  • Virtual meetings are an everyday occurrence now. Zoom grew from 10 million to 200 million daily users in just a few months. And, Zoom offers an integration that allows streaming on Facebook or YouTube, which can expand your reach even more. The Campaign Workshop did note one concern with Zoom: “Be aware that there are certain security risks with Zoom, especially if you are recording. You can also take some simple steps to help avoid zoom bombing.”
  • Social Media is a natural outlet for Americans who want to feel connected with friends and family despite the social distancing restrictions. Facebook, What’s App, Instagram and Twitter have all seen a rise in use. Viewership for Facebook Live events has increased by 50%.

What about that one trend from our report? Well, it has to do with social media too. COVID-19 has not served to bring the country together. The political divide continues to widen and conquering the echo chambers of social media will be one of the biggest challenges you face. Candidates posts can take on a life of their own—for good or for bad. Plus, social media platforms still haven’t addressed the issue of misinformation and disinformation, so you’ll be fighting the fake news battle again. And because social media platforms use personalization algorithms, this captive audience may still be difficult to reach.

See what other insights are waiting to be discovered with a trial of Nexis for Consultants.