State of Communications: 5 Trends and Predictions for 2019

By Jacob Hay

Happy State of the Union! With our government reopen and 2019 in full swing, here are some trends that are starting to emerge and 5 RALLY predictions for what will shape the state of issue advocacy and communications this year.

Big idea time warp

We’ve already told you that 2019 is not a year for progressives to sleep. Typically considered a political “off-year” this odd year should be one for big ideas and big gains. And it is already playing out. Perhaps inspired by a moment of moral clarity on the left, progressive ideas got bigger, bolder, and more popular in 2018 — and this shows no sign of stopping.

Take “Medicare for All.” An aspirational proposal, once thought to be on a decades-long trajectory to come to fruition, is now supported by seventy percent of Americans.

Right now we are watching bold progressive visions become realities in real time. The Green New Deal is moving through the public consciousness with lightning speed and may become a consensus position in Democratic primaries.

Expect an acceleration of that trend on 2019. Dozens of presidential candidates will be looking to define themselves and stand out to voters. Incoming members of the new Democratic majority in the House will be similarly trying to make their mark.

There has never been a better time for bold progressive ideas in-need of forums and champions. If your organization is sitting on one, get ready to share your policy and framing expertise with motivated and influential audiences.

Hunger for personal connection

Be it the new popularity of cuddle therapy or the proliferation of brew-pubs around the country, it’s clear people are craving more personal connections and authentic experiences.

Elected politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Beto O’Rourke are breaking the fourth wall that separates us from our elected leaders, simply by being themselves on social media.

The move has implications for issue advocacy campaigns.

We are seeing our clients and other progressive groups take advantage of this trend by using engaging experiences and events to inform and activate. The United Way of Greater Los Angeles’ Everyone In campaign is advancing the discussion around solutions to end homelessness through a series of dynamic storytelling events. The gathering is a real, in-person experience where people leave with a better understanding of the challenge, and a personal charge to take action. Hearing the stories of formerly homeless people who have made it into stable lives, despite a wide range of obstacles, grounds the difficult work ahead for advocates, but also proves it can be done.

United Way of Greater Los Angeles, Everyone In campaign

If you are looking to move issues and action in 2019, try finding new ways to bring people together online and off.

Crisis exhaustion

In communications, we typically talk about breaking through the clutter. Recently it’s more about breaking through the crises. With historic climate events, a government that’s shutdown, kids being detained at the border, and a president under investigation as a foreign operative, the temptation to tune out is strong.

People are understandably exhausted. Your campaign’s big issue risks getting tossed in the later-pile, with all the unsolvable crises.

The type of campaigns we are seeing break through most often are the ones that balance urgency with opportunity. In the 2018 elections, and more recently during the Trump shutdown, Indivisible was able to give it’s online community approachable ways to make a difference while sharing their experience.

Matching problems with actionable solutions and real ways to get involved is an antidote to crisis exhaustion.

Trying something new

Has there ever been a better time for progressive advocates to get creative with the forms and placement of content?

The trend towards short and crisp still holds true, as the optimal online video length seems to be cut in half every year. At the same time, new opportunities for longer-form content are delivering a better return on investment than before. Platforms like IGTV, Facebook Watch, and the increase in binge-watching culture (NBC and Disney are both entering the streaming game) are creating lots of space for advocacy campaigns to experiment with longer video content and the costs of entry are lowering.

The Center for Western Priorities advances responsible conservation and energy practices on public lands in the Mountain West. Of course they utilize traditional means of journalist and editorial outreach. But CWP also connects with the people who make, report on, and care about public lands policy through creative advertising online and outdoors, sponsored content, a popular morning news roundup, a promoted Medium page, and the always entertaining Go West Young Podcast.

Center for Western Priorities, Go West Young Podcast

If a new form of content is compelling to your audience, and you have the means to get it to them, now’s the time to give it a try.

Brands taking a stand

This is a trend from last year that is so hot we are rolling it over to 2019.

Just the other week Gillette released a “The Best Men Can Be” campaign, calling on men to hold themselves and other men accountable for the way they talk and act towards women.

Gillete, “The Best Men Can Be” commercial

The company’s website made an impassioned case for brands taking a stand:

It’s time we acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture. And as a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man.

The online backlash from the right was expected. It is likely Gillette will lose a handful of customers whose fragile masculinity is offended by the notion of not being an ass. But it’s also likely that Gillette won’t give two shaves about the loss. Because they, like a growing number of brands, understand consumers want to associate with products and people who align with their values.

And while we imagine that Gillette got a big bump from the ad (did anyone else notice the suddenly prominent Gillette displays in supermarkets and drugstores?) the brand also dealt with fallout from their not-so-woke pink razors. The Venus Passion is a good reminder why, as more and more brands dip their toes into the advocacy space, they must do it right. If brands want to convince millennial and Gen Z consumers that they are real about their values, they must build in real impact and check their carpets for anything they might have previously swept underneath.

We are looking forward to the new ways brands will take a stand this year and build meaningful, lasting impact. And we are here to help those that are ready.

RALLY is an issue-driven communications firm | Certified force for good by B Corporation
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