Lessons from 2016 Campaign

Elections are a testing ground for new communication technologies and emerging trends. The Trump and Clinton campaigns both solidified trends that will effect organizations of all sizes with external communications goals.

Here are a few of them:

1. The news cycle is faster than ever and traditional rules on getting information into the news cycle have been broken.

This campaign cemented the fact the news cycle is nonstop. We have progressed from the branded "24-hour" news cycle model to a news cycle that is almost hourly. Digital content and social-media platforms have exploded the amount of simple content creation that can then be distributed at instant speed. Technologies such as Facebook's live streaming have birthed a new pool of "reporter hobbyists" powered by their phones and able to report in real time anywhere in the world with no editorial control.

This election cycle, the best campaigns adapted to those changes by allowing more freedom to their candidates, surrogates and operatives to push messages through social media on an ad-hoc basis. Well-orchestrated campaigns have come to accept this loss of editorial control, mostly because they cannot afford to be left behind in a rapid news cycle.

Advanced campaigns further progressed to launching and testing messages on social media often before going to traditional media routes. Campaigns also moved to respond to their opposition in real time on social media.

TV newscasts no longer need to pan over to the opposing campaign headquarters to get a response, they just look down at their Twitter feed. Traditional media sources are happy to play this game, because it gives them more content they don't need to produce to fill their own digital platforms.

With an endless content stream, today's news cycle can be very good or cruel, depending on how much attention you want. Timing of the release of information can shorten or extend the lifespan of a story.

No one expected FBI Director James Comey's announcement and I'm sure it disrupted the best detailed communications plans for both presidential campaigns on the day it happened.

Consider how swiftly some of the big campaign moments moved through the news cycle: Melania forged convention speech, one day; Hillary fainting, three days; Trump's tape about women, one-and-a-half weeks. The one story that had legs was Hillary's "email server" and that may have proven to be the final break down in her campaign.

2. Diversification is vital for broad-scale media campaigns.

TV ads are still the king for impacting large segments of the population, but if you are going to reach everyone, you cannot limit your investment there. The whole population is changing how, when, and what information it is consuming.

In 2016, Pew Research reported 38 percent of adults "often" get news online, twice as much as print newspapers. Seventy-two percent of adults reported using a mobile device to get news. This Election Day became the biggest live viewing internet event in history. YouTube had 47 million live views, while over 27 million people live streamed CNN Digital.

Savvy campaigns have readjusted their media spending so at least 20 percent of their media buy is accessible for mobile viewing.

Clinton did not ignore social and digital, but it was the Trump campaign's main focus. Trump only ran about one-third of the TV ads that Romney ran in 2012 and was outspent 3 to 1. TV ad spending, along with polling, are generally the two biggest indicators of who will win, but not this election.

When the unexpected candidate wins, we question how it happened and how to evolve to keep up. I can remember sending press releases by fax machine. This election provides lessons on how to avoid becoming the fax machine.

Steve Jewett is managing partner of McDowell Jewett Communications.