ACEC welcomes political consultant Mark Bryant of Agency Advisors onto the show to discuss the changing nature of issue advocacy in the age of big data and the internet. Mark discusses three main themes during the interview: message packaging, message delivery and measurement and how each can be utilized to maximize the return of an issue advocacy campaign.
During the interview Mark and Engineering Influence host Jeff Urbanchuk discuss tactics and tools that can help advocates better tailor their messages during the development of an integrated issue campaign. Some of those resources are listed below:
Useful Reference Information:
Data Visulaization Tools:
Social Analytics Tools:
Infographic Creation Tools:
Host: Welcome to another edition of ACEC's podcast, Engineering Influence. Today we're pleased to welcome Mark Bryant to the show. Mark is a wealth of information when it comes to the world of advocacy, message development and message delivery. We wanted Mark to stop by at the show because the world of advocacy is changing the same tactics and tools, the big name brands use to target consumers with advertising can be used in advocacy to create well-designed, executed and measured communications campaigns, technology, especially the internet. And the rise of social media changed the way we communicate and it's continuing to change by the day. And we'd like to give our members an overview of current trends and communicating and what you should think about when it comes to crafting an issue, advocacy campaigns. So Mark, welcome. And if you could start by telling us not only what you do with agency advisors, but what do you do for clients?
Mark Bryant: Jeff, thank you so much for having me today. So, so we at agency advisers, we like to say we bring we bring new tech to candidates. Causes in the agencies that work on their behalf. And by way of a new tech, we mean sort of data, digital and analytics capabilities that are, that are, that are coming into the market to help public affairs advocacy practitioners, advance legislative and regulatory agendas. We work with trade associations like the ACEC in a consultative capacity. We're in, we often open with a presentation on trends and innovation in, in advocacy. We tend to focus sort of along a continuum. We start with ways in which people are packaging messaging more effectively these days ways in which people are delivering those messages more efficiently, often times clearly to decision makers and those who influence them.
Mark Bryant: And then we end with ways in which those messages are being measured or the degree to which methods to measure the degree to which are your message is getting through. So our job is to essentially be a resource to practitioners that want to leverage. This is a, this is an extraordinarily sort of complex ecosystem, right? The number of providers in the sort of data digital and analytics sort of ecosystem category is, is changing quickly and, and, and is just almost on an on manageable.
Host: The minute you think you have a handle on it, everything changes.
Mark Bryant: Absolutely. And, you know, they come, they go but there are, there are certain things that really catch our attention as particularly compelling and impactful.
Host: So trends, I mean everybody loves trends focusing on trends. And I understand you have really three big trends that you want to kind of talk to us about today.
Mark Bryant: Sure, absolutely. So, within the context of, of those, those three sort of big areas of focus again, packaging, messaging, delivering messaging and, and measuring the efficacy of messaging. The first is around helping how people are packaging messaging most effectively today. And, and and a lot of people talk about this, not many people leverage it to the extent possible. And that is video, right? There's no better method of conveying a very sort of complex issue position to a lawmaker to, to a constituent of a lawmaker to virtually anyone that then by way of a, by way of a video, by basically telling your story in a format that's easily, readily sort of digestible and compelling. Right. we, we think that we love video not just because of its efficacy but, but also because of its utility.
Mark Bryant: So, so here there are couple of ways in which people are leveraging video that, that, that, that not, not everyone thinks about one today. In-Person engagement. So meetings with law makers and staffers often begin with a video. So the, literally the lobbyist, the government affairs, the government relations professional walking in to a lawmaker's office with a staffer, with a staff and a legislator, and they'll start with a video. They'll, they'll bring their tablets and bring their laptops. We'll start with a two, three, four minute video, which explains the organization's issue position in a clearly, you know, well thought out, methodical manner. There are oftentimes what are considered motion graphics or animated videos which really speak to the impact of a policy outcome on our lawmakers state or district. And so that, that starts a conversation, right? That's sort of sets the table, sets the stage and that yields a very sort of interactive that that leads to a very sort of dynamic and interactive conversation based on you know, a set of facts that were laid out and you know, in, in that, in that video format.
Mark Bryant: What's nice about that is you leave that office, that video stays behind you. You're government affairs, law lobbyists and government affairs professional, your lobbyist, they, walk away and that video stays and those lawmakers and staffers can share that video with other staffers, with committee members of subcommittee members, right? There's, there's great utility there. What can also be done, what's extraordinarily impactful is to sort of repackage or reformat that two, three, four minute video into a six second, a 15 second, a 3 second format, which can be leveraged in an ad campaign, right. To keep your issue top of mind among those lawmakers and staffers long after you leave. And that same, those same formats because people and the reasons six second 15, second 30 second are commonly used is because they can th th th they're, they're they're well-suited for different mediums.
Mark Bryant: So you want to be in front of that staffer when he or she wakes up when he or she is, you know, en route to the office. Potentially. It depends upon their, you know, their mode of transportation throughout the course of the day, you know, when they get home through connected TV, when they wrap up their day with a little social media, you know, scanning, if you will. So, so it's, it's fascinating. You can, you can package that message to stay top of mind among those, those lawmakers and staffers. Again long after, long after you leave, you can also leverage those same videos to engage like-minded groups, to make others aware of the issue position, sort of pull them in to the discourse or the dialogue or, or to to, to extend your message beyond just as lawmakers and staffers. And then finally you can use those same messages to inform the constituents of the law makers that are important to you.
Mark Bryant: And you might reformat further to end that with a call to action. Right? So you might, you might educate again, constituents within a state or the district of the lawmaker that matters and ask them to make a phone call, ask them to send an email, ask them to, to, to post something on social media that's relevant to that issue position.
Host: Yeah. And that's, that's all good points because I think something that really get across is the idea that one piece of you can't really look at a piece of content as a piece of content and, and as a singular thing, like, okay, check the box. We did a video. You have to look at, we have a video, so how else can we break this down and reuse it and repackage it because there are so many different mediums right now to send out.
Mark Bryant: That's right. That's right.
Host: You could host the video of course first on YouTube and that gives you pretty much a, a wide audience that you can draw from it and it's easily accessible. But then you need to repackage that for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and they all have different requirements. That's right. And it's something that I'll make sure to put into the show notes for this episode. Some guidelines about different platforms and their requirements, but it's something to keep in mind about when you're producing content, like a video that focuses on your message that you do in such a way where you're thinking ahead those steps so that when you're developing the message, you're make making the two minute video with a mind to saying how can I now cut that back down? How can I take that two minute video and make it a 30 second, a 15 second...
Mark Bryant: And not only for, for, for different mediums if you will, at different formats for different mediums, but for different audiences, right? Because your audience, your YouTube audience may be quite different than your Snapchat audience. Right? And so you want to think about right, how many sort of permutations, right, of that message you need for the with the, with the audience targeting in mind, right? If it's lawmakers and staff you know, that's, that's one, one consideration if it's constituents or, or very specific segments of the population within a lawmakers, state or district. That's a whole different set of considerations.
Host: Absolutely. And I think that, you know, even the first, you know, when you brought up video, I think a lot of people are still keyed on that traditional, okay, I'm coming in, I've got my folder, my folder has my talking points, my folder has a brochure or a written piece of material, which I'm going to present to the lawmaker or, or that lawmakers staff.
Host: And they're saying, okay, video, why would I want to use video instead of written material, which I know is on paper. And I'm going to hand it to them and, and you know, that's, you know, I can email to them. So what's the benefit of video over a written piece of material for the person consuming that information?
Mark Bryant: So I think one, it's additive, right? I don't, I don't think video necessarily replaces the more traditional, you know means or methods of communicating. Clearly the, the video is meant to, to to, to generate the diet, to set the stage to as somewhat of a springboard into the dialogue. Yeah. Right. That, that you'd like to have occur, right. In the context of that meaning it, and I think it's highly complimentary or additive, right? So you want to, I think in many cases our observation our experience has been the, those, those, other materials are still part of the sort of protocol, if you will.
Mark Bryant: Video is quite additive and you're, you're, you're well aware of the statistics. Yeah. I would imagine that studies have shown that people remember 10% of what they hear. Yeah. 20% of, of what they read and 80% of what they see.
Host: We're very visual creatures.
Mark Bryant: Very, very good. Absolutely. So if you can all the rubber and bring the, you know, the full arsenal, tip it to bear. Right, right. So there's sort of the different elements, components each meaning there are different dynamics. Right. So, so, so to have a video as a, as a starting point is, is we're, we're finding to be again, extremely impactful.
Host: Yeah, exactly. Then that's why, you know, a lot of people are now recording their podcasts and video. Because they want to have both, they want to have the audio, but they also want to have the video, two different audiences, two different ways of consuming the media. Yes. Same kind of content. Yes. But you're thinking and treating it differently because you know that you'll want to have a diversity of, of audiences reaching your material because your audience in the car is completely different than the person sitting at home who has found YouTube flipping through things and find something that they want to watch. So that, that's really important. That's a, that's an important trend. And that's really on, on a question of packaging your message, which is something that you really need to take a real thought, full approach for towards, before you actually start down the road of, of, you know, considering what's going to be in your you know, your, your campaign. The other trend that you mentioned is more focused on delivering that message. Right? And getting that message to the right people. So what are given the fact that we have so many different mediums that we can choose from? Sure. You know, what's, what are some of the trends related to actually messaged delivery?
Mark Bryant: Yeah, it's fascinating. So how do you get that message once you packaged it? Right. And you have to define the sort of the, the, the, the right, you're determined the right message for the right audience, right? And the right format. How do you get those messages in front of people in a very efficient, in front of decision makers and those who influence them and in a very efficient manner. So we find most fascinating is what's characterized as social graphing, right? So clearly I can get to you Senator I, I can, I can get my message to you and your staffers by way of, and you're probably very familiar with geo-fencing as an example. So, so I can by way of a technology which allows me to draw, you know, a circle or a polygon around a location. I can serve my message, right?
Mark Bryant: But by way of video as an example to mobile devices within that location, right. And geo-fencing, there are, it's while it sounds very straight forward, the notion of, okay, I want to deliver my message to everyone in Senator Warner's office, right? There are some nuances or complexities which, which people now are beginning to understand that they need to do I wanna hit people that had been in Senator Warner's office with great frequency over the course of the last year? Do I want to reach people that were in Senator Warner's office as it related to a specific fly-in, right? Who do I want to do it? Do I want to eliminate the infrequent visitors? How far back do I want to look? I can look back a year and I can determine, okay, who are the most frequent visitors in, in Senator Warner's office over the course of the last year?
Mark Bryant: And I can get my message to those people, whether they're in the office or not. So, so geo-fencing is, is, is become embraced by the association community as a, as a means by which they can get their message in front of lawmakers and staffers efficiently and cost effectively and cost effectively. Right? And you don't, ah, fascinating. So not only do you have look back windows and the ability to, to make some decisions around which segment of the audience you want to reach, you have the ability to reach folks that may be in the district offices. So this is a, so that look back window is it relates to the Capitol office. You can also reach people back in district offices. You can you can reach people again, as I mentioned outside of the office. So there are even very sophisticated methods of geo-fencing homes in an anonymized fashion, right?
Speaker 3: So you want to get to that. I want to ensure that I get to that staffer. So they're consuming content and they're at home and it's in the evening and, and, and, and and they're exposed to that. Does that message, this is all that, all that data, the minute you carry your phone with you, this is all the stuff is being collected in and now people are starting to filter through it and realize you can, Ew, that's there. You can go back. You can target people very, very specifically. I mean, that's the point where you can trigger someone in a room. Well, and that, and that. And that brings up that I think, one of the more exciting sort of trends. And that's around social graphing. Okay. And so the ability to reach everyone or, or a number of quite a few folks within Senator Warner's personal network, right?
Speaker 3: So if you think about who does Senator Warner interact with sort of day in, day out, right? That can include friends, family members, business associates people with whom Senator Warner may work on within philanthropic organizations. Social media connections, clearly staff, donors. So there, there are capabilities now, there are companies that will define those social graphs that'll map. Yeah. Jeff's that work. Yeah. Right. and serve largely by way of social media content to those individuals. And it's even so, sort of a fascinating aspect of this is even before they serve the message, which may actually feature Senator Warner in the, in the creative and say, please, please tell Senator Warner to support the following. Our issue position they will secure if you will, quite a bit of engagement on that content before they put it in front of the people within the network of Senator Warner.
Speaker 3: So those people within Senator Warner's network, we'll take note of that content because there's been so much engagement they perceive, right? I mean, and it's real in this case, perception is reality. That in fact this is an important issue. This is something to take note off because there's so much engagement, engagement being, you know, people have liked the, the, the content they've shared, the content they've commented on the content, right? There's, there's so much engagement around the content, they should pay attention to that content and they might then be more apt to engage Senator Warner on that particular issue.
Host: So it's like the old, you know, battlefield idea of, you know, you, you're first, you prepare the ground and then you send your Calvary yet, right. You get, you make the most favorable environment through targeted messages that create the perception that's what this is is an issue of, of concern. And then you get them with the call to action.
Mark Bryant: That's exactly right. It's fascinating. You're absolutely right. Sequencing is another thing that people are, are being far more deliberate about. What message do we get to whom in what order in order to make the greatest impact. Right? And so I, I think about just a, to add to your analogy, I think about the air cover before the ground floor, right? So, so, so back to fly ins, you know, people are geo-fencing, right? Before, so they're getting their message into the lawmakers office before they show up and then after they leave. So, so that issue that organization remains top of mind is it becomes a social graphing sort of very similar sort of sort of mindset around, again, let's go get lots of engagement on this content and then in a sequential fashion, put it in front of the people that are going to be in front of Senator Warner. And you imagine you take these techniques
Host: And you tie them in with traditional techniques that are the tried and true. Yes. So for example, if our flying that we did last may, you know, we didn't do the extent of geo-fencing or or or sequencing, but you know, you get an ad on radio, you get it out there, you start getting stuff into newspapers, editorials, you get your members who are doing fly-ins to do their local letters to the editor. So it kind of creates that presumption that something's happening. Then when they're there, or close to it. You hit them with digital advertising, which was targeted to those audiences that you want to hit. And then again, the follow through. Once it's done, you hit them again with another series of messages that pretty much it's the whole idea of, you know, tell them what you're going to say. Tell them and then tell them again. Yeah, that's right. And then make sure they have that lasting impact. You tie that in with traditional advertising, traditional, you know, direct earned media engagement, and then this more sort of the multiplier effect. And you can really make a Mark and that's solely from, you know, taking it from the perspective of a former Hill staffer. You can tell when an organization has it stuff together. When they do a fly in, either they come in and they just do their events and they have their meetings. But the groups that have that first, second, third touch are the ones that people take note. They stand out, they stand out. Yeah. So the big question on, of course, you know, that's the impact. Now I know you have a massive impact on the audiences that you're trying to persuade. But for an organization like ACAC, you know, you take all these steps, you prepare the message, you package it, you get deliver it. The big question is measurement, right? Which is the final trend I think that this is the most important thing because vertical the old days, you know, and even now with some of the baseline analytics that you get from the platforms that you're not paying for unless you're using like a sprout social or, or, or a Meltwater or something that's a paid program, the analytics that you get back are fairly broad. That's right. X amount of engagements.
Host: Just like the idea of saying, okay, I'm going to buy an ad on radio in this DMA. This is how many people were probably going to be hearing this based off of this is our audience at that time. But you don't really know dollar equivalency saying that this article is the same as let's say, $10,000 worth of ad buy. That doesn't really matter anymore. What are the trends in measuring the effectiveness of these messages and these techniques? What's the big trend driving analytics?
Mark Bryant: Sure. This is, so there are a number of of methods of measuring impact and, and potential efficacy. Pre-Campaign there are methods of measuring efficacy during the campaign. Yeah. There are measure methods of measuring efficacy. Post-Campaign the ultimate measure is did you win or lose? Well, yes, clearly, but, but however, you know, there are the reality is you need to report internally as to how well you're doing along the way internally and oftentimes externally, right? We find social and traditional media monitoring and impact analyses to be by far the most telling method of whether your message is actually getting through. Okay. Okay. So what does that mean? You mentioned a number of tools. Organizations have tools. Those tools are built to provide you intelligence as to what's being mentioned, who's mentioning those things. The, the how frequently those mentions are, are, are, are occurring. What, what's missing is telling sentiment analysis and recommendations as to what to do next. So some organizations have the internal expertise but it's it's challenging to sort of maintain that, invest heavily in that and maintain that over time.
Mark Bryant: So what you find is organizations are often turning to third parties or making a real commitment to investing in internal resources to interpret the data, right? And now we're finding people using multiple platforms, social and traditional. It's important to mention, it's not just social media monitoring, the social and traditional media monitoring and impact analysis. So, human beings that are interpreting the data that the machines, you know, no matter how sophisticated, right? And in terms of leveraging machine learning natural language processing, everybody likes to call this AI. Yeah. Right? No matter how smart the tool, you still need the interpretation, right? So, so, so Linda here at the ACEC, Jeff, others, Steve, others they're gonna want to understand, well, what is, what does this mean? Right? Well, what are these mentions mean?
Mark Bryant: And more importantly, what do we do next? Right? So organizations are leveraging social and traditional media monitoring in order to establish baselines or benchmarks. So before you then begin a campaign, whether paid or and or earned, right? What are people saying relative to your issue, right? What are they saying that's positive? What are they saying? This negative and who's saying it? Right? Establish that baseline, then launch your campaign made and, or earn, monitor, measure day in, day out. The degree to which their vernacular or the discourse is changing. Are people adopting your messaging? Right? And if they are, are they the right people? Right? Yeah. That's the big thing. The amazing thing. And there are instances where people push a certain messaging if you will. And there are unintended consequences. Something that the industry may have thought would be perceived very positively, was in fact perceived negatively.
Mark Bryant: And that further informs messaging and strategies. So you begin by establishing a baseline, which informs your messaging and strategy, right? In the reverse order, your strategy and messaging, right? One in the same, in many case are very closely intertwined. Clearly. then you get in market with your messaging in market being, you know, getting the right message in front of the right people at the right time in order to drive policy outcomes. Right. And then your real time, again measuring the degree to which that's being received and interpreted. Exactly right. And so again, to what degree did the vernacular or the discourse change and that further informs messaging because what you do is you invest more heavily in the messages that seem to be resonating and you might eliminate messages that really fell flat. Right. And then at the, at the end of the campaign, you know, even post-campaign the legislation passed you know, to what degree, what kind of feedback or did you get some sort of post-campaign that you might leverage? So sort of in other initiatives. Yeah,
Host: And that's a really interesting point because I remember back on my my time at the PR firm I was with and also on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee undertaking a large issue campaign or, or, or legislative initiative and building a campaign about that. It was constant measurement and it was the good old media content analysis. It was before, during and after. It was and is a lot of leg work and this is why you need to invest because it's looking at, okay, I'm going to take a look at all the media that we're getting. I'm going to assign that a score. I'm going to sign that a positive, negative, neutral score. Then I'm going to take that, I'm going to count that up and, and then I'm going to start doing some analysis of that data. How much has their share of voice in the conversation? What's our share of positive, negative, neutral? Who's writing about it, who isn't writing about it, do a gap analysis, who, where are the targets that we need to reach?
Mark Bryant: Precisely. All those things in traditional media can now be tied in with analytics and a lot of platforms, like you said, are using machine learning AI to do these more qualitative now that's right. Assessments of of message effectiveness and it's, it's a really important thing. These are all things that you need to take into consideration when you're looking at doing a strategic plan. We just broach the surface, which is why we're going to have Mark back on because we want to use some case studies, especially as we get into the presidential cycle and things start heating up and talk about these individual trends in a little bit more depth. Absolutely. I also want to make sure that I put some, some information in the show notes for everybody who's listening to take a look at some data because there's a lot here to take advantage of and also to think about.
Host: So I really appreciate the time that you've taken because we've covered a lot of stuff. This is, I love this topic. I could go on forever on this. But let's, let's hold off. Let's keep a little bit for the next time, right. We'll go into the specifics. But Mark Bryan of of it's, I'll tell you, it's, that is the changing world is something else and things are just insane and, and just are getting, are getting crazier by the day. When it comes to to getting your message across, but really appreciate you coming on the show. Well, I can't thank you enough again for having me and look forward to the next time, Jeff. Thanks
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