If you’re a campaign or advocacy professional, you likely receive news clips compiling stories relevant to your work every day.
This has been standard operating procedure for many firms over decades, and entire generations of workers have cut their teeth on skimming, pulling, and formatting notable press articles for their principals. But like the action of “clipping” articles from the physical paper, from which the moniker derives, traditional news clips are becoming obsolete in today’s fluid, noisy, and unrelenting media environment.
This isn’t to say that media and issue monitoring are unnecessary in 2019. In fact, they’re perhaps more necessary than ever, thanks to the foundational changes in the media landscape that have increased the speed and intensity of consequential developments, to say nothing of the heightened political and reputational risks accompanying them. Now, the challenge for campaign and advocacy professionals is to find an upgrade from traditional news clips to a timely, relevant, and actionable alternative that helps them get up to speed quicker.
News clips served their purpose when national press outlets were fewer and local media was more prominent, before the rise of the outrage industrial complex fueled by social media and 24-hour news channels. Yet, the nature of media and abundance of noise (and distraction) aren’t the only things that have changed since then. The nature of public policy and advocacy work has, too.
As any campaign and advocacy professional knows, the days of the famed “smoke-filled rooms” where key policy decisions were once made are long gone. With advances in technology and communication, the general public is paying more attention to the policy and advocacy process than ever before.
They’re also engaging on more issues in greater numbers, a trend that’s enabled by a high and rapidly-improving quality of life for more people unparalleled in human history, as well as the politicization of everything from sportswear to chicken sandwiches. Therefore, it’s critical for organizations that need a supportive governmental and political environment to achieve their objectives to keep on top of developments in the public arena.
Here’s where traditional news clips are no longer enough. Whether compiled by a trusted assistant or earnest intern, simply compiling article text is time-consuming to both produce and read. During a busy day, it may be that you only get a chance to skim over the clips for a few moments while eating lunch – after you have already been working to further your priorities for half a day. Such skimming leaves little time to discern what these news developments mean for your organization, or how to leverage this news to your advantage.
To revolutionize this time-tested practice, the campaign and advocacy spaces are moving towards more sophisticated and discerning solutions that mirror the evolution of the work and better align resources with added-value. In many capacities, this means standing up a custom monitoring and analysis program that provides pertinent insights from primary and secondary sources to apprise principals of key trends, current develops, and changes in the state-of-play that help them see around the corner on what happens next. Rather than aggregate, such approaches cull, analyze, and distill what issues need to be watched and acted upon.
While there are many services seeking to improve the usability of traditional news clips including social media listening platforms, as well as free tools such as curated newsletters, keyword alerts, and aggregators, it’s clear that artificial intelligence (AI) isn’t yet capable of analyzing and distilling useful information on its own.
Collection of information is the easy part — it’s discerning trends, anticipating where the issue discussion moves next, that’s hard. Free tools without the training and skills to analyze information through the right lens are worth exactly what you paid for them, and only add to the abundance of noise and information flows out there.
That’s why trained human analysts are increasingly filling this need and showing the way to the future. Companies and cause organizations are keenly aware of this fact, and at my company we’re investing deeply in training analysts to find the signal in this increasing amount of noise.
My advice: evaluate the market for new options beyond traditional news clips and free tools to solutions that provide more value for you and your clients. At the current pace, both news clips and collection tools without analysis may too soon be relegated to the “smoke-filled rooms” of history in just a few short years.
Jeff Berkowitz is founder and CEO of Delve, a Washington-based competitive intelligence firm.