Understanding the influence flows between politics, the media and social media

The “good old days” where news agendas were set by government briefing policy the day before its official launch are well and truly over. Today, policies and appointments are announced and abandoned within hours on social media.

I know I’m not the only one feeling exhausted by the near constant change in our political and media landscape. Since the EU Referendum, UK politics has been in a state of relentless flux that we all hoped the Brexit deadline would have given relief from. 

The degree of uncertainty is of course not just a national issue. Currently, the global political and news agenda is being set by the extraordinary tweets of Trump on @POTUS and debate on whether it’s time Twitter closes his account.

Coming to terms with this new reality means that PR and communications professionals have to become resilient to change. 

Information overload

We live in an age where influence shifts in real time across multiple channels and is complicated by the overload of information available almost instantaneously. The explosion in social media platforms and online publishing makes it hugely challenging to determine when to engage and how best to get a message across. Identifying who is important to target customers and influential to their decision making is complex in our brave new world of immediacy.

Already, politicians are changing their behaviour in response in recognition of this shift in where audiences go for information. Our very own Prime Minister uses Facebook to host ‘People’s PMQs’ with today 90% of UK MPs using Twitter, embracing its role in opening access to politics.

Politics on social

But, whilst social media has the potential to empower engagement and open political debate, it comes with risk. Our research found that four in five MPs (81%) believed public attitude towards politicians had changed for the worse because of social media. Half (53%) of MPs said this was because it affected our ability to find information from trustworthy sources.

For PR and communications to be effective in this context requires different behaviour. At its most fundamental level it requires a shift from considering influence in terms of editorial media to understanding how it moves across politics, media and social media. And this is where we see technology presenting such opportunity for the industry and it’s why we acquired a social media listening tool to strengthen our social listening and insights capability. Understanding influence in multiple channels and across multiple communities needs an ability to manage huge amounts of data. This just isn’t possible without technology that automates, for example, conversational analysis.

It is inconceivable that the level of political uncertainty and online debate will slow, even after the election. One answer to navigating this with confidence relies on using the right technology.

Written by Joanna Arnold, CEO of Access Intelligence