November 30, 2021

Engaging Hill Media: A Smart Public Affairs Move

America is fed up with politics…and can’t seem to get enough of it.

Job approval numbers of lawmakers hover at record lows.

A toxic and divisive political climate is paralyzing legislation and the kind of compromise that has guided American policy for decades seems obsolete.

Yet, interest in the inner-most working of Washington appears to be growing at a feverish pace.

Regardless of your political persuasion, the political events of the last couple of years have intensified the demand to stay informed about what our leaders are doing to address the biggest issues of our time. Whether involving the pandemic, elections, or major legislative packages for infrastructure, the impact of decision-makers in Washington has never been more far-reaching. Political developments are not only keenly felt by individual citizens and taxpayers, but also by every business, non-profit and labor organization.

That translates into the growing influence of today’s political media – especially the more recent platforms to arise in Washington, D.C., including Axios, Politico, and Punchbowl. Their increasing clout and ability to set the political agenda, for better or worse, is a reality that organizations both large and small can’t afford to ignore.

Couple the influence of these newer platforms with the traditional Capitol Hill media outlets or “Hill Rags,” which essentially provide daily box scores for the political competition playing out, and it’s no wonder legacy media giants such as The Washington Post are racing to catch up.

I read these Capitol Hill-centric outlets not just because I’m a life-long news junkie but because I know that I am reading the same news stories as Members of Congress, the White House and other important decision/policy makers who are at the forefront of shaping our nation. It is critical for me to understand how issues are being framed and covered on the Hill to help our clients effectively navigate both the politics of D.C. and the media covering those politics.

Our firm works with organizations and businesses of all types and from around the world. Regardless of a client’s situation, we regularly advise them to consider the enormous impact that Hill-focused media can have on their issues. It’s important to have a solid grasp of the publication’s main focus, its target audience, the menu of paid content and other innovative opportunities such as partnerships they may offer, as well as knowledge about the reporter covering issues of importance to the client. Cultivating this knowledge and these relationships is time well spent, guiding us in making sound recommendations about how to ensure that our client’s message is being delivered to a broad, influential audience.

So, while your conversation with the passenger next to you on the flight may take a U-turn to awkward or even hostile if politics comes up, know that the deep conflict and divide in our country is driving tremendous investment and interest in covering Washington’s every move.

Exploring how to leverage these influential media outlets to amplify key messages with decision-makers is something every multi-national corporation to small business should be fully engaged in. Every organization or business, at some point, faces reputational issues. And once there is a hint of a reputational defect in the political ether, you are at risk of some form of regulation or government action.

So, as we navigate a divided nation, here’s hoping that new and innovative coverage of government can foster deeper appreciation for a common good. Regardless, one thing is clear, the interest is there, and smart clients continue to find a way to engage.