Coping With The Trump Effect On Public Interest Communications

The constant churning and rapid turnover of headlines caused by the coverage of this administration has made it a lot tougher to break through and gain traction on newsworthy stories. After all, when one Tweet can rock the world, how can you publicize serious content? As far as we can tell, it will continue to be tricky to rise above the dinh.

Last fall, we handled the worldwide release an important global report on violence against children. It got attention all around the world, except in the United States. Why? An NPR editor told us, “normally we would cover this, but there is just too much happening in Washington. We have no time.” They also have no room left in their newscasts or papers for a lot of what many public interest groups seek to publicize.

But public interest perspectives are arguably more important now than ever. Budget cutters are removing essential funding to meet critical health and social services needs, tax cuts have cut into the Social Security Trust Fund and attacks on the Affordable Care Act are leaving more and more Americans uninsured. The work your organizations are leading is critical, and your voice(s) need to be heard. It just means working harder to do so.

Last year’s fights over proposed Medicaid cuts suggest a way forward. Thousands of people found ways to dramatize the human consequences of these proposals and got the media coverage they needed. You can check out some of our insights on this topic here. Congress backed down when they realized how their work was being reflected through their constituents — as cruel and inhumane.

This focus on building on the news of the day through a storytelling mindset is an effective blueprint on how to get noticed in a sea of noise. Avoid personal attacks on the administration’s personality/tweets/etc. and rather use examples of their behaviors and associated consequences. It is especially important to be careful of making comments or using expressions that may alienate your key stakeholders and/or could be read as disrespectful by the public.

Apply new (or renewed) efforts to build visibility by:

  • Producing more authoritative data and compelling stories that fits into the national news narrative. Publish it in understandable terms.
  • Commenting publicly via interviews and publishing statements on policy (not personalities) including votes in Congress, hearings, etc.
  • Leveraging the voices and experiences of your clients or community in understandable terms.
  • Seizing on news events and national movements that are a part of your organization’s authentic narrative and values (i.e. separating children and parents at the border, shootings of unarmed black males, or “me too” moments) to build on existing coverage and express your voice in a values-aligned way.
  • Focusing in on your key audiences and try to reach them repeatedly.

And, don’t give up.

If you’re unsure where to start, or need support turning your ideas into action, we can work together to create a strategic communications plan that will elevate your voice amongst the chatter and increase visibility and engagement with your organization. To get started, email me at