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How Your Peers are Navigating the Current Political Climate: Insights from ComNet17

In a world where there is “an avalanche of crazy things coming out of the [current] administration,” communications professionals find themselves having to rethink how they communicate both internally and externally.

Atlantic Media Strategies and The Communications Network invited select attendees of ComNet17 to participate in a discussion about how they are navigating communications challenges in the current political environment.

Communicators are encouraged to use the summary and discussion questions below to guide conversations around challenges they are facing. Or join us in further discussion of these issues in the Members Community.

Here are four key takeaways from our ComNet17 discussion.

Internal Communications

Immediately after Election Day 2016 and also this year, organizations have encountered questions from employees about their public posture. This includes concerns and questions related to how, if at all, an organization may react to a specific event or if it plans to be vocal solely in the face of perceived threats to the organization’s mission and values. As one participant explained, “We have to continue to assure our staff of our core values.”

Cutting Through the Presidential and Political Noise

The president has an agenda, but he communicates about it in a “thoughtless, juvenile way.” Organizations see themselves as the adults in the room, but to maintain this position, they have to be more mindful of their own messaging. This may require using stronger language to ensure not only that they are heard but that they are fulfilling their missions, even amidst political divisiveness around topics such as healthcare and immigration.

New Risks

Given new risks associated with the current political environment, communicators also have to be more sensitive. With a president that is uniquely vocal on Twitter and through other channels, they worry about their organizations and leaders being the target if the president is unhappy with their position on a specific policy initiative.

Short-Term Memory

The political news cycle is both unpredictable and fast-moving. While this trend seems to serve the president well, it is not just unsettling but also challenging for communicators. As one roundtable participant explained, “We have seen 400 stories since Election Day that seem like the end of the world … and then they are forgotten.”

Outstanding Questions

With the end of President Trump’s first year approaching, nonprofits and foundations will continue to face new questions about how to communicate and engage key audiences. These include:

  • How can organizations mitigate risks and new realities while still having their voice heard?
  • What do you communicate when facts don’t always matter?
  • How do you continue to assure internal staff that your values and goals endure, even in an uncertain political climate?
  • How do organizations stand up for what they believe in without sacrificing non-partisanship?

For questions, feedback, or to request a full copy of the report, please contact Jason Tomassini at jtomassini@atlanticmedia.com.

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