How the Election Cycle Will Impact the Tech Media Landscape 

Virtual conventions are only the beginning. 2020 has been filled with unexpected developments, and this year’s U.S. election season is shaping up to be more of the same. For the technology industry, facing increased scrutiny from regulators while playing a critical role among consumers and businesses striving to connect during COVID-19, it’s important to understand and anticipate how the media landscape is likely to shift in the next few months.

Ketchum’s Technology and Media teams have identified the following key trends as we work with clients to prepare for how the election cycle will impact the news cycle in the coming months.

Increased politicization of topics

From technology to COVID and beyond, we can expect the candidates of both parties to plant political flags around all sorts of topics in mainstream media and broadcast outlets. Coverage will not be relegated to political reporters, and beltway publications won’t hold a monopoly on political coverage. Expect candidates to offer POVs on big tech, data privacy and other topics that are relevant to Americans. A particular watchout: Candidates have historically called out big companies in their hometowns or other pertinent stops along the campaign trail as either good or bad examples, and we expect that trend to continue.

A relentless news cycle

With debates, campaigns and candidates active on social media, this election cycle is nonstop. This provides opportunities to comment, but tech companies need to be ready to respond quickly before a topic becomes dated. Politically driven coverage will dominate the news cycle on the nights of debates and in the days to follow. In fact, many political experts believe that the debates could take on an even greater importance because this year’s partly virtual conventions might not result in the same level of coverage. Upcoming dates to note:

  • Sept. 29: Presidential Debate (in Cleveland, Ohio)
  • Oct. 7: Vice Presidential Debate (in Utah)
  • Oct. 15: Presidential Debate (in Miami, Fla.)
  • Oct. 22: Presidential Debate (in Nashville, Tenn.)
  • Nov. 3: Election Day

Social issues at the fore

Especially during this period of flashpoint events around social injustice and civil unrest in the U.S., we’ve seen a desire for many companies and executives to step up and take a stand on issues (Black Lives Matter, masks, etc.). In fact, Ketchum’s recent Brand Reckoning 2020 study shows that 74% of Americans said recent protests against racial injustice have made it more important to support businesses that improve diversity and inclusion, and a similar number (72%) said it is more important to support minority-owned business through their purchases. With Joe Biden’s selection of Kamala Harris as his running mate, we expect conversations around race, gender and civil rights/equality to continue playing an important role in conversations. For tech companies, not having a voice when stakeholders perceive that you should might be a potential point of exposure and challenge to reputation.

Spotlight on the media

Media are not predicting the outcome as a foregone conclusion in either direction. While most media organizations deny doing this the last time, the perception still exists among many Americans that they did this in 2016. On Election Night, it’s likely that coverage on the major American networks will be similar to 2016, when they broadcast from 7:00 p.m. ET until at least 2:00 a.m. ET. That said, many political experts believe there is a better chance than ever before that we won’t know election results on Election Night. News outlets are all making plans in the event they need to cover for days or weeks, including potential litigation or contesting of results.

We’ve been developing more specific recommendations and predictions for the tech sector, which we’ll continue to update as events develop. If you’d like to get a deeper dive, please get in touch with Samantha or Rebecca.

Rebecca Pineiro is an account supervisor within Ketchum’s Technology sector in New York. She brings years of experience leading integrated media campaigns on behalf of the world’s leading B2B and B2C tech brands, specializing in creative storytelling that bridges market impact and brand exposure. Outside of work, Rebecca serves as a mentor with Minds Matter of NYC, helping the best and brightest high school students uncover their full potential and prepare for college. Rebecca holds a BA from Northeastern University in Political Science and Economics.