The Post-Midterm Election Political Landscape: What Communicators Need to Know

November 8, 2018

The country and news cycle is focused on Tuesday’s midterm elections. The balance of power at both the state and federal level is shifting, leaving a host of new faces on Capitol Hill and in legislatures nationwide. These new influencers, regulators and policymakers need to be educated by organizations about their key issues. Communicators play a key role in educating these new leaders and advocating on behalf of their organizations and clients.

midterm election communications

Here are five key takeaways for communications professionals to prepare for the post-midterm election political landscape…

1. Don’t underestimate lame-duck sessions:
Legislative bodies that flipped – whether the House of Representatives or state legislatures – will likely engage in legislative pushes during the lame-duck session, which is post-election but before new members are sworn into office. Organizations should keep a close eye on movement and be prepared to support or defend key initiatives and programs. The farm bill is one that will likely be addressed before the end of the year.

2. Prepare for January 3, 2019 with a messaging refresh and stakeholder mapping:
Organizations should take the time leading up to the start of the new Congress on January 3, 2019, and state legislative sessions throughout January, to tweak their messages and communications strategies to ensure that they properly reflect new policy influencers. Mapping stakeholders and identifying third-party validators who can amplify your messaging with influencers will help differentiate your organization.

3. Plan for gridlock on Capitol Hill:
Washington finds itself in yet another era of divided government. This means the likelihood of large, sweeping legislative efforts like tax or healthcare reform is unlikely. However, Washington will not grind to a complete halt next year. There will be opportunities for small wins as budget measures continue to pass and smaller legislative efforts move forward. Expect all focus to turn to the ever important 2020 Presidential election, where the slew of newly Democratic governorships could complicate re-election hopes for President Trump.

4. Cut through the noise:
With so many new faces set to converge on Washington in January, organizations should be prepared to reach out to key representatives to educate them on high-priority issues. To cut through the noise new representatives will surely face, they will need to craft messages that are concise, straightforward and demonstrate the impact on their constituents.

5. Keep an eye on states:
For some industries, state elections could have a stronger regulatory impact than federal results. For example, states control auto insurance regulations and Medicaid prescription drug formularies. Yesterday’s gubernatorial and state legislature results could spark more significant changes for those industries than we’ve seen in the past few years.

The bottom line…

Organizations should work to effectively communicate their positions on key issues with state and Washington influencers in preparation for this new set of decision-makers to take power. To differentiate your organization, fine tune your messaging and identify, educate and activate third-party validators to surround influencers and policymakers and advocate for your point of view.

Caryn Benisch is a managing account supervisor for Ketchum’s Public Affairs practice in Washington, D.C. She brings a background in broadcast journalism and years of experience leading results-driven public affairs campaigns for Fortune 50 companies, trade associations, nonprofits, and thought leaders.

Caryn helps lead Ketchum’s DC Media Team, managing agency-wide requests for beltway media support and developing results-driven earned media strategies for clients across Ketchum sectors. She also manages public affairs, issues-based and corporate reputation programs for a number of Ketchum clients, including GMO Answers – one of the agency’s largest food agriculture clients – where she serves as day-to-day client liaison and oversees all facets of the account.

Prior to joining Ketchum, Caryn was a senior director at Rational 360, a full-service communications firm that specializes in campaign management, strategic message development, crisis communications, and digital strategy. At Rational 360, Caryn managed a number of corporate reputation and public affairs campaigns, applying a unique campaign approach to solve complex communications, public affairs, and marketing challenges.

Before her foray into communications consulting, Caryn was an associate producer for Middle East Broadcasting Networks, where she contributed to the production of live current affairs shows for Arab audiences. Following years of study and several stints in Syria, Egypt, and Jordan, Caryn achieved professional proficiency in the Arabic language, and in 2008, she passed the FBI Foreign Language Test Battery.

Caryn received her Master of International Affairs from Columbia University and her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Bates College, where she was inducted into the Scholar Athlete Society and was twice named captain of the Varsity Women’s Tennis Team.