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Buzzfeed Says It Can Supercharge Your Campaign’s Content

Political campaigns are now conducted on the internet as much as they are at rallies, in interviews or at debates. While traditional events end up on social media — often while they are happening live – even the most compelling candidate is doomed without a strong social media strategy and the team to execute it.
In the 2016 presidential campaign, candidates are using all of the latest social media techniques to promote themselves, attack their rivals, raise money, identify and motivate potential supporters. And the corporate world is watching closely. What works in politics can often be modified to promote a corporate message, minimize damage to a personal or product reputation, and enhance profits. One of the newest platforms now being used by a group determined to stop the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump is attracting particular attention.

  • Foreword By Don Newman Senior Counsel, Navigator

Campaigns looking to create social media buzz have a new tool at their disposal. BuzzFeed is pitching an offering that can take a campaign’s 60-second TV ad and fashion it into shareable content that could significantly expand the digital reach of the average ad.
The digital media company made headlines earlier this cycle when its editorial department created videos for Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina’s presidential campaigns. Now, BuzzFeed’s ad team is opening its doors to campaigns and advocacy groups looking to create easily shareable content that appears as native advertising on
Our Principles PAC, an anti-Donald Trump group, was one of the first to buy a spot that features GIFs of women reciting misogynistic quotes from Trump. Bernie Sanders’ campaign has also made a buy, the company said.
BuzzFeed has been on the receiving end of political ad spending since 2012, but this is the first time its ad team is creating the content for its political clients, according to Rena Shapiro, who heads the company’s outreach to campaigns.
‘ we weren’t doing actual creation—this is a brand new concept,’ she said. ‘Anyone can create content. But what makes BuzzFeed unique is we have the data and technology to distribute it.’
The Our Principles ad is a hybrid of a one-minute video and a collection of chryoned GIFs.
‘You don’t have to watch the video,’ Shapiro said. ‘Quite often a 60-second video spot is content that’s not easily sharable, but our creative team is so good at finding a unique way to present information.’
BuzzFeed is pitching its ad offerings more widely to campaigns just as the media company debuted a new ad format at SxSW Interactive this spring. The company is labeling the new format ‘swarm.’ It centers on content creation for an array of different audiences targeted to multiple platforms in an effort to ‘light up the internet all at once.’
While that’s not the offering Our Principles PAC opted for (swarm is in beta), BuzzFeed is also marketing the swarm format to campaigns and advocacy groups.
Campaigns, like all advertisers, dream that their spots will explode across the Web. But that’s not the norm. Shapiro stressed that campaigns don’t need to be national or adopt a comedic tone in order to take advantage of BuzzFeed’s advertising offering. She noted a state Senate candidate in Wisconsin is investing in the service.

Podcasting Breathes New Lifes into Radio and Politics

Mashups have been all the rage in music: take a familiar tune or concept, mix it with something new, spin it around a bit and you create a new sound, with a new beat. Podcasts are another sort of mashup; in effect, they blend new technology with a tried-and-true format. These online ‘broadcasts’ replicate the popular format of traditional talk radio, but in a new way that allows listeners to tune in at their leisure using personal audio devices.
Podcasts, originally dubbed ‘audioblogs,’ have been around since about 2003. British journalist and author Ben Hammersley, of The Guardian, is credited with coining the term ‘podcast,’ a combination of ‘pod,’ as in iPod, and ‘broadcast.’
As more podcasts became available, Apple brought the format into the mainstream in 2005 when it added a podcast directory to its iTunes store. Just like personal music playlists, you could now download a podcast and listen to it on a hand-held player at a time and place of your choosing.
The first mass market podcast was created in 2006 when public radio station WBEZ made available This American Life for downloading and streaming. The popular program collects journalism, essays, memoirs, field recordings, short fiction and historical recordings for 2.2 million daily listeners.
The appeal of podcasts rests in the accessibility they provide to their creators. The equipment is cheap and readily available, there are no programming regulations, no length requirements, and no stipulations on content. Furthermore, because there are no specific programming requirements, the format can easily accommodate new trends, information and technology. Medium meets message.
Navigator Launches Political Traction Podcast

Navigator recently put the accessibility of podcasting to the test by launching Political Traction, a podcast that tracks the conversation Canadians are having about politics.
True to podcasting’s roots, we transposed traditional political content on to a new format. Political Traction began as a regular segment on CBC’s Power and Politics program with Navigator executive chairman Jaime Watt. It assesses how much traction the issues that political leaders, pundits and the media are talking about have with the people they’re trying to reach.
Every week, Navigator identifies and explores the top three issues making news in Ottawa, gauging how much these issues resonate with Canadians across the country. In addition to discussing the top issues, we interview public affairs experts to analyze the extent to which elected decision- makers are in (or out) of tune.
You can find Political Traction on iTunes, SoundCloud and our website,

Letter from London: Brexit

Britain joins the ranks of nations that are debating the value — and the cost — of free trade agreements.

It sounds like the start of a bad joke: How is the political rise of Donald Trump like the ‘Brexit’ debate in the UK?
But it is no joke—and no coincidence—that the aspiring right-wing presidential candidate and a growing number of left-leaning British politicians are aligned in their vocal scepticism about the economic growth that derives from trade agreements and economic integration.
On both side sides of the Atlantic, positions that challenge the received wisdom on the benefits of trade agreements have powerful populist roots: Workers in developed countries around the world increasingly lay the blame for their faltering fortunes on the impact of free trade deals.
America’s participation in the recently negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) may even hang in the balance
In all cases, the disaffected argue that the long-term costs of free trade far outweigh any short-term benefits. They also maintain that comparative advantage—not thousand-page agreements—is what drives trade. And the political reality is that disgruntled voters who feel championed and empowered are the most likely to turn out at the polls for their candidates.
This pushback, which has steadily gained momentum, has implications for Canadian companies, most of which rely heavily on U.S. and UK markets and capital. For Canada the stakes are high on both counts: The U.S. market annually absorbs over 75 per cent of Canadian exports, while the European Union (including the UK) is in second place, at about 12 per cent
The wrangle over free trade may not be a new one, but it does bear close scrutiny for its potential to gain further traction.
In the UK, the divisions on whether to remain in the European Union or go it alone date back 41 years, although the stakes and the political positions couldn’t be more different in 2016.
In 1975, the Conservatives argued passionately to remain in the EU, while the Labour Party was split. Now though, the Labour Party is broadly in favour of remaining and the Tory party is divided.
The so-called Brexiters fear national sovereignty will be diminished in the face of the EU’s road map toward ever-closer political union. Embedded in that are such issues as immigration and the need to control UK borders, including in the face of the Syrian migrant crisis, as well as the economic freedom to trade with the rest of the world.
The Brexiters face two significant challenges. First, their current campaign is fragmented. Second, there is the uncertainty of what comes next, if the UK votes to leave.
While it’s expected that there would be a negotiation period of about two years to extricate the UK from the EU, it’s hard to predict how such things as terms and timelines for a new relationship would be framed. Greenland is the only other country to have left the EU, and that example doesn’t offer much guidance on what a UK exit would entail.
It is that uncertainty, something that capital markets abhor, that is likely to cause the most disruption, at least in the short term.
Such business and economic considerations, not surprisingly, dominate the debate.
Led by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, those who advocate remaining in the EU cite the economic benefits, as well as the need to continue influencing the broader European agenda. The business community, which relies heavily on European markets, supports the PM.
If the UK votes to remain in the EU, Canadian businesses with direct or indirect interests in the UK will see no change until the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the EU kicks in sometime in 2017.
If, however, the UK votes to leave, Canadian companies using the UK as a European base will have to assess whether to remain in the UK or move to the Eurozone. What is less clear for exporters to the UK is whether the tariffs will remain or, as a temporary arrangement, CETA will hold until a new trade agreement is in place. If the CETA process is any measure, however, a UK-Canada Trade Agreement could take eight to 10 years—at least a couple of lifetimes in both politics and trade theory.

The Worldwide Water Cooler

The power of ‘Like’: How Facebook’s one billion users can transform your brand.

With 1.09 billion daily active users, Facebook is like a giant water cooler—a go-to place to hear and participate in the interactions around the events, brands and trends that frame our lives.
This would be a veritable goldmine for market and public opinion researchers, except that no one has ever had access to the billions of posts, likes, comments and shares that populate the vast Facebook platform. The best that researchers could do was analyze content posted to a public page or classified specifically by users as ‘public’ posts—and these posts make up a mere five per cent of the content on Facebook.
Since privacy is crucial to Facebook’s business model and maintaining consumer trust, what people are sharing and engaging around on the platform will continue to be hidden from social media monitoring services.
While still respecting users’ personal privacy, Navigator now has full access to anonymous and aggregated Facebook topic data, something that can give companies and organizations a look at what people are interacting around, what ideas and products are trending and how people are reacting to issues and events of the day.
This new capability respects individual privacy by ensuring that no one is identified in the data and that the content is never removed from Facebook.
But such data is a powerful tool for companies and organizations. Following are three ways that Navigator’s capability to analyze this data can apply to what businesses and organizations need:
Reputation management
The ability to analyze Facebook topic data gives companies that need help managing their reputations amid crises an additional item in their toolboxes.
As an example, a company that faced a public protest campaign could up to now analyze the public’s input on Twitter and in blogs, but these sources lack demographic insight and don’t accurately measure the impact. Now, Navigator can build a filter to capture Facebook interactions related to the issue, assessing which demographics are engaging, whether these people are representative of the wider population and the brand’s target audiences, and how these interactions might translate to real-world action.
For instance, in the data we capture, we might discover that women over the age of 65 were engaging with the issue more often than others, and more than they typically do on other topics. We would then develop appropriate messaging targeted to that group and its specific concerns.
We can analyze the links to news stories about the issue, and because we are tagging the company’s products, we also discover that certain products are being associated with the crisis more than others. We would then work on a mitigation strategy to give those products more support, with the aim of stopping a boycott before the idea gains any traction.
As these examples show, the opportunities are limitless. We are excited to offer this groundbreaking data to our clients.
Transforming an advertising strategy
By analyzing potentially millions of Facebook interactions and examining the platform’s topic data, companies can transform their advertising strategies to best reach their target audiences.
For example, a company sponsoring an international sporting event and planning to run a significant Facebook ad campaign can work with Navigator to use Facebook topic data to understand how different audiences are engaging with athletes, individual sports and the company’s brand and sponsors.
The results can show what is being interacted around and where, so that advertising strategies can be tailored to suit regional markets, or to shift sponsorships and ad campaigns to the demographic segments that are most receptive.
Getting to know your target audience
The new capability helps companies capture information about the demographic that is talking about and buying their products or services.
For example, based on previous research, a company in the food business that wants to launch an ad campaign for a new snack brand associated with a major sports league might think its target audience is males under 25. It might also assume that the most buzz around the food would occur just before the start of a big game in that league.
Working with the company, Navigator would develop tests of Facebook data to see if those assumptions were correct. One test might then reveal that, in fact, based on actual interactions around the snack brand itself, the most engaged demographic is women aged 35 to 64, and not men 18 to 24. As well, the tests show that excitement doesn’t peak just prior to the event, but, rather, six hours earlier. It would clearly be advantageous to buy advertising time six hours before the event—and target those ads to women (who might be purchasing the snack food before the big game) than to increase ad buys during the game.

What is Facebook Topic Data?

Facebook topic data shows what people are sharing and engaging around on Facebook about events, brands, subjects and activities, all in a way that keeps personal information private. This is the first time that insights from the entirety of the platform have been available. With this information, you can make better decisions about how to communicate and market to your target audiences on Facebook and other channels.

How is it different from Page Insights?

Facebook’s page insights help you understand demographics and engagements that occur on your Facebook page. Facebook topic data lets you understand engagements happening across the rest of Facebook.

How is it different from audience insights?

Facebook’s audience insights help you zoom in on what a particular demographic group is interested in. Facebook topic data lets you analyze content being shared in a way that is fully customizable, with brand and industry-specific tagging, scoring and methodologies.

Tick Talk

When it comes to corporate restructuring, communication is key to a successful outcome for all parties.

When a struggling company hits pause and files to restructure under the Companies’ Creditor Arrangement Act (CCAA), it’s seldom a surprise. In almost every case, creditors, suppliers, employees, analysts, media and the broader community have seen the emergency flares signalling financial distress for some time.
Nevertheless, when it finally reaches the point where payments are suspended, and a court-ordered monitor is appointed to oversee the restructuring process, it invariably—and quickly—gets messy.
Companies need to proactively contain that mess by developing and executing a strategic communications plan even before a formal CCAA filing is made.
Why? Incumbent management is often left scrambling to balance the demands of an ongoing, but hobbled, operation with a simultaneous restructuring. Evading the threat of personal liability, the board of directors often resigns en masse, just when their experience and guidance is needed most.
The court sessions that frame the restructuring process frequently turn into brawls over the priority and entitlement of competing groups. It all gets more heated when banking syndicates that provide short-term debtor-in-possession financing are involved: the strictures they impose on companies and their creditors often incite outrage.
This swirl of fear, greed and confusion adds a volatile and potentially disruptive element to the proceedings. Social media enflames that by allowing anxious stakeholders to amplify their grievances and spread the word.
The final ‘plan of arrangement’ must be approved by a number of parties before it can be implemented. That means a communications strategy that manages expectations, corrects misinformation and builds support among factions is often imperative to success, and to the future of the company.
Just as the monitor is an independent third party with a clear mandate, so too should the lead communications advisers be from outside the company. Outsiders are unencumbered by pre-existing relationships and are therefore better positioned to say and do things that may affect post-restructuring relations.
It is essential that there be close collaboration between the outside communications advisers and the company’s corporate communications team, especially for understanding internal and external stakeholder history and context. For example, in cases where the workforce is unionized, the company’s insight is essential, but it can be a big advantage to have an outside team manage the file, free—but still respectful—of the established employer-employee dynamic.
An effective restructuring communications strategy maps and leverages the points where stakeholder interests intersect, providing management with specific target areas for winning support.
It also takes into account the need to customize messages to fit specific agendas. Suppliers who are awaiting past and future payment must be persuaded to keep goods and services flowing to the company. They want to be assured that steady progress is being made, as do customers who need to know there will be no disruption in their supply chain. The message to unionized workers may be rather less upbeat, giving them what they need to know in order to consider contract and other concessions.
The demands of financial restructuring often lead to faltering internal communication. Efforts on that front need to be redoubled to bolster morale, sustain productivity and retain talent at a time of uncertainty. Furthermore, companies with sales forces and a number of other external-facing points, need to ensure that employees are confident and well-coached in explaining the situation and pivoting to a brighter future.
That same communications strategy must also foster broader community and government support. Preserving jobs and fostering growth is essential to the long-term health of local, regional and national economies, especially at a time of economic contraction.
It is also important to align the interests of the company with those of elected politicians. If the company clearly articulates its plan and provides regular updates, politicians can become powerful advocates for the broader policy changes upon which financial restructurings frequently rely, especially where new buyers or owners are in the mix.
Financial restructurings are as unique as the businesses that undertake them. Within the prescribed legal framework of the CCAA, their success is determined by a number of variables, from global markets to union locals. Strategic communication is one of those variables. But unlike all the others, it is one a company can—and must—control.