What the media isn't telling you about the election

By Susan Sullivan

Full disclosure: I love election season. More disclosure: I am also fortunate enough to be working with our client, LexisNexis®, to publicize its Newsdesk media monitoring solution by showcasing Election 2016 media coverage and the vast research possibilities LexisNexis offers. Hashtag #oneluckylady.

Susan Sullivan is an assistant account executive at Wordsworth Communications.

Susan Sullivan is an assistant account executive at Wordsworth Communications.

While I’ve been digging through articles, charts and graphs to see which candidates and issues are being covered most frequently, the sentiment expressed in the coverage, and which states cover which party most often, I’ve discovered something. Lean in close. There’s a whole different story than what’s being written about in mainstream media.

It’s true. Major broadcast, print, and online outlets are focusing their coverage on candidates different from those being discussed by real people on social media and blogs. Reporters and anchors talk about this candidate, but the people seem to want to talk about that one. 

Last week, we had eight candidates (Jeb Bush has since dropped out). Some are broadcast darlings; others tout serious social media cred. Take a look at the comparison of mainstream media to social media for February:

A big difference, right?  Online, broadcast and print news are covering Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton most. Social media and blogs, however, are much more interested in Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz. Especially Jeb Bush.  

This isn’t the whole story. These percentages are based on the total number of mentions of each candidate, but adding time as a dimension helps us see beyond the surface:

You can clearly see the main election events (Iowa caucuses on Feb. 2, New Hampshire primary on Feb. 9) reflected in the charts. In each instance, the candidate who won big earned more media coverage than his or her counterparts, except in the case of the close Clinton-Sanders tie in Iowa. But something else is hidden here. Do you see it?

On the day before the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, social media was already reflecting the winners. Mainstream media, meanwhile, was all over the place. The day before Iowa, Hillary and Bernie were almost too close to call on social media, just like the results in Iowa. The day before New Hampshire, Ted Cruz’s popularity dropped on social media, allowing Donald Trump to squeeze past.

It’s as if voters are hitting social media to voice their choice before contributing to the ballot box. I can’t wait to see what social media numbers say the day before Super Tuesday.

The message for us as public relations professionals is this: If you’re not including social media in your (or your clients’) comprehensive measurement strategy, you’re missing the voice of the voters…or consumers, or subscribers or potential customers. The opinions people share online help tell a more complete story than media coverage alone, and incorporating these perspectives can help PR practitioners get a more accurate look at our own brands, clients and industry trends. Just like I looked at how candidates are covered in order to predict the next big winner, comprehensive media monitoring can help guide your efforts toward success.

If you’re an election junkie like me, you may be interested in more insights on the intersection of media and the presidential election from the LexisNexis Biz Blog (on Twitter @LexisNexisBiz). We’ll call it media monitoring “research,” yes? Hashtag #client.

Data and information powered by LexisNexis Newsdesk.