By:

Cali Platt and Jenn Sherman

The digital revolution has shifted the way we consume information, giving us instantaneous access to real-time developments happening near and far, right at our fingertips. Simultaneously, we’ve become increasingly divided when it comes to who we trust and where we get our news.

With the election season in full swing, it’s important to understand how the media landscape is changing and what it means for advocacy leaders.

Three things to know:

  1. The media landscape is as polarized as the electorate. A majority of Americans think that the media is adding to the political polarization of the country – and yet, there is a deep partisan divide in the news sources Americans trust and rely on, creating two different realities. This diverging trust in the media as an institution has prompted Americans to turn to alternative, localized platforms such as social media, podcasts or public individuals for their daily news. As journalists embrace their own brand and create portfolio careers, Americans are gravitating towards the individual rather than the institution.

 

  1. Alternative source consumption is fragmented among generational lines – for now. Most Americans use news websites or apps on digital devices to consume their news. However, young adults ages 18-29 use social media for their news at a much higher rate than the rest of the population, and they are the only age demographic that prefers to get their news from social media when using a digital device. TikTok serves as one of Gen Z’s top sources for news and the rest of the population may soon follow suit, as the share of overall adults who say they get their news from TikTok continues to grow rapidly. Patients are an important piece of this movement, with nearly one in five Americans turning to social media influencers for health care information.

 

  1. The media industry is feeling an impact, but it continues to evolve. With the rise of digital media comes the decline of print. By the end of this year, the U.S. is expected to have lost one-third of newspapers it had as of 2005, raising concerns around access to information for communities with limited broadband access. More broadly, the industry is currently facing one of its most challenging times financially. Earlier this year, major news companies like NBC News, MSNBC, Time, The Los Angeles Times, Sports Illustrated and more all laid off a portion of their staff. Further, the rise of artificial intelligence may impact the way Americans discover and consume news in the years to come. Media companies like Axios are adjusting their strategy to account for A.I., focusing on delivering trusted content and building in-person connection to strengthen their value in a way that A.I cannot.

 

In an ever-changing media environment, how can advocacy leaders redefine the landscape to maximize the reach of their content while ensuring it is perceived as trustworthy and accurate?

  • Go local. Showing the direct impact between a health care issue or policy and the communities your audience belongs to helps establish an authentic connection to your cause. Whether that’s placing an op-ed in a local media outlet or collaborating with local influencers and trusted community leaders, reaching the desired constituency where they are builds rapport while tapping into an extended, diverse audience.

 

  • Get targeted. Establishing relationships with specialty reporters that focus on your issue, especially those at niche publications and/or on unique platforms to amplify your campaign can help increase engagement among interested parties. Independent newsrooms like The 19th, newsletter platforms like Substack or topic-based podcasts allow you to reach audiences that may be more likely to tune in to your cause.

 

  • Leverage social media as a thought leadership avenue. Social media platforms like LinkedIn, X (formerly known as Twitter) and others empower advocates to tell a story using their own voice where other thought leaders and influencers can engage in meaningful discourse. As more people rely on social media for not just their daily news but also ways to advocate for issues they care about, establishing a social media presence and massaging it as a tool for advocacy is essential for a strong, sustainable effort.

Modern-day advocacy starts with one individual, one community, one story. Taking that one “thing” to local audiences and using a personal network to amplify it can lead to a successful advocacy campaign that breaks through all the noise.