This week’s issue is guest-written by my colleague Randa Stephan, Head of Brand at Weber Shandwick. Check out Randa’s take below and watch the latest SMW+ episode to learn how Media Genius themes come to life and intersect through the lens of the election media environment.  — Chris
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Media Genius: The Election Special

After the 2016 U.S. presidential election,
Psychology Today described a phenomenon called “headline stress disorder,” a state caused by “continual alerts from news sources, blogs, social media, and alternative facts that feel like missile explosions in a siege without end.” This concept inspired a national study that revealed similar election-induced anxiety across party lines.

Now in 2020 — a new-and-definitely-not-improved election cycle with the potential to put you over the edge.
I don’t hail from a political or public affairs background (like my Powell Tate 
colleagues who have plenty of in-depth guidance to share), but I find myself in the same place I imagine many of you are: committed to understanding the issues that matter while hoping to survive the election gauntlet. I latch onto the moments – and people – that help me make sense of the world and provide inspiration to keep trying. In the context of politics, this is no easy feat. Like all the topics we cover in Media Genius, understanding the election environment requires a deep look at how media and technology drive perception, opinions, and beliefs.

This summer, we partnered with Social Media Week on the beta of SMW+, a new streaming and online platform for marketers, to turn Media Genius into a four-episode series. Each show features content from our learning platform and deep-dive conversations with brilliant guests. Last week, we dropped The Election Special, focused on how signals we track through Media Genius come to life through the U.S. Election. You can watch a recording of it here.
The session kicks off with a primer on the U.S. Election media landscape – we’re talking belief bubbles, ballot boxes, virtual campaigns, 3X 2016 ad spend, election day PTO, brands and democracy, information warfare, and beyond. Next up? Interviews with colleagues doing the hard work of making society more inclusive, safe, and understandable at this critical time for our nation (and the world.) Dr. Claire Wardle, co-founder of First Draft, a global nonprofit tackling misinformation, digs into election information disorder, and Foot Locker marketing and communications leaders Cara Tocci and Patrick Walsh get real about the role of brands in driving democracy. 
As a perpetual student, I was honored to learn from these insanely inspirational humans and I hope you find their POV valuable, too. (If you’re in need of a reminder that there are sharp, smart folks tackling the most important issues of the day – this should seriously do the trick.)
Finally, if you’re reading this in the U.S., three closing public service announcements:

Randa Stephan

As always, if you find this newsletter valuable we would be grateful if you encouraged others to sign up by directing them here.
What We're Reading
Modern Content Canvas
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Among Us Game Watched by 400,000

By BBC News
A live stream of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez playing the popular game Among Us reached 439,000 viewers at its peak, making it the third-highest viewed Twitch stream for an individual gamer. The reaction was largely positive, with viewers applauding the congresswoman's comfort in virtual spaces as an "organic" way to engage with younger Americans. Others see the mixing of politics and video games as inherently cringe-worthy. But with 5 billion hours watched on Twitch between April – June, there’s no doubt the platform will be increasingly important to marketers of all types going forward. 
Media Intelligence
Petition To Bring AOL Chatrooms Back
By Kaitlyn Wylde, Bustle
People are seeking social connections beyond their existing circles. Since the start of the pandemic, Facebook group Parenting Under Quarantine grew from 25 members to over 28,000 members, and Solo Female Vanlife, a once-small group for alternative travel now includes more than 26,000. Video chat apps like Omegle and Chatroulette, which had seemingly gone extinct before the pandemic, have maxed out with new traffic, too. For many, isolation has provided the confidence and curiosity to speak with strangers because it feels like a safe space to be unapologetically honest. 
Why is Uber Begging Me to Vote?
By Amanda Mull, The Atlantic

Nudges to get out and vote have been coming from every direction. Ride-sharing apps, food delivery services, professional sports leagues, restaurant chains, and fitness retailers are among the many brands reminding us to vote. Some worry if this overkill is really effective in increasing voter registration. Others applaud brands that practice what they preach by ensuring employees have paid time off to cast their ballots.

Modern Content Canvas
Uncle Sam Is Looking for Recruits — Over Twitch
By Matthew Gault, Wired

The U.S. military is having trouble finding highly-skilled and technically-savvy youth, but it’s hoping its streaming channels will help. From problem-solving, attention to detail, and working toward long-term goals, turns out gamers possess many of the skills required for nuclear engineering, aviation, special warfare, cryptology, and counter-intelligence. Gaming as a career skills builder, who knew? 

Modern Content Canvas
An 'Entirely Untapped' Generation of New Voters Are on TikTok, but Both Trump and Biden Have Ignored Them
By Connor Perrett, Business Insider

As a possible ban looms over TikTok’s growing user base, discussions about politics exist on nearly every corner of the video-based app. But often absent from these political discussions are the candidates themselves, like President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden, whose campaigns have avoided the controversial platform. But some experts believe the candidates will likely regret that decision.

Data Ethics
Taking Back Our Privacy
By Anna Wiener, The New Yorker
Since Signal was released, it has evolved from a niche tool touted by the privacy-minded and the paranoid, into a mainstream product. Activists use Signal to coordinate protests, lovers to conduct affairs, workers to unionize, finance professionals to exchange sensitive information, drug dealers to contact customers, journalists to communicate with sources. Since the pandemic began, many have begun to see this encrypted messaging tool and the privacy it provides as critical infrastructure for communication. 
Emerging Technology
The Weirdly Specific Filters Campaigns Are Using to Micro-Target You
By Tate Ryan-Mosley
, MIT Technology Review
The NYU Ad Observatory released new data about inputs the Trump and Biden campaigns are using to target audiences for ads on Facebook. The filters range from broad (“any users between the ages of 18-65”) to randomly specific (people with an “interest in Lin-Manuel Miranda”). The findings show that both campaigns are using complex personality profiles — similar to the tactics Cambridge Analytics claimed to employ in 2016 — to persuade, mobilize, and fundraise.
Deep Take
Protection From Deception
By First Draft
This two-week text message course from First Draft aims to give you the knowledge and understanding to protect yourself and your community from online misinformation. You’ll learn why people create and share false and misleading content, commonly-used tactics for spreading it, how to verify images and profiles, and how to talk about this topic with family and friends. Sign up for free and you’ll get a text message every day for two weeks full of lessons to help you prepare for the threat of misinformation. (And this short-form, easy-to-digest content makes it much easier to action than other industry resources.) 

Copyright © 2020 Weber Shandwick

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