The dome of the US Capitol obscured by the trees of Washington, DC.

Election Outcome Scenarios: Webinar Recap


By Jesse Spector – Recording available for SIIA members here.

We’re less than a month away from one of the most hotly anticipated and consequential elections in our nation’s history. And despite recent polling, the outcome and reverberations are still anyone’s guess. To help us ‘game-out’ possible election outcome scenarios and examine what they would mean for the overall policy agenda, SIIA hosted a virtual discussion on October 6th with Steve Haro and Dean Hingson, two Capitol Hill veterans and Principals at one of DC’s top government relations and strategic consulting firms, Mehlman, Castagnetti, Rosen & Thomas.  Although politically Haro and Hingson sit on opposite sides of the aisle, they were able to find some points of agreement, and both had plenty of thoughts on potential outcomes for the months ahead.

Haro forecast a 291 electoral vote win for Joe Biden and a 50-50 split Senate result.  Hingson emphasized that President Trump was very much still in the running and agreed on the probability of a 50-50 Senate.  In Hingson’s view, the biggest risk in this election is the validity of the vote (i.e. whether Americans will see the result as valid). He pointed to two cases out of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as examples – one that set a high standard of technical compliance for mail-in ballots, and another that allows ballots received up to three days post-election to be counted. With these rulings, one could envision a high level of rejected ballots and extended counting delays which could call the validity of results into question.  Both did however, agree that voter turnout will likely be historically high – up to 150 million ballots cast, compared to 128 million in 2016. 

One point of agreement was regarding the stimulus, with both agreeing the prospect of a fourth relief package before the election was low, despite reportedly promising talks between Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Speaker Pelosi.  In fact, shortly after the event President Trump instructed Secretary Mnuchin to discontinue discussions with the Speaker. 

With respect to tech policy, both Haro and Hingson predicted more similarities than differences between Biden and Trump.  Either administration would be likely to increase antitrust enforcement in the sector.  With regards to the liability shield under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), in their view it not a question of whether this will be amended but rather how and when. 

Hingson anticipated that should Trump win, policy on the pandemic and the economy would likely not change much.  While Haro expects that a Biden victory would lead to a greater emphasis on solving the pandemic including a heightened interest in addressing social issues.  

The conversation between Haro and Hingson was lively and cordial (if daunting at times) and members are encouraged to watch the video recording linked below.  The bottom line is that many outcomes are possible, including several that would lead to a 269 to 269 electoral college split and/or a 50-50 Senate.  The only thing that anyone can say with any certainty is that the next several months will be interesting.

Back view of male employee speaking on video call with diverse colleagues on online briefing with laptop at home.

Hybrid Model of Remote and Flexible Working Might Be Plan C

By Ronn Levine, originally published on the SIPA blog. 


“It is time to re-imagine what the workplace is for,” writes Sue Unerman, chief transformation officer at MediaCom, on Haymarket Media’s Campaign site. “If you took someone who might have known Charles Dickens and, through the power of time-travel, transported them to an office in 2019, undoubtedly they would be shocked and surprised by mobile phones, computers and the number of women around. They would be less shocked by the overall look of the place: lots of people with their heads down at desks working away, with some managers walking around occasionally to see what they were up to.”

Up until now, most of what we have read takes the form of, “when offices reopen…,” “people going back to normal…,” etc. But as spring turns to summer turns to fall, new conversations are taking place, more focused on the realities of the new normal—where people are not returning to offices until at least next summer and as some do, many others will continue to work from home.

I spoke to Erin Hallstrom last week, an incredible, do-everything person for Putman Media—SEO, podcasts, she created their groundbreaking Influential Women in Manufacturing program—and she told me that half of their staff had been working remotely before this, including her. And she’s always felt more productive.

“For 12 years, I’ve always had a digital job; at 10 o’clock at night I might have an idea [to write down]. If there’s a huge fire at a factory [at any time], someone needs to write about it. Why do I have to go into the office?”

Hallstrom believes, however, that there will still be a need for in-person collaboration. “I used to go in two days a week, with digital folks similar to me. On one of those days, three or four of us would sit down and put our heads together. The people I’ve been closest to, we haven’t seen each other, but, of course, we still have conversations. I miss you guys.”

I remember a couple years ago interviewing Cassandra Farrington, CEO of Marijuana Business Daily. They figured out quickly that some face-to-face communication was needed from their remote team and decided to require people coming in for about 20-25 hours a week. “The rest of the time, as I tell my team, I couldn’t care if you are working from the surface of the moon, so long as the work is getting done to high effectiveness.”

>I think you’ll see some of that in the new normal, with even less hours required in the office, but still some hopes to get people in for a day or two a week—while also finding better, more participatory technology for those working remotely. Back in October, Dan Fink, managing director of Money-Media, who was already embracing working from home, said that they had “installed some large screens in conference rooms [to accommodate remote staff]. There’s a marked difference in how that person participates. And how the people feel; it feels like that person was in the meeting room. It really does make a significant difference.”

But as Unerman relates, having people come in to just put their head down and work won’t make sense anymore. 

“A hybrid model of remote and flexible working, with offices re-imagined for the better is likely,” she writes. “These experiments are under way, and they do raise another question—what is office culture without everyone in the office?”

Here’s how she finishes. “In a great culture each person enhances each other’s performance. Helping the collective is rewarded. Without everyone in the office most of the time, leadership of a good culture is even more crucial. And in a good culture there are cultural leaders and advocates in every single seat, wherever that seat is located.”

In April, Steve Cody, founder and CEO of PR and marketing firm Peppercomm, spoke with Ragan’s Diane Schwartz, who credited him with building a team culture, steeped in tactical communications that especially helps in these precarious times.

“It will be a foreign experience; how do we ease that transition [back to the office]?” he asked then. “This idea of re-boarding—not onboarding, but bringing them back—we’re working on that now.”

Odds are he’s now working on Plan C.


Use Virtual’s Strengths, Integrate Sponsors and Offer a Mix of Content Types for Successful Event Pivots

By Ronn Levine, originally published on AM&P blog. 

Thursday morning, Eric Shanfelt, founding partner of Nearview Media, led a Connectiv Digital Media Council on virtual events, and perhaps the first thing he advised was not to simply move your in-person event to online, but reconfigure it. “I think we know this intrinsically. But I see the biggest problems are when we’re trying to emulate an in-person event. Take advantage of the unique strengths of the virtual.”

This reminded me of an article I just read on the ASAE site by Angela Hickman, director of research and marketing at the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) in Alexandria, Va. “As we began planning for a virtual event, we knew we didn’t want to simply move our event online,” she wrote. “School counselors were frustrated, exhausted and concerned about what virtual education was going to look like. We wanted to inspire, energize and inform these critical educators on the front lines.”

ASCA’s members now depend on the strengths of virtual communication. Knowing this, ASCA did the following: 

  • found a high-quality platform that met their needs—HUBB; 
  • sent every registrant a pre-event gift package; 
  • provided multiple learning formats for the event; 
  • made it fun with happy hours, live trivia, a movie night, a live awards presentation and cocktail demonstrations—which coincidentally, Shanfelt mentioned was the most popular session at a virtual show he recently helped to put on; they called it “a master course on mixology.”

Here are more tips from Shanfelt, who said that a survey he saw this week rated the likelihood that marketers would attend an in-person event through mid-2021 at just 3 out of 10:

  • Focus on the profitability, not the revenue. Your dollar numbers will, most likely, be lower, so better to look at your profitability. “It’s really about cash flow,” Shanfelt said.
  • Mix the content. Use keynotes, Q&A, video, panels, how-to information, market intelligence, data findings—short and long, but nothing too long. For a paid event, the bar for good content is so much higher. “While most ASCA@Home [the name of the rebranded event] sessions were 30-minute breakouts followed by live Q&A, we also offered keynote speakers, brainstorming sessions and special events,” Hickman wrote.
  • Consider a series. Shanfelt said that rather than burn people out with a long, multi-day event, one publisher pivoted to a successful series. “We’ll just do a live webcast every Friday at 1 pm Eastern. We’ll record it and put it in the members only section, and then in a podcast. Sponsors will like it because they get multiple mentions in email, the webcast, on-demand and the podcast. People can then come in when they want and view what they want.”
  • Integrate sponsors into sessions. Don’t put them off in separate areas. Even if it’s short, give them a role in your sessions.
  • Facilitate chat with specific questions. Even if you record your sessions, you should try to do live Q&A’s. 
  • Video/audio quality is critical. Require that any presenters use webcams. Test on the days before.
  • Give people post-event access. This is crucial, as not everyone registered will be able to attend your event. Make it as simple as possible for them.
  • Choose your platform carefully. Conferences are having a more successful time transferring to virtual than trade shows. One of the biggest problems is when trade shows use virtual event platforms built more for conferences.
  • Use a moderator for the entire event. Can add cohesion to your event. Do you have a podcast host who is comfortable in that role?

You must work hard at getting people not just registered but to attend. This is not a problem for in-person events. Who isn’t going to Florida or California after signing up and booking flights? But it is an issue for virtual events. “Keep focusing on the what’s in it for me [angle],” said Matthew Cibellis, formerly of Education Week. “ Remind them on what they signed up for in the first place. It’s a lot of retargeting. You want them there live. You’ve promised sponsors certain types of personas. Email and text reminders.” Make it easy for them to sign on and use testimonials: “Here’s why I’m going to the show.”

Consider having a Preview Week. Make it a week earlier than the event, and attendees can make their plans about what to see. Could be a big push.

Provide opportunities for people to meet one-on-one. Shanfelt warned not to make these too short. One “speed dating” type session he attended gave just two minutes and that was barely enough time for introductions.

Try (intentionally is okay) to put more content in your event than people can watch—and then strongly promote the on-demand. “Watch the sessions that you missed!”

This ongoing situation “will force us to keep thinking and reinventing,” Shanfelt concluded.

Business network concept. Group of businessperson. AI (Artificial Intelligence).

Hybrid Events, Remote Work and Virtual Demos Are Here to Stay

By Ronn Levine, originally published on SIPA blog. 


When you go on the Pro Farmer site, you see a cool ticker-tape message: “Register for free to attend this year’s nightly Crop Tour virtual meetings & watch from your own home.” Crop Tour is perhaps their biggest annual event; I’ve had great conversations with marketing director Joe May about it in the past, and I’ve promised to catch up with him after this year’s event—going on now—ends. 

One thing that I will definitely ask him is, when in-person events return to our world, will virtual participation be a part of that? In other words, will hybrid events be the new normal?

“There are people in your community who will never come to an event but would benefit greatly from it,” Brian Cuthbert, group vice president, Diversified Communications U.S., told me a couple months ago, speaking about the potential of virtual participation in the future. “Are you leaving money on the table by not giving that segment of audience an opportunity to become a customer and spend some money with you?”

We’ve all been disrupted to different degrees during COVID-19. But when we do return to some sort of normalcy—hopefully soon—hybrid events will be a new staple. Here are other elements that might remain prevalent post-pandemic:

News hubs. Many organizations, SIPA members among them, were quick to create a coronavirus news hub with free resources and articles. Almost every publisher I’ve interviewed has said their hub has brought excellent engagement—and goodwill because most are paywall-free. Of course, we all hope that nothing takes over our lives like COVID-19 has. But the success of these news hubs could provide a blueprint for future hubs around big-ticket or charitable topics.

Virtual demos. According to a Brand United report, B2B publisher HousingWire has been hosting virtual software demo days to educate its audience of mortgage lenders and real estate professionals about technology solutions that enable business continuity during the pandemic. “We looked at the environment, we looked at what our clients were looking for, we looked at the needs of our audience, and were able to bring together a product that we’re going to repeat again and again and again that solves a lot for those needs on both sides of the equation,” says HousingWire CEO Clayton Collins.

More collaborative meetings. People are getting more comfortable with their cameras being on for meetings and making comments. In a webinar last October on managing remote employees, Dan Fink, managing director of Money-Media, said that “frequency of cameras being disabled has become an issue that we’ve tried to address. We are encouraging people to use the video component.” Added Prashara: “It’s very difficult for people to talk on top of each other because the system can’t handle it. People will give people the opportunity to finish a sentence before they talk and etiquette starts to get creative. You don’t even have to define it—it starts to happen.”

Remote working. In comments from a video call published by Associations Now, Sunil Prashara, president and CEO of the Project Management Institute, said that workers’ increasing comfort with remote work and videoconferencing will outlast COVID-19. He also believes it can increase productivity. In a survey of some members we did here last week, 38% of respondents checked, “I actually like remote working and will do it more when offices reopen.” Added Fink: “There are people here that we would’ve hated to lose if we didn’t allow them to work remotely.”

Better listening. With more people working remotely, the sense of being “left out” of meetings may dissipate. Said Prashara: “There could be 30 people watching, but I’m just seeing your face and you’re just seeing my face—therefore, it’s a bit more intense. There’s more of a likelihood that you’re going to be listening a little bit more attentively.”

Better platforms and tools. Zoom, of course, has become hugely popular, and other similar platforms will follow., was having great success with their Zoom On Ins prior to the pandemic. Making these platforms part of our everyday—even in the best of times—will only improve what we offer. Money-Media was quick to order “kits for a number of staff who were having difficulty being efficient in their home work space; things like a mouse, keyboard, monitor, office chair, etc.,” Fink said. “Most of these items are pretty inexpensive on but go a long way to helping staff be productive and letting people know how much we appreciate their hard work during this crisis.”

Little boy going to school with protective mask

Status Update on Federal Funding for Schools – stimulus and FY21 fund

On Friday August 7th, Congressional negotiators failed to reach an agreement on the next stimulus package. Discussions continue between House and Senate leadership as well as the White House. Unfortunately, no deal has been made.  

It is critical to get something passed in the short amount of time Congress will be in session in September. And nowhere is this funding more critical than in the education space.  As SIIA staff continue to push for a new stimulus bill in September, here’s a look at where funding currently stands:

Status: Signed into law this spring
SIIA summary on GEER funds (members only).

Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act)
Status: Passed House
Official Text
Appropriations Committee Release and Summaries

Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools Act (HEALS Act)
Status: Referred to Committees
Summary from Senate Republican Policy Committee

Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act
Status: Referred to committee
Official Text
Press Release

Executive Orders
The President announced a number of executive orders over in early August, including one concerning student loans.

FY21 Funding
The government is funded through the end of October and Congress has not yet passed appropriations for the upcoming year. The House passed a number of bills in July (summary) but the Senate has not yet passed anything.

For information on how to get more detailed analysis and stay up-to-date on the status of education funding bills, please contact SIIA’s Senior Director of Education Policy, Sara Kloek.