The summer of special sessions

By Elizabeth Emerson

The Minnesota Legislature’s first special session ended last weekend with major issues left unresolved, setting the stage for continued negotiations and additional special sessions throughout the summer. Assuming lawmakers will not return to work before the Fourth of July holiday, we can anticipate another special session in mid-July that coincides with the expiration of Minnesota’s current peacetime emergency. But what might get done and what will make the next one a “special” session?

The short answer is that we don’t know. At the beginning of the regular legislative session last February, there was no significant pressure on the Legislature to do anything. Sure, a bonding bill and some supplemental spending in new programs or tax cuts make for great campaign fodder and can result in some job creation. But with the task of assembling the state’s biennial budget done last year and Minnesota beginning this year in a strong economic position, there really was nothing essential for the Legislature to do.

Then enter the COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting economic downturn, and social unrest. Suddenly the Legislature found a necessity to wield its power. But with divided partisan control of the Legislature, it seems unlikely that legislative power can coalesce into a unified force strong enough to negotiate with Governor Tim Walz. So, without urgency and without the ability to strike a deal between the legislative bodies, the dynamics in future special sessions will not fundamentally differ from what we saw during the regular session and the most recent special session.

Here’s what we will be watching to see if the stalemate can be broken:

1. What, if any, compromise can be had on police reforms? Police and criminal justice reforms are “must have” items for Governor Walz and legislative Democrats; without some agreement on them, no other issues can be resolved. Senate Republicans have proposed a more limited scope of bills. These policy issues are more complicated than most and will require involvement not only from legislative leaders but also key legislators and stakeholders with subject matter expertise. To break the impasse on any of these issues, it will require a leader to bring interested parties together to thoroughly vet these proposals to find common ground. This exercise is not something the Legislature is known to facilitate well.

2. What happens at the federal level? The federal peacetime emergency is currently set to expire at the end of July. President Trump could extend it. But if the federal emergency ends, it would have serious consequences for many state programs that could lose reimbursements unless the state also reverts to pre-peacetime emergency practices. The end of a federal peacetime emergency would increase the urgency for state legislators to address the expenditure of federal funds and consider how the state transitions back to pre-COVID-19 operations.

3. How will the public respond? Incumbent legislators, congressional candidates and presidential hopefuls have already started flooding email boxes, phones and televisions and digital ad space in advance of November’s election. While Governor Walz has enjoyed favorable statewide polling numbers through the pandemic, his most recent handling of its economic consequences and civil unrest may change his standing. How the public reacts to the lack of legislative progress over the past few months will frame campaign rhetoric, and may turn up the heat on incumbents, particularly those with difficult re-elections, to push toward compromise on key issues.

A message from our management team

At Goff Public, the heart of our work is community – and our local community has been hurting, grieving and reflecting in recent weeks. Racial disparities and tensions have been a long-time reality in Minnesota, as they are in the rest of America. Over many years, our company has been honored to help address these problems through a variety of client and pro bono work and our own involvement in civic life. But we know that much more must be done to achieve a just and equal society.

Within our own and related industries, the workforce is not racially representative of society as a whole. As a result, the fields of public relations, public affairs, lobbying, journalism, advertising, marketing, and government are inhibited from reflecting and engaging the entire population as well as they should. We are committed to improving this situation in our profession and in our own company.

We’re also redoubling our own contributions to our community. Whether it is advocating for legislation at the state Capitol, developing communications strategies or pitching stories to news outlets – we want to support organizations that are striving for constructive change, building relationships, and sharing resources and perspectives to help educate the community. We are offering some of our communications and government relations services to local nonprofits and advocacy organizations that are working to achieve racial equity within our community at no cost. If you or someone you know might be in need of our services, please have them reach out to our COO Jen Hellman at jennifer@goffpublic.com or 612-202-3468.

There is a long road ahead, but we are ready to dedicate our experience, talent and hard work where it can count. We are grateful for our partners, clients, and friends who are taking this journey as well, and we look forward to working together.

The Goff Public Management Team

Chris Georgacas, Jennifer Hellman and Heidi Larson

How to amplify your Facebook reach in 2020

By Grace Rose

Getting to know Facebook’s algorithm can help you boost engagement.

With more people turning to their phones than ever before, Facebook has been smashing records this year. In the first quarter of 2020 alone, the platform added 105 million new users. This brings its monthly active users to 2.6 billion – a third of the world’s population.

Facebook may be a good way to reach your audiences, but competition is still steep. More than 90 million businesses use Facebook, sharing millions of posts every day. To make matters worse, a typical post from an organization only reaches a very small percentage of the page’s followers.

So, what can you do to help your messages reach more of your followers? A key is understanding Facebook’s algorithm.

The algorithm

When you log onto Facebook, the content in your newsfeed isn’t just what was posted most recently. It is carefully curated by Facebook’s algorithm, a set of rules that decides what content is served to each user.

The algorithm has changed a lot over the years. For a while, Facebook prioritized posts that sparked conversations and engagement. But it came under fire as studies showed that while it created engagement on the platform, it also sowed divisiveness and outrage. That’s because posts that spark anger and debate tend to have the most comments.

This year, Facebook has shifted its algorithm to be more holistic and encourage more positive interactions for users. Facebook now prioritizes these three major things:

1. Who the user usually interacts with

2. The type of media (videos and photos often perform better than plain text)

3. The popularity of the post (number of likes and comments; how many people are clicking the link; how long people are viewing the post)

Best practices for your content

In light of this shift, here are some best practices for increasing a Facebook post’s reach:

Post when your audience is online. Facebook views newer posts as better posts. Take a look at your Facebook page’s Insights tab to understand when your followers are online and schedule your content accordingly.

Be visual. Your followers are more likely to engage with posts that include images and videos.

Post often and consistently. Facebook’s data finds that pages that post consistently are more meaningful to their audience and drive more engagement overall.

Consider “boosting” successful posts. With organic reach decreasing on Facebook, boosting (or putting money behind) a post is a surefire way to ensure more of your audiences see your content. If a recent post is garnering a higher than average level of likes and comments, consider boosting it to capitalize on the great content and expand awareness.

As always, stick with quality content. Sharing content that your audiences find valuable and interesting will always be a winning strategy. Take a look at past posts – what has been successful? Were they infographics, videos, candid photos? What topics seem to draw the most likes or comments? Performing a regular review of your page can help you optimize your Facebook strategy and better engage your followers.