Media Production Coordinator Thaleigha Rampersad, yet another intern success story.
Heritage was an early adopter of social media. Like President Trump, we saw it as a way to bypass the traditional media and take our conservative messages directly to the American people.
By 2016, Heritage videos posted on Facebook attracted nearly 54 million views—more than any other think tank. But 2018, we blew way past that number… with just one video.
It showed a pediatrician, talking direct to camera, about the dangers of giving puberty blockers to children in “gender transition.” The video, edited by Thaleigha Rampersad, spoke straight to the heart. And when we posted it on Facebook, it went viral immediately.
Shared widely by activists on both the Right and the Left, Facebook became so alarmed at the amount of traffic the video was getting that they actually blocked it for two weeks. They just assumed that something so popular must be beyond the pale.
It wasn’t. It was simply speaking truth about a controversial and emotional issue. Before the year was over, the video had received 73 million views across all Heritage social media platforms and even generated news stories among the traditional media.
Rampersad has been a member of Heritage’s digital team for less than two years, but she’s been a key contributor to the organization’s success. In 2018, our videos logged 456 million views—more than double the previous year’s total.
The prime driver of that growth was a big jump in the production of compelling, shareable video. And Video Production Manager Michael Goodin gives Rampersad much of the credit for that.
“She’s everything you hope for in a producer,” Goodin said. “She’s creative, with an unsurpassed visual eye, who also happens to be a gifted storyteller and skilled editor.”
This isn’t Rampersad’s first stint at Heritage. In the spring of 2015, she interned at The Daily Signal, Heritage’s multimedia news outlet. She then returned to college, earning a master’s degree in strategic communications while honing her skills as a freelance videographer.
Happily, Rampersad has returned to Heritage, as do so many graduates of our Young Leaders Program. And once again she is using her talents daily to advance the conservative movement.
Kay Coles James
Kelsey Harkness interviews Ben Shapiro
Kay Coles James, NABJ Executive Director Drew Berry (left), NABJ President Sarah Glover (right)
Facebook isn’t the only social media platform where Heritage has established a powerful presence. In 2018, we again topped Forbes magazine’s annual rankings of free-market think tanks in web traffic and Twitter followers, as well as Facebook followers.
Our Twitter account is remarkably influential. A recent study of every congressional Twitter account confirmed Heritage’s standing. “We’ve compiled an enormous data set that shows who people in both chambers of Congress are following on Twitter,” writes the left-leaning Huffington Post. “Fox News is ranked pretty high, as are insider news outlets Politico and The Hill. Perhaps most revealing here is the appearance of The Heritage Foundation, an all-powerful right-wing think tank.” In fact, Heritage places just below President Donald Trump’s Twitter following among members of Congress.
But our Twitter feed is not just for Capitol Hill. Heritage boasts 636,000 Twitter followers across the United States, making it a wonderful tool for getting our information into the hands of influencers everywhere.
While leading the Forbes 2017 rankings for Facebook and Twitter, we lagged in one medium: Instagram. We set out to change that, and we did.
In 2018 Forbes ranked us No. 1 in Instagram. And that’s a very good thing.
A photo-sharing network, Instagram is particularly popular with young people. To teach the nation’s young people about First Principles and traditional values, Heritage is committed to mastering the media that they use to get information. Clearly, with Instagram, we’re on our way.
We’re also on our way on Snapchat—a video platform that reaches an incredible 41percent of all 18-34 year-olds in the U.S. every day! (The average TV network reaches only 6 percent of the same demographic.)
Millennials use Snapchat for more than watching music videos and animal antics. Nearly two-thirds of them used “Snap” to closely follow the 2016 presidential election.
This is an audience and a platform too big to ignore. That’s why Heritage worked with a group of high school students to tape a pilot show for Snapchat—one that discussed policy issues from a young person’s perspective.
The pilot so impressed Snapchat’s staff in New York that they are working with us to develop Heritage’s presence on the platform. In 2019, we hope to make some of our interns Snapchat stars, producing compelling content that appeals to their peers.
Unheard of 15 years ago, podcasting may well be the future of policy communications. The medium clearly came into its own, during the 2016 election season, when network public affairs shows started featuring podcast hosts as political commentators.
Today, nearly a quarter of all Americans tune into podcasts. The most frequent users are Millennials or younger, with about one in seven listening to podcasts daily.
Heritage jumped on the podcasting bandwagon early. Today, we produce six. Here’s what’s on tap:
Subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, or other podcast subscription services.
The future of media is no doubt digital, but Heritage is not about to ignore traditional media, which remain the primary source of news for most Americans.
With new President Kay Coles James at the helm, Heritage was frequently in the news. Even The New York Times Magazine did a cover on our influence on the Trump administration.
James herself was the subject of several articles, including profile piece in The Atlantic and a cover story from Citizen magazine. She also made Politico’s Power List and was featured on Politico’s “Women Rule” podcast, CQ’s “18 for 18,” NPR’s “1A,” and To the Contrary’s “Women Thought Leaders.”
The kudos didn’t stop there. On April 29, Fox News Sunday named her its “Power Player of the Week.” And the Dec. 15 issue of The Atlantic presented its readers with an engaging profile of Heritage’s new leader.
Of course, James wasn’t the only Heritage luminary in the news. In 2018, our team booked over 4,700 broadcast television and radio interviews for Heritage policy analysts and experts—a 10 percent increase over the previous year.
They also placed more than 1,500 commentaries in the nation’s leading print and online news outlets—a 32 percent increase. Placements ranged from national newspapers such as USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, to leading statewide papers, to Washington-centric publications like The Washington Post, Politico and The Hill.
Much of Heritage’s success with traditional media stems from conscientious relationship building by our staff. Media Director Gregg Scott and his team are in daily contact with reporters and bookers across the country.
In addition to arranging dozens of reporter briefings at Heritage headquarters, they wear out a lot of shoe-leather in D.C. and New York, meeting with beat reporters, assignment editors, and producers to keep them informed of Heritage’s latest findings and recommendations and connect them with the experts who can give their stories balance and perspective.
The Daily Signal, Heritage’s own multimedia news outlet, continued to grow in reach and Influence. It logged more than 13 million unique pageviews in 2018.
After the Parkland tragedy, Daily Signal Managing Editor Katrina Trinko devoted extensive coverage to school safety issues, dialing up a mixture of news stories, personal stories, and hard-hitting commentaries to explore multiple aspects of the problem and offer possible solutions.
Among the pieces helping inform the national debate were: a video interview with two Columbine survivors—a student and a first responder who now trains educators on how to be safely armed at school—produced by Kelsey Harkness; an article by Jarrett Stepman exploding common myths about gun control perpetuated by the media; and a first-person account of what it’s like to have your school targeted for a massacre, by student Nicole Martin.
The Daily Signal made a special effort to give high school and college students a chance to air their perspectives, featuring them in both an article and a Facebook video stressing that restricting gun rights does nothing to improve school safety.
Later in the year, The Daily Signal waded straight into the debate over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. While other media outlets ignored the voices of women who knew him well, The Daily Signal sought those who did.
Harkness secured exclusive interviews with women who had known Kavanaugh in high school and others who had worked with him as law clerks. The interviews gave rise to several articles and videos, one of them earning more than 2 million video views.
The common thread among these pieces: every woman gave Kavanaugh a sterling character reference. It was significant. It was news. And it was something the mainstream media neglected to explore.
Another impactful story, found only on The Daily Signal, was that of Kelly Clemente, an unwed mother who at age 18 chose to place her child for adoption through a faith-based agency. The 20-minute documentary explores why Clemente made that choice, and why it was important to her that her son be placed with a married mom and dad.
The Daily Signal published “Birth Mommy” amid a push by liberal activists to bar faith-based agencies from providing adoption and foster care placement services unless they agree to violate their religious beliefs about sexuality and marriage.
Clemente’s story ran counter to their narrative. I’m not saying that homosexual couples shouldn’t be able to adopt, she noted. “What I’m saying is that birth mothers have the right to choose.”
That honest message led to an appearance on a panel at a Justice Department event and Heritage’s President’s Club Meeting.