Whether you’re watching MSNBC or Fox News, or reading the Huffington Post or the Washington Examiner, there are cries across the political spectrum that America is becoming more and more polarized. Part of that polarization, whether fully real or sensationalized for ratings and to drive engagement, is fostered by people preferring more and more to consume media that reflects their personal political viewpoint. Politics has become more than just the news of the day – it’s entertainment, it’s enraging, and it drives clicks, likes and comments. In short, our own internal biases often impact how we engage with media and the news around us.

I am not here to argue about whether there is a growing bias in media or that one side is better than the other. Instead, I want to explain how the growing politicization of media outlets can help strengthen public affairs campaigns and ensure that grassroot and grasstop voices are more effectively deployed to influence policymakers.

To start, we all have political opinions – each and every one of us. And while it can be gratifying to read and consume news that reflects our bias and beliefs, it can significantly limit our understanding of opposing viewpoints. What motivates a person? What tugs on their heartstrings? What enrages them? Why is their position on an issue or worldview the way that it is?

An effective public affairs campaign understands those things and what drives a policymaker to act (or not act). When I begin a public affairs campaign, whether at city hall, at the state capitol or in the halls of Congress, I need to understand those motivators and how deploying certain voices, talking points and media messaging can be most impactful.

There have been campaigns where I am trying to influence progressive and conservative candidates on the same issue – but not in the same way. Catering messages, messengers and how that message is delivered to those respective audiences can be the difference between getting your message heard, and having it fall on deaf ears.

Moreover, when you’re consuming news from diverse media outlets, it also helps you better understand where policymakers are consuming their own news, and what types of voices, organizations and opinions will have the greatest sway. Similarly, it’s not only the lawmaker themselves, but it’s where their constituency consumes news as well. Hearing from voters and their communities – whether a cacophony of voices concerned on an issue or just a handful of key influential voices – can have a huge impact on the outcome of a public affairs campaign.

A smart public affairs strategist may work for one side of an issue but has a deep understanding of numerous viewpoints and motivators for policymakers and coalition partners. That understanding is better informed and more effective when you regularly consume diverse media viewpoints and dive into what is driving political action and the news of the day.

And while once again I won’t get into if there is in fact a growing bias in media, I will leave you with one opinion. Read and consume a wide variety of opinions and news sources every day. You won’t only be better informed, but every once and a while, your own worldview may shift a little too.

-Chelsea Thompson, Senior Account Director