February 27, 2014
Public affairs is one of the most beneficial, yet overlooked, tactics in the PR world today.
Public affairs work combines government relations, media communications, issues management, corporate and social responsibility, digital and website development, and strategic communications counsel.
Practitioners aim to influence public policy, build and maintain a strong reputation and brand, and find common ground with stakeholders and customers.
In my 20-plus years of working with clients and pitching new business, there hasn’t been a communications challenge that could not have benefited significantly from including government relations and public affairs tactics to enhance the client’s outcomes and to build wider support for our proposed campaign.
Time and time again, I have seen key audiences respond well to government leaders offering validation, new public funding sources, a successful public-private partnership, increased media interest or substantive events that build momentum and move issues.
However, many talented communicators and consultants overlook short- and long-term public affairs tactics that would enhance their upcoming campaigns, or even rejuvenate established campaigns by adding new energy and supporters.
Public affairs strategies can be the major differentiator between your firm and others competing for your valued clients and competitive new business opportunities.
Every PR practitioner — whether you work in the nation’s capital, a state capitol, a county seat or in between — should consider the following 10 questions before finalizing a plan for an existing client or new business prospect:
1. Would a popular mayor, governor, senator or other public figure enhance your message platform by mentioning your client and its interests or product/service in a favorable way?
2. Would tax incentives, training dollars or other government inducements benefit your client?
3. Would making your client’s product or service the gold standard through legislation or rulemaking boost sales?
4. Is there a regulation, rulemaking process or bill that you would like to stop in its tracks?
5. Would a government contract or sub-contract opportunity please your client?
6. Would oversight of a competing product, process or service shine the light on irregularities that would be helpful to your client?
7. Would a coalition of like-minded companies, trade associations or non-profit organizations help carry your campaign messages?
8. Would the appointment of your clients’ leaders to government advisory committees and positioning them as experts in their field be beneficial?
9. Could a government award or proclamation help further the reputation of your client and draw favorable attention?
10. Would additional funding through a grant, loan or other financing mechanism jump-start a project, program or add to the outreach efforts for your client?
For most every profession, product or service, issue or individual seeking to be positioned as a trusted leader, one or more of these public affairs tactics can greatly enhance the overall success of your goals.
Government should be viewed as an asset and not as a liability in the integrated marketing communications community. I encourage you to take this 10-question quiz and see which public affairs tactics best suit your next campaign.
C. Michael Fulton is director of public affairs and advocacy for the Asher Agency in Washington, D.C. He teaches public affairs in the WVU Reed College of Media’s Integrated Marketing Communications program. He is active in both PRSA and the Association of Government Relations Professionals. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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