Government-elected officials and policymakers thrive on public relations, whether it is announcing a new program or law, or in seeking feedback or assistance with crime, emergency services or trash removal. Politicians love to be associated with a winner or be the one who exposes fraud, waste or abuse.
Communications and marketing professionals who don’t understand this are leaving money and other meaningful benefits on the table when they fail to understand how to leverage government opportunities.
I am an advocate and a communicator who always looks at how government might enhance my client’s brand, product or issue. Already this year, I have had many opportunities to bring government validators and resources to my clients’ campaigns, and here are three prime examples:
Promoting Music Education in Public Schools
The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) conducts an annual Washington, D.C. Fly-In for its members to advocate on Capitol Hill for continued federal funding for music education in K-12 public schools.
NAMM works closely with the VH1 Save The Music Foundation and National Association for Music Education. This is backed up by grants made nationwide by the VH1 foundation for public schools to purchase musical instruments for needy students. This year, the trio chose to honor West Virginia, a state with numerous counties receiving grants, for its enthusiastic partnership in the program. Senators John D. Rockefeller IV and Joe Manchin III, and the state’s Commissioner of Culture and History were presented with NAMM’s SupportMusic Award, which recognized their past enthusiasm and ensured future support.
As part of the March 20 presentation, the VH1 Save The Music Foundation invited one of its grantees – the Shepherdstown (W.Va.) Middle School Jazz Ensemble – to perform on Capitol Hill. National celebrities Chad Smith (drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers), Bernie Williams (New York Yankees champion and Grammy-nominated jazz guitarist) and Vanessa Carlton (singer-songwriter) helped lobby Congress, conducted media interviews and performed with the young musicians. The best hometown story we secured was http://your4state.com/fulltext?nxd_id=300272
Highlighting STEM Education and an Outstanding Student Inventor
West Virginia University senior Katherine Bomkamp represents the success WVU has gained with its concentration in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields. The daughter of a U.S. Air Force veteran, Bomkamp first developed the “Pain-Free Socket” prosthetic as a 10th-grade science project after visiting Walter Reed Army Medical Center with her father and talking with amputees. The device, which she has patented, incorporates thermal-bio feedback into prosthetics to eliminate “phantom pain” in amputees.
Katherine was named one of Glamour magazine’s Top 10 College Women in April 2013, and was chosen to receive the L’Oreal Paris Beauty of Giving Award. She was also one of the youngest individuals ever to present to the Royal Society of Medicine’s Medical Innovations Summit in London. Her innovation has received global media coverage that includes CNN, The New York Times, Popular Mechanics and the BBC, among others. Her entrance into the public affairs arena was solidified when Sen. Manchin heard of her most recent award and invited her to Capitol Hill to be recognized and to be honored with a Congressional Record statement. This led to new public policy media opportunities and social media buzz via the Senator’s website and e-newsletter. A link to Sen. Manchin’s statement is on Page 3983.
Enlightening Community College Leaders on Federal and Foundation Funding
When earmarks in Congressional appropriations bills were discontinued, it became more challenging for higher education institutions to identify funding. In response to this, The Arnold Agency developed a one-stop orientation program for our clients. We were retained by the West Virginia Community and Technical College System to develop a Federal Opportunities Seminar customized to their needs, using an innovative approach to “bring the federal government together in one room.”
This seminar was hugely beneficial to our client when Chairman Rockefeller allowed us to use his Commerce Committee hearing room and all five West Virginia Congressional offices became actively engaged in all aspects of the program.
Representatives from all 10 schools participated, meeting program officers from 11 federal agencies and The Foundation Center. Grant applications took an upward turn and projects discussed there have since been funded. The state’s weekly business journal also did a story on the event.
In these case studies, the involvement of newsworthy elected officials added a dimension to each organization’s key outcomes.
Government touches every aspect of our lives, and it is critical to understand how the government utilizes public relations principles in communicating with its citizenry through all forms of media, particularly social media.
As integrated marketing communicators, we should seek to better understand how we can appropriately leverage our government to enhance our respective organizations’ campaigns. Successfully doing so can yield great benefits and increase media and consumer attention.
Just think how many different people and media outlets every member of Congress, Cabinet secretary or Governor comes into contact with every week. What if they had met with your organization and liked what you are doing? These government officials -- or “key influencers” -- can really enhance your communications campaigns. They do it every day!
Mike Fulton is president of the Washington, D.C. office of the Arnold Agency (www.arnoldagency.com) and teaches Public Affairs IMC 693S at the master’s level for West Virginia University’s Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) program. More results from the case studies are able to be shared.
Connect with Mike at Mfulton@arnoldagency.com; @hillrat1156 or on LinkedIn.