The beginning of a new term in any government marks a moment of immense change as elected officials are appointed new mandates, staff rosters and challenges. As such, organizations face increased competition as they aim to break through the collective noise and be heard by the new government. Amidst the flurry of congratulatory letters, new stakeholder maps and refreshed engagement strategies, it can be a challenge to be heard.
As experts in the field of public affairs + advocacy, we know that the government relations campaigns of tomorrow will win by being a truly integrated initiative. When developed effectively, these campaigns create an ecosystem around an issue, forming a “surround sound” effect that creates a sense of urgency for the government to act by using multiple channels. They are grounded in a strong sense of purpose, creativity, and courage to break through the noise and effect real change.
There are many best practices that make up a great, integrated public affairs campaign. Here are five to keep in mind:
1. Know your why
There needs to be a clear reason why one’s organization is reaching out to the government. There are so many voices clamouring to be heard, the organizations that are clear about their mission can stand out among the rest. Think about what separates your organization from competitors, and strategically plan out how to break through the noise. Take time to think about this, as purpose drives performance overall.
2. Make it hit close to home
Engaging the right people plays a large role in success. Be intentional about who your organization is engaging with and why. Identify key staff members, find champions in the bureaucracy and think about activating industry experts to support your case. Next, think about how your organization can reach politicians and people where it matters: their communities. Think about ways to engage local issues through tapping into specific publications, organizations, businesses, and people. Lastly, it is important to connect your purpose to your audience’s needs to help mobilize the message.
3. Mobilizing the message on social media
Change is championed by real people with strong convictions. Identify and mobilize the people who will amplify your message. Social media has made the world more connected than ever. As my colleagues Shanice Scott and Kiki Cekota discussed in Want youth to vote? Talk about what matters to them, organizations need to strategically tailor their content depending on the audience they want to reach. Organizations that engage the right people on social media can build communities, educate people, and ultimately enact widespread change. For example, as my colleagues discuss in TikTok in Canada: Effective political strategy or long-term play?, public affairs campaigns can leverage social media platforms to change the conversation and raise issues that matter to people.
4. Empowering people to join the conversation
Empowering others to join the conversation is more than just grassroots advocacy, it means that people feel educated and inspired about the work one’s organization is doing. This can be done through creating content that is important to their audience and tells a story about the purpose behind their group. Beyond this, they can contribute to public discourse and elevate the discussion by allowing supporters and detractors to debate. Most importantly, these campaigns create a powerful opportunity to create touchpoints for everyday people to share their stories with government officials. Empowering people is the keystone to a great campaign, as an engaged audience will help build momentum for your cause and support in spreading your message.
5. Building relationships with the government
Organizations should be looking to build relationships with both the political and departmental sides of government to effect change. Organizations need a team that has a varied skill set and with experts across the political spectrum with deep sector expertise. It is always helpful to have tailored insights prepared with a clear call to action for your engagement.
Next, think about who will be in the room and be strategic about who from your organization will be in attendance. Meetings are strengthened when one finds opportunities to connect politicians with real people who can illustrate the call to action. Furthermore, it is a good idea to conduct research on the people one will meet with to get a sense of their personality and priorities. Having a positive relationship with government is key to effective advocacy, therefore it is important to ensure they are strengthened over time. Ensure your organization stays top of mind by picking the right moments to provide valuable insights on the issues that matter the most.
Overall, the future of public affairs campaigns lies in creating an ecosystem about your issue around decision makers. To do this, organizations must be armed with the right purpose, strategy, and people. It takes time to effect change, which is why mobilizing the right people is key to keeping the momentum going for the weeks, months, and years to come. If organizations can operate effectively in these areas, they can help move the dial in this country for generations to come.