It’s time for groups to give collaboration a chance.
That starts with managing communications and marketing functions together with their government relations and grassroots activities.
If they don’t, they risk falling behind their competitors who invest in collaboration.
To wit, public relations and advocacy teams that meet regularly, consult one another, and hire staff with these parallel skill sets are increasingly the industry standard. In fact, these teams are being rewarded with results achieved by working together.
We are strong advocates of integrated marketing communications, and recently compared notes with fellow practitioners on the multiple ways PR and GR skills compliment one another. We found these common themes:
The “pitch” to media and the “ask” to policymakers are almost identical in content.
They evoke emotion, build a sense of urgency on a specific project, issue or event. The only difference is one might result in a media story, opinion-editorial or letter to the editor while the other might strive to compel an advocate or member to sway an elected official.
In developing that pitch or ask, both PR and GR professionals are wise to conduct message development, training and discipline in delivering their media-focused or advocacy-focused communications. Practice and preparation yield better results for both scenarios.
Speaking from “one voice” is integral to successful.
Whether it’s responding to a crisis situation, major announcement or seeking governmental action, when key messages are garbled and details are muffed, people won’t read the message, let alone take action.
The role of the website in both communications and advocacy is paramount. Both PR and GR professionals need to drive traffic to a central location that moves the media or policymakers to facts, reliable sources, and personal stories to create two-way dialogue.
Consistency and persistence are two hallmarks of the public relations or lobbyist/grassroots professional who desires success and longevity. Absence for both PR and GR folks does not make the heart grow fonder.
PR and GR practitioners are better served by thinking big and acting locally.
Most of our clients or organizations we work with would like a front-page story in the New York Times or a chairman of a major congressional committee to request a meeting with them. But we all know those aren’t always attainable — particularly in the early stages of a campaign.
Most times a local, prominently placed news story, TV interview or popular radio talk show appearance beats a national mention— and can be leveraged for the latter. The same is true for elected officials, who are more likely to tour your local facility, meet with you to brainstorm a community opportunity, or accept an award in their hometown as opposed to a DC hotel ballroom with no constituent representation.
Share all sides of one’s appeal with your target audience (reporters, elected officials or regulators).
News and commentary as well as legislative and regulatory matters are complex, and it’s not enough to just share your organization’s point of view. The truth will eventually play out and both media and government officials will learn nuances of an issue or project. It’s better to address those competing viewpoints early and share why your opportunity is the better route to take. Not being forthcoming can equally burn relationships and trust among PR and GR practitioners.
Use the right analytics to make your data tell a story.
There are few definitive evaluation methods to analyze a communications or advocacy campaign and prove its effectiveness or return on investment. While some insights can be gleaned from the number of media impressions, likes on social media, number of Capitol Hill meetings, analytics from grassroots outreach, or survey research results, no gold standard exist.
Only if the bill is enacted, a troublesome amendment killed, a regulation revised, will your organization receive the praise and positive attention of the public. In the event that your campaign doesn’t hit that milestone, you need a way to measure the impact it had. Find the right analytics tools to bring all your touchpoint together into a single narrative.
Joshua Habursky is director of advocacy at the Independent Community Bankers of America, chairman of the Grassroots Professional Network, and adjunct professor at West Virginia University.
Mike Fulton directs the Washington, D.C. office of the Asher Agency and teaches public affairs in West Virginia University's Integrated Marketing Communications program.