In a PR Daily story about U.S. presidents who were skilled communicators, I said, “Politics is three things: Getting people to know you, to like you, and to trust you.” I like that saying, probably because of its simplicity and application to more than just politics.
Public affairs is a discipline of public relations with deep roots in political campaigns, government relations, community relations, and issues management. Following that three-step structure, with a little alliteration to help us along the way, we can easily devise the three A’s of public affairs.
First, lawmakers, stakeholders, and the community need to know about you and your cause. To do so, your message needs to cut through the noise.
Even with a narrow target audience, media relations and advertising play an important role in public affairs strategy. Decision makers in government, businesses, and the community regularly read the newspaper, search for information online, watch the news and television programs, and interact on social media.
Next, your audience doesn’t just need to hear your message, it needs to resonate with them. Tip O’Neill, a former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, famously said, “All politics is local.” I would add that all politics is personal as well. People need to know how it affects them and everyone is different.
Your message should inform people and build support for your cause. To do so, it must be clear, concise and convincing. Ultimately, how far your cause advances will depend on if and how your message is received.
Lastly, decision makers and the public need to be persuaded to take action. Or not. It really depends. Because sometimes your goal is simply status quo.
People need to be moved and they need to know what you want them to do. Even if your goal is for nothing to change, those in positions of power and influence must decide to do nothing.
Alliteration is fun and I could just keep going, but we all know things are easily remembered in threes. Still, I couldn’t help but leave you with one more: Assessment. Taking the time to regularly reevaluate what’s working and what isn’t is critical to the long-term success of campaigns.
So, what A’s do you think are critical to public affairs and advocacy campaigns?