Public Affairs- Moving the Needle in Public Perception IRI Consultants

Public Affairs: Moving the Needle in Public Perception

Public affairs is an essential component for any organization looking to operate in a complex, global, and unpredictable environment. Having an effective public affairs strategy not only contributes to having a favorable impact on public policies that affect your organization, but it is also allows you to build relationships with key stakeholder groups important to your policy and reputational goals.

From government decision-makers to opinion leaders and third-party influencers to media elites, having a clearly defined strategy allows you to target specific stakeholders to advance your agenda, while also creating an early warning system by monitoring activities of your opponents. This is especially true for organizations who have been outspoken in their corporate social responsibility initiative or have engaged in hot policy issues, such as climate change and sustainability, and pledged to be a part of the solution with these challenges.

Whether your organization is facing an immediate public policy issue or not, it’s important to understand the basics of public affairs, as well as how a public policy issue may affect your organization in the short- and long-term – and how you can be prepared and well-positioned to engage to protect your operations and corporate reputation.  

Building an Effective Public Affairs Strategy 

Public affairs involves engaging with stakeholders at the federal, state, or local levels to influence public policy and assist policymakers in creating new or amending existing policy and legislation. 

There are many components of an effective public affairs strategy, all of which will depend on your organization’s goals, interests, and key stakeholders. An effective public affairs strategy may include the following:

Issue Assessment 

An effective public affairs campaign must first know where it stands by evaluating the challenges and opportunities facing the organization’s policy objectives. Understanding the landscape, from who are the important supporters to the most influential opponents, will minimize risk and best position you to achieve your objectives.

Stakeholder Mapping 

In addition to understanding the impact of an issue, being able to determine which stakeholders can be engaged to support your company’s point of view, as well as knowing whose voices can be the most damaging to your policy objectives, is critical to success and avoiding missteps.

Key Stakeholder Engagement 

No matter what policy or cause you support or oppose, it’s important to engage the legislators, staff, and regulatory bodies that have influence over that particular issue. One way to do this is by developing supporting materials to help share your message with these key audiences and influencers. These materials may include handouts, videos, and social media, including paid and targeted ads that can directly reach your core audiences, such as policymakers in Washington, D.C. or county commissions in your local markets.

Digital Media Intelligence 

Monitoring the conversation surrounding a public policy issue, whether in traditional media outlets or social media platforms, allows public affairs team to identify trends, anticipate what’s next, and track the conversations of allies and foes alike to leverage support or defend against negative attacks.

External Media Relations 

Building and managing relationships with the media often includes pitching and booking interviews, developing and distributing news releases and talking points, and writing content for external audiences, including op-eds and newspaper or magazine articles.

Media & Presentation Training

Implemented effectively, media and presentation training provides leaders with evolving skills to become more effective communicators. The goal of this training is to help company spokespeople feel comfortable and confident speaking and engaging with challenging and important stakeholders like the media, elected and regulatory officials, philanthropic organizations, donors, employee groups, and other potentially hostile or supportive third-party audiences.

Focus Groups and Public Polling Research 

Taking part in focus groups, which consist of a small group of participants who share their thoughts and perceptions on a specific topic, or implementing public polling research, such as an in-person or online survey or poll, can help gather insights on public opinion, thus giving you insight into how your messages may be resonating and if you need to pivot.

Of course, these are only a few items that can be part of an effective public affairs strategy. You may also consider coalition building, grassroots mobilization, lobbying, opposition research, and event management. No matter how you approach public affairs at your organization, it’s important to keep in mind your goals and utilize the best resources available to you, including your organization’s best communicators.

At IRI, we’ve help clients manage external affairs and ensure that government relations teams have concise, accurate, and compelling information so they can move the needle in public perception. We believe every business is different, and each requires its own holistic and customized approach to communications. Whether you need an internal communications assessment, guidance in developing your internal communications strategy or social media strategy, digital media intelligence, crisis communications services, media relations, or media training, we have expert communications consultants who can quickly provide a specialized solution. Contact us online today to discuss the next steps, or give us a call at (313) 965-0350.

Mike Lake — Managing Director, IRI Consultants