The world of ‘lobbying’ – AKA public affairs – can seem like it’s shrouded in mystery to the uninitiated. But in reality, a public affairs campaign is not so different to any other communications campaign, even though the particular audience might be a little more niche. Public affairs campaigns may not be rocket science, but you can apply a robust methodology to it. By taking a more strategic campaign approach, a well-devised public affairs programme should be:
The starting point of any public affairs campaign is to be clear on the overall aim, and the objectives underneath that aim. From there everything else follows.
Remember this one tip: planning is everything. The old adage, wrongly attributed to US founding father Benjamin Franklin, holds as true in public affairs as it does elsewhere: if you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
Here are some of the key components to consider when approaching a public affairs campaign:
But keep in mind that this campaign approach is rarely a linear process unless it is for a short-term specific project. More often, for ongoing campaigns, we should be continuously horizon-scanning, monitoring and reviewing. So even when we are in full delivery mode, we are still evaluating what we are doing and providing ongoing quality assurance – which allows us to make adjustments if necessary.
What is the overall aim of a public affairs campaign?
Most public affairs campaigns seek to achieve policy influence. An evidence-based public affairs campaign provides purpose & direction. So clarity on the overall aim is required from the outset – does the campaign seek:
Clarity on the above enables us to plan and execute a campaign and measure success
Research/ evidenced-based content is the key currency for public affairs professionals, providing the basis to build messaging and engagement activity around and, ultimately, enabling an influential campaign to take hold.
First of all, we must produce a comprehensive campaign plan! Here are some key considerations when starting out with the plan for a campaign:
Much of this might seem obvious, but how often do those involved in public affairs skip the planning and strategy, and jump straight into engagement? How often do we think that our objectives are clear and obvious, so do not commit them to paper in a written plan?
There are some fundamental principles that always hold true in public affairs
Usually the goal of a public affairs campaign is to ensure that your cause has strong allies and advocates who can amplify your message(s) and reach. So creating/ joining formal and informal networks for dialogue, away from the noise of the media, can be vital to build awareness and understanding of the key campaign issues. We should seek opportunities for advocacy coalitions and foster genuine 2-way engagement.
Some tips to keep in mind:
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail! An evidence-based public affairs campaign plan is essential to successful ‘lobbying’ for policy influence. A well-devised campaign plan based on practical insights provides purpose and direction and will result in a greater chance of success.
The components discussed here are interrelated and can be adapted to a specific issue, however the campaign plan should be: