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Public Affairs: Modifying to Constant Evolution

How would you describe your organization’s relationship with its customers? Its clients? How about business groups, trade associations, shareholders, donors and sponsors, government organizations, partners, and the media? The world of public affairs is certainly both vast and complex. How, realistically, can any single organization develop a mission or strategic goals that align with the interests of all the myriad groups with investments, interests, or influence?

While a properly structured public affairs strategy would endeavor to address many of these interest areas, a successful one will always include some form of integrated media component. If you recognize the names Jon Stewart, Glenn Beck, Rachel Maddow, or James Carville, you have been exposed to the world of public affairs through a narrow lens of political punditry. Not universally an endearing term, “political pundit” can be used to describe a television personality whose opinions—ranging from the government outrage du jour, to long-standing politically-charged issues in a modern application—reach a wide audience and thereby have a measured impact.

But, public affairs messages are not limited to topics that rule conversation around the Beltway; in fact, they incorporate a number of elements, including cases of reputation management, corporate affairs, corporate social responsibility, and varying levels of campaign endeavors. Whether these messages apply directly to your organization, or something that directly impacts your key audience groups, it is critical to engage in the conversation—if not direct it. But, how do you tell your own story amid the external chatter?

These days, all media is social. In a moment of anger, did one of your airline employees do something to upset a customer? One bad tweet from the right person and you may as well deploy the emergency slide. Are you a celebrity chef known for cooking with pounds of butter, and recently diagnosed with diabetes? I’m not sure how many of your 30,000 Facebook followers will be purchasing that butter-flavored lip-gloss.

From enterprises to highly visible individuals, it is getting harder to hide. Reporting is no longer limited to reporters, and what is defined as “news” is no longer limited to on-air news networks. In this age of fast-paced digestion of media—occasionally 140 characters at a time—messages will often get misconstrued, misinterpreted, just plain lost, or sometimes worst of all, accurately repeated. Organizations are no longer limited to promoting their products or services only when people are watching. Everyone is watching, all the time.

As social media is increasingly considered a more authentic and credible source of information than the daily, nightly, and weekly news programs of our (relative) youth, we must be equally flexible and dynamic in tailoring proven strategies of courting traditional media outlets, to fulfill the modern-day prerequisite of the instant gratification culture. To view some of Qorvis’ innovative integrated public affairs campaigns, visit: www.qorvis.com/clients.

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About The Author

MSLGROUP is Publicis Groupe’s strategic communications and engagement group, advisors in all aspects of communication strategy: from consumer PR to financial communications, from public affairs to reputation management and from crisis communications to experiential marketing and events.

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