August 25, 2013
A thought raised by a colleague in a meeting earlier this week: “why only show our own case studies? Let’s also showcase the work we wish we’d done.”
I like this. Sure, it’s someone else’s work, but you exhibit the following by showcasing it:
- You’re curious enough to look beyond your own backyard
- You’re humble enough to admit others might have done it better
- You know where to set the bar for excellence (and presumably, it’s the bar for where you want to go)
What’s the work I wish I’d done?
Here’s a start:
July 12, 2013
This is a visual that appears as an interlude or concluding slide in many of my presentations. Wild conjecture perhaps, but it summarises two areas where public affairs in 2025 will, I believe, look very different.
Now, policy-makers and those that influence them are often absent from social media, except some notable exceptions, especially in the tech sector (e.g. Neelie). In 2025, most of them will be active: social will be ubiquitous, and politicians in particular will be expected to engage in the name of transparency. Beyond what’s expected of them, they’ll probably be all over social in any case: generation Y will be at the helm. In public affairs, anyone seeking to build relationships with policy-makers and their ilk will thus need to be active too.
Now, communicators within organisations, including public affairs professionals, still largely control channels of communication. In 2025, social media will be omnipresent inside most organisations i.e. all employees will be active and highly connected and communications will not be able to exert full control. Nor should they. Why? Social isn’t just a means to communicate for purposes of communications (PA, PR, brand marketing etc.) It can also support innovation, product development, talent development and more through engagement with peers within and beyond an organisation. Meanwhile, being an “employee” will mean something far more fluid than at present. Depending on their networks and abilities not related to their core competence at work, employees with no specific PA remit may be your best PA people; those with no marketing remit your best marketers. PA and marketing (and whatever else) thus becomes an exercise in training and guidance as much as actual execution.
June 10, 2013
In government relations, online listening is often only used to conduct traditional media monitoring. I’d argue there are other ways of using online listening platforms that are more directly related to GR activities, such as:
For instance, when looking to carry clout with MEP X, assess the issue, company or sector’s saliency in their constituency by carrying out searches specific to that constituency only. Who is talking about it? What’s trending? What’s the prevailing sentiment? The insights can be used to target more narrowly.
Tracking a select group of online stakeholders vs. key issues
“We only care about max 100 people,” GR professionals will spout: a small hotchpotch of politicians, officials, media, analysts etc. In addition, they only care about the 100’s view on the few issue(s) that matter to the organisation in question. Given this, online listening is deemed too broad to be of interest. In this case, set up alerts to be notified only when any of the 100 mention the organization or any of the issues of interest. It’ll probably only be a few times per day if that, but will allow you to cut through the clutter and pick up highly relevant material only.
Identifying new influencers
Maybe it’s not just 100, but 101? But the 1 you’ve never heard of because they’re a new online influencer based beyond the usual sphere of interest, and yet they’re communicating around your issues and appear to be increasingly influential. Listening platforms will allow you identify them.
Assessing the impact of own activities
By aggregating mentions of terms, online listening platforms can help determine trends over time: people spoke about company X & issue Y this much in June, but less so in July. And so forth. If you’re trying to convince Brussels and a couple of national capitals of something or other through GR, you can track the impact you’re having by measuring trend development even among a highly select group. For instance, you’re spreading “message x” in Brussels and 3 national capitals. Use your platform to track the diffusion of “message x” in Brussels and the 3 national capitals week by week, and only among the select group of stakeholders you care about. And in contrast, track the rise/fall of your opponent’s “message y”.
NB: listening platforms can do lots more, but the thoughts I list relate strictly to supporting the government relations function.
May 16, 2013
Last year, I produced the digital PA wheel, which, building from three core components of traditional public affairs (intelligence gathering, information provision, relationship building), showed how each can be supported by a variety of digital and social channels, tools and methods.
While I still think the wheel is valid, I think it’s missing a few things, and will be developing the visual on the left further, resulting in an updated digital PA wheel (or matrix perhaps.)
What’s different now?
Management and skills
All organizations are affected by the speed and ubiquity of social media. All functions within them, including public affairs, will require new skills and processes, and sometimes updated technology and resourcing, in order to manage. Although not strictly a communications discipline, a competent digital public affairs professional should be able to advise on how the PA function should adapt. In the commercial world, the term social business is usually applied to describe this area of digital and social competence.
In PR and corporate communication, digital often owns creative. Not sure whether it’s because creative output channels are frequently digital, or perhaps digital types tend to be more comfortable with creative simply because they have embraced a medium that is manic and unkempt, much like the creative process. Or perhaps no one else wanted it.
Creative has tended to be imbedded in content, and although I think content is its closest ally in the mix, I think it deserves a separate category. Developing a creative concept, whether for a single visual or catch-phrase, or a full-on campaign, should not be an afterthought, even in PA. For starters, the process should involve multiple iterations, concepts should be underpinned by data, and they should be tested. And although process can’t produce creativity, organizations should have a method, from how they structure a creative team through to how they brainstorm, plan and implement.
Intelligence beyond monitoring
Although not detailed in the visual above, intelligence in PA should go beyond monitoring, which has tended to be the core of the offering. Granted, it remains key, but the multiple new tools and methods we have at our disposal to collect and break down data can provide ammunition for the PA professional, from influencer identification through to identifying data that will enable tailoring of message almost per single audience member (e.g. data specific to a decision-maker’s constituency?)
May 8, 2013
Scores of PA professionals are creative now, it appears, given that they film talking heads or ask a designer to decipher some data and represent it in visual format.
There’s a discrepancy between creativity and publishing in content formats that traditional audiences aren’t accustomed to, however.
By all means, experiment with new content formats, but creativity doesn’t lie in format, but rather, in developing a smart, relevant, snappy, memorable, thought-provoking and possibly funny (depending on the subject matter) creative concept. If it’s good, it can be translated into whatever format you want, whether in written, spoken or visual form.
In short, the creative process is not deciding on a content format, but rather, developing a creative concept, and it will likely be a lengthy, arduous and frustrating process.
April 23, 2013
Clearly not always – messaging is useful, but it’s not the be-all and end-all:
- It’s often not used although organisations spend ages developing the messages
- It needs to change every few months
- It’s often based on what organisations want to say rather than what others want to hear, which in the age of social media and 24 hr news cycles makes little sense
Sure, develop messages, but don’t obsess, and more importantly, ensure processes and resourcing are able to deal with a far more fluid communications reality.