PR for GR: How an Effective Communications Plan can Help Secure Advocacy Wins

How can you align your communications team’s activities with your advocacy goals?

Associations often need government support to gain funding, tackle important projects and fulfill their organization’s vision and mandate. But they face stiff competition when it comes to making themselves or their issues a priority for policymakers. The groups that understand the benefits of a concerted effort that goes beyond a simple phone call to their local MP will have a far greater prospect of receiving government support.

Governments at all levels tend to be more open to paying attention to an association’s requests if they know the organization is currently in the public eye or has widespread support. Similarly, they’ll be less likely to ignore an association if they know doing so will cause a public outcry.

So, how do you rally the public behind your association or cause? The answer is developing an integrated communications plan that builds your association’s reputation and raises support for your objectives. A successful public relations campaign can make it very difficult for policymakers to disregard your government relations activities.

In many organizations, including associations, it can be difficult to align government relations and the communications department — but when the two work in tandem, they produce far more effective results. Some of the ways communications can support advocacy are listed below:

  1. A solid advocacy communications plan includes both earned and owned media. Traditional media, social media platforms and your own website are valuable tools that can (and should) complement your association’s government relations efforts.
  2. Media relations is by far the best way to reach the greatest amount of people, but leveraging the media to tell your story is not always easy. As newsrooms shrink, statistics show there are now more PR professionals than there are journalists. Certainly, every journalist I’ve spoken to admits they receive hundreds of email pitches each day. What will allow your pitch to stand out? How can you persuade the media to paint you in the best light? What can you do to ensure your message reaches and engages the right audience?
  3. Additionally, your media relations activities should be accompanied by a social media advocacy plan that amplifies your message and increases your reach. This may mean relying on paid social media posts aimed at targeted audiences. It also means using strategic hashtags and engaging with the right online influencers and decision-makers.

PR for GR is the first step of a successful advocacy effort. Public relations work should always be conducted far in advance of your government relations activities. Much like an army is assembled and prepared long before a general declares war, an association needs to have its army of advocates impassioned, organized and ready to support long before it calls a minister’s office for a meeting. Then, should it be necessary, these troops can be called upon quickly to rally and create enough noise that it makes it difficult for policymakers to ignore your requests.

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