Creating Successful Public Affairs Campaigns: The 5-Step Approach

March 23 2020

Globally, there has been an increase in public affairs campaigns initiated by various parties including governments, non-governmental organizations, businesses and special interest groups. These campaigns are developed to sway public opinion on various issues or even to lobby for certain changes in regulations or laws.

Typically, public affairs campaigns are more visible and accepted in mature democracies. However, we are seeing more businesses and organizations use public affairs campaigns to create “movement” to support their respective business or organizational goals. With digital disruption overtaking the global marketplace, such campaigns are able to achieve incredible reach in a very short amount of time.

Similar to consumer-centric marketing programs, public affairs campaigns can take the form of either a mass outreach initiative or a targeted approach. Whilst, public affairs campaigns could be adapted and pushed out to the marketplace on a global scale, it tends to be more “localized” as its impact or influence is usually related to the local socio-economic or political landscape. Moreover, it usually needs to take into consideration the complexities of the legal and regulatory structures within an individual marketplace.

Whereas many consumer campaigns are clearly for commercial reasons, public affairs programs may touch issues that impact the lives and well-being of the people directly. As such, public affairs issues tend to be more emotional and delicate due to their deep impact on local culture, politics or religious sensitivities. In other words, public affairs campaigns are usually more fragmented. They are not as homogenous as your typical consumer campaigns.

At Perspective Strategies, our 5D Approach has helped us develop numerous successful public affairs campaigns. These considerations are pertinent to creating any effective campaign:

  1. Discover
    It is critical that we understand the reality on the ground before we embark on any public affairs campaign. Research, primary or secondary, is a must to kick-start the process. Without understanding the reality on the ground, especially the political, economic and socio-cultural aspects of the market, it is almost impossible to roll out any form of effective public affairs campaign. For example, we have had a client who was looking into a media campaign to raise awareness levels of sexually transmitted infections. The reality on the ground was that sex is a taboo subject in many markets, particularly in conservative and multi-religious Asian countries. Going into the campaign without taking into consideration the cultural and religious sensitivities surrounding the issues can be very risky.
  2. Dream
    Many great achievements start with a dream. It is no different for successful public affairs campaigns.
    The ability of the campaign to bring people together for a common goal is key to its success. Effective and successful public affairs campaigns are usually supported through the creation of a grassroots movement. If the audience doesn’t share the dream, it will not gain any momentum and will be unsustainable. Importantly, the dream or goal must also be clear to all stakeholders. Without a clear end-game, the campaign will not support the overall business or organizational goal. This defeats the purpose of the campaign in the first place, leading to the withdrawal of support from the organization itself. In this regard, the “why” and “where we are heading” must be extremely clear so as to allow the grassroots to be a part of the “movement.”
  3. Design
    Once we understand the marketplace and set our goals clearly, we must design our strategy and approach, which obviously must be aligned with the overall corporate or organization strategy. Our approach must consider strategic issues such as availability of resources, channels, the target audience, the organization, the planning processes and many other factors that will impact the overall campaign. Without a clear strategy and approach, we would be operating blindly and most likely fail in our execution.
  4. Deliver
    The saying goes: “Tactics without strategy is blind. Strategy without tactics is useless!”
    The ability to deliver on our strategy is key. Otherwise, all plans are just empty talk. Efficient and effective tactical plans are important to ensure that we optimize our resources as well as win the hearts and minds of our stakeholders. We have to also ensure that our delivery takes into consideration the local nuances which may come in the form of cultural, political and socio-economic factors.
  5. Drivers
    Nothing can be done without people. Ultimately, we must clearly identify people or groups who can help drive our campaign successfully. The drivers will determine if our efforts at the design stage can be translated into actual delivery of initiatives and messages to our target audience.Of course, sharing the campaign’s dream and how each and every one of the drivers can play a role will surely steer the movement towards success. In this regard, we have to put in place an environment that empowers our teams – leaders and the rest of the crew, to work together and steer the campaign towards its end-goal.
Andy See
Founder, Principal Partner & Managing Director, Perspective Strategies
After spending more than 10 years working with leading multinational and Malaysian consultancies including The Boston Consulting Group and Edelman, Andy decided to reinvent his career by setting up his own firm. This led to the birth of Perspective Strategies in 2006. The boutique agency grew quickly with the promise of delivering strategic counsel and quality services to clients and has over the years won numerous industry awards on the global and national levels. Aside from steering the firm’s strategic direction and managing key client relationships, Andy regularly conducts spokesperson training and speaks at industry events on strategic communications, issues management and stakeholder engagement. Currently, he is the President of the Public Relations and Communications Association of Malaysia (PRCA Malaysia), spearheading efforts to champion the interest of PR professionals including industry best practices, quality and standards as well as talent development.  Since 2017, Perspective Strategies has been part of the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN), one of the world's leading independent PR agency networks. Andy is on the Executive Committee, serving as Secretary and Regional Vice-President for Asia Pacific (APAC). As Regional Vice-President, Andy leads PRGN's initiatives in growing the network's presence in APAC by pushing to enhance communication, improve coordination and drive momentum at the regional level. Andy also actively contributes articles and thought leadership pieces on PR, leadership and strategic communications in various publications and online platforms.

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