As the saying goes, “change will never be as slow as it is today,” and communicating your organization’s brand in today’s dynamic and noisy world will become increasingly more challenging.
To tackle these challenges, brands need to think in new ways about the markets in which they compete and to relate not only to their customers, but to the broader operating environment comprised of an ever expanding world of stakeholders including consumers, activists, media, regulators, employees, and communities.
This is where public affairs comes in. The notion of public affairs has traditionally been seen through a limited scope, perceived as predominately focused on government and “lobbying” activities. But as a business function, public affairs has a much wider application that can fundamentally impact a company’s competitive advantage, particularly when coupled with innovative communication strategies and data-based research The PLUS Network provides.
Fundamentally, public affairs is about policy that moves our markets and the world we live in. Engaging in public affairs is part and parcel of an integrated external affairs strategy, going hand in hand with well-crafted communications. An integrated public affairs + communications strategy not only plays an important defense in protecting your organization’s reputation and license to operate, but it can play an effective offense in helping shape your market by securing the opportunity to innovate and grow.
So what does this integrated strategy look like? Every organization is unique, but below are a few ideas on creating a winning combination of communications PLUS public affairs:
- Get an alignment. Align your product communication strategy with an issue-based communication strategy. Show your commitment to the value of your brand by clearly voicing your organization’s positions on the common issues that concern your company and your consumers and stakeholders the most. Put words into action by engaging in issue-based conversations as a solutions partner on policy and social challenges.
- Map your stakeholders. Know - and listen to - your stakeholders where your brand lives. Whether it is your customers or your regulators, wherever you operate you need to know who has an economic impact on your business, what they are saying, and how to engage with them. A pre-requisite for effective communication is a two-way channel, and setting it up requires knowledgeable navigation that can chart your market.
- Get analytical. Brands are at risk today of getting buried in the sheer amount of information in the marketplace influencing how they are perceived, as well as how your organization makes strategic decisions. Businesses must rise above the chatter to focus on what matters most to its brand, operations and growth. A good public affairs strategy – along with expert research such as YouGov - can help source, prioritize, and analyze information that helps your business confidently manage risks and maximize opportunities in an information-overloaded world.
- Connect the Dots. Communications and public affairs are by nature inter-disciplinary business functions involving various aspects of your business and brand. To be successful, both functions need to work together to connect the dots – externally, as well as internally – with your organization’s business goals, marketing strategies, and internal planning.
- Think globally. Any discussion on brands today has to look at the brand in a global context, from the cultural nuances of consumer behavior to the socio-political influences affecting the business environment. Being able to grow globally first requires the ability to effectively think and act globally, which in turn requires an integrated and informed communications and public affairs strategy that can work – and adapt – across markets and borders. As a worldwide integrated network across more than 65 markets, the PLUS partners are well positioned to help you manage your brand globally.
These are just a few ideas to spark a conversation we’d be delighted to have with your organization about how you can create brand value in today’s global marketplace. No matter where you operate, your brand is directly and indirectly affected by politics and policy issues. Understanding and managing these issues is what Interel and the PLUS Network can do for you to protect and create market opportunity.
By Jason C. Jarrell, Partner, Interel