I just re-read my last post and had a thought. Point two – in which I state that PA professionals increasingly need to think issues and reputation management rather than pure government relations, and hence should embrace the campaigner’s toolkit, including digital – sounds simple enough (the concept, but certainly not the execution.) However, although I imply that it’s because people aren’t moving with the times, I’m now thinking this – as easy as it is for young whippersnappers like me to blame old-school PA types for the fact that Brussels and other PA hubs are lagging, two other issues are no doubt key in determining why organisations aren’t more visionary in their PA approach:
- The nature of the game: short-term legislative priorities over long-term reputation. Countering Directive X is more pressing today, frankly. And as soon as Directive X is dealt with, along comes Directive Y to soak up all your time. With a PA team consisting of 5 people and 1 consultant on call whose hours are nearly all used up, it’s no surprise that organisations struggle to think long-term.
- It’s not you but your entire sector that needs rebranding. A lot of organisations struggle with long-term reputation because they operate within a tiny niche of a far bigger sector. They produce chemical X or energy resource Y or financial tool Z; but no one has ever heard of any of them. Yet they’re getting hammered because chemicals, energy and financial services at large have reputational issues. Why should they, representing 0.1% of a far bigger industry, be leading the charge? Quite.
Many would no doubt add another reason for PA’s struggles with digital: the fact that many issues are off the public radar and don’t need a campaign element given that “we know our entire target audience” or “our audiences don’t use the web.” Whatever. Sure, 90% of the issues I work on don’t require campaign elements suited to digital, like mobilisation and community building, but NO ONE can possibly think they are maximising their chances of success without backing up their offline narrative with a good online content strategy, supported by at least a search strategy to ensure maximum visibility amongst target audiences.