How to move the public opinion pin and drive political change: maintain issue momentum through dialogue

Here’s something we hear all the time: “Our issue is really important but public awareness of the threat (or opportunity) isn’t great enough. For this reason there isn’t enough pressure on politicians for them to place it high in their agendas. What do we do?”

PA types have traditionally had a media “plus” approach to this sort of conundrum. They’ll make sure they have some sound collateral to demonstrate why the issue is important (facts and figures, reports and the like) and feed this to media and policy types. This approach is fine, but it’s usually not enough to move the public opinion pin because of the nature of media cycles. The issue collateral might be very good and get media pick-up and be big news for a few days if not weeks, but it then flounders again. And when momentum drops, so does the likelihood that the pin will shift, and policy makers invariably lose interest too.

What’s needed to shift the pin? Sustained dialogue and momentum around the issue over a protracted period of time, and this is incredibly difficult to attain with a media plus approach only, given that momentum tends to run in tandem with media cycles.

Enter digital. Creating and fostering a really compelling ongoing narrative around an issue online, and engaging with people in the online space who are interested in the same issue, can be a more effective way of maintaining momentum. And in no way does this approach preclude traditional tactics like government relations or media engagement. In fact, it strengthens both because there is more input to feed into the storyline which is shared with policy-makers and media i.e. the narrative has gone from being about just the collateral i.e. the report, facts and figures (whatever) to being about the conversation and whatever can be gleaned from it, which makes a more compelling story and helps maintain issue momentum (and ultimately shift the pin.)


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