A public affairs campaign revolves around a single, clear policy goal. The goal can be defined in one sentence. It’s channel agnostic and has a visual identity. It has an end-date. And it seeks to build and/or showcase some form of public support (sometimes broad, often narrow). Keep me Posted is a PA campaign. As is Save the Internet.
PA professionals don’t always need to campaign. In Brussels at least, the quality of technical information provided to facilitate policy-making remains the most important determinant of interest group success on most issues. Frankly, PA professionals should avoid campaigning if possible. It’s time intensive, expensive and bloody difficult.
Enter the two levels:
- If an issue is highly politicised (nuclear, sugar or GMOs, to cite obvious examples), campaigning is a pre-requisite because policy is broadly dictated by public sentiment. However useful the technical input provided.
- If an issue is not politicised but an organisation could benefit were it to be so (Keep me Posted, for instance). Competent campaigning will put an organisation on the radar and increase the likelihood of a win.
There is a vast difference between the two levels.
On highly politicised issues, organisations are potentially up against pre-existing beliefs held by millions of people. Shifting the pin will likely require a 7-figure, multi-year and multi-market investment. Culture and business practice change may be needed before campaigning even begins. And the campaign cannot be PA driven: a broad marketing-communications line-up is required.
On level 2 issues, an organisation can start much smaller because there is no well-known, existing frame to counter. Starting afresh means headway can already be made by building a modest community of support in a single constituency and channelling it via lobbying.
Unpopular industries continue to run campaigns either trying to affect public sentiment on the cheap or seeking to influence policy without channelling some form of public support, however narrow. They should probably not bother.