We are just over two months into the Trump administration, and lobbyists and PR professionals all over Washington are still trying to get their bearings.
Will we see decisive, disruptive action this year on major items like health insurance, corporate taxes, immigration, and infrastructure? Will battles over appropriations and the debt limit come to the fore? Might a foreign policy crisis or even a constitutional crisis crowd out all other discussions?
No matter which issues dominate the public debate in any given week, smart government relations professionals know that it’s best to take a long-term approach, and lobbying isn’t the only way to advance your agenda.
According to the Public Affairs Council, public affairs is an art in which “lobbyists, grassroots advocacy specialists, policy experts, political involvement specialists and communications professionals coordinate their activities to achieve advocacy success.”
Put another way, lobbying goes hand-in-hand with strategic communications, policy analysis, and grassroots advocacy, and the total package is worth more than the sum of its parts.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, National Journal’s Michael D. Gottlieb recently called this “building a Washington brand.”
“Just like consumer and employer brands,” he wrote, “a Washington brand captures how the audience perceives a company. … Do these policymakers respect a given company? Do they care what that company thinks, and actually listen? Is that company their first call when they have a question? As it relates to DC, a strong brand offers an upper hand in influencing policy outcomes.”
Here at Dale Curtis Communications, we work closely with client-side executives – and often with a large cast of characters that may include attorneys, lobbyists, marketing and branding experts, activists, and others – to develop and implement smart, strategic, integrated communications programs that enhance their Washington brands.
A few of the tactics we have used and might recommend for your organization’s Washington brand building are:
- Developing compelling, plain-English messaging and materials such as fact sheets, issue briefs, research reports, videos, and PowerPoint presentations to educate your target audience;
- Applying beautiful graphic design to impress your audience with effective branding, visual aids, and easy-to-navigate websites;
- Managing and growing social media accounts to grab the attention of stakeholders on the sites they frequent most;
- Convening events that complement the print and electronic outreach with face-to-face relationship building; and
- Reaching out to reporters and editors at outlets large and small, providing interviews and ghost-written articles to help educate key audiences on your policy agenda.
Our case studies offer a bit more insight into how we have applied these strategies and tactics to achieve success in specific policy battles.
If your organization is struggling to clarify its Washington brand and have greater impact in its advocacy communications, please give us a call. We’re here to help.