by Erika Berglund, Senior Account Executive
There is a symbiotic relationship between public relations (PR) and public affairs (PA) – they are mutually beneficial to an individual or organization and are essential to the PR umbrella.
Public policy impacts organizations across the spectrum – from advocating for funding for a non-profit to acquiring the appropriate licenses to build a development, entities can benefit from having a public affairs liaison to navigate the legislative process, especially when passing a piece of legislation is the end goal. Although not all public relations firms do public affairs, those that do create a lot of added value for clients.
An integrated public relations firm is there to support you through the entire legislative process from drafting bill language, establishing a sponsor, and garnering support from legislators for the bill to gain traction. Although there are countless ways a PR firm can support your legislative agenda, the following is a sound, simple start.
Education is key
A primary way an integrated firm can aid in passing legislation is assisting with overall issue education. Whether that is educating legislators about what your organization does and what they need, ensuring legislators are aware of your organization’s value and position on certain topical issues, or informing an entity of possible policy-related matters that can directly or indirectly impact them or the industry they operate in. Legislators are not experts in every policy topic—none of us are. A vital element of any public affairs strategy is ensuring that the decisionmakers understand your value and your position.
Integrated PR firms research policy and funding avenues to inform organizations of potential legislative or regulatory issues and can lobby to educate the officials, public, and local constituents on a variety of subjects. An integrated firm helps to convey an organization’s response to public policy matters and can help to influence and change public policy to advance their client’s goals. From there, it’s about building relationships and advocating on behalf of the organization.
Establishing the right relationships
In order to pass a piece of legislation, having the right team behind you is essential. An effective public affairs strategy can help build valuable relationships and foster advocacy opportunities to push your priorities forward. An integrated firm helps build those necessary relationships between organizations and legislators to secure funding, garner support, and ultimately pass legislation that can positively impact your organization. Careful consideration should be given to the decisionmakers that have their hands on levers of power that are important to clients. Overlooking someone important can be costly and looking past possible new allies diminishes strength in numbers.
Public affairs relies heavily on communicating regulatory issues, partaking in conversations with government representatives, and lobbying on behalf of a group or organization to earn the support from legislators, communities, and constituents. The benefit of a firm with PR and PA experience is they have the skills to take complex topics and distill the most important points for the general public to understand. Having your own personal liaison ensures you have the full support system and connections needed to achieve your organizational goals.
Support at each level
Regardless of the government relations objectives, an integrated firm is there to support you every step of the way. From initiating a petition, to lobbying on specific legislation, to supporting an organization during the budgetary process – whether preparing testimony for a hearing, following up with Committee members and garnering grassroots support, or monitoring traction on the bill you are advocating for – an integrated firm is there to walk you through each step and provide sound counsel.
The legislative process can be overwhelming and is often difficult to navigate. An integrated public relations firm has the resources, can make the connections, and can create necessary communications strategies needed to amplify political awareness of issues that are important to you and your organization. A strong communications strategy is the perfect complement to a public affairs goal.