This is a guest post contributed by Micah Azzano from Racepoint Group’s Washington, DC office
As communicators, we continue to hear about the new communications landscape, where two-way communication is necessary for success. Nowhere is this more apparent than in than public affairs industry, where traditional tactics for influencing legislators — lobbying, advertising, writing op-eds and forming physical grassroots communities — can be expensive, limited and ineffective.
This week I was able to attend a panel in DC moderated by Marijean Lauzier, President & CEO of Racepoint Group on this very topic. The panel asked public affairs experts in DC to explore this new landscape and how public affairs teams can use social media to promote issues, reach influencers and engage grassroots and community organizations. Panelists included: Erik Hower of AT&T, Bill Knapp of SKD Knickerbocker and Allison Giles of Cook Medical.
Below are highlights from the panel:
Bill acknowledged that in the past DC and the government has lagged behind the rest of the world in social networking, but that’s changing at a rapid pace. He notes that social media provides a useful avenue for public affairs specialist to push out necessary communications and nullify incorrect or adverse information. The two examples he discussed are his work with Toyota during their recalls and ABC when considering pulling broadcasting in New York. View Bill’s complete response
Marijean followed up by asking Allison about what concerns she has about leveraging social media over time in a heavily regulated environment such as medical supplies. Allison’s response noted their public affairs team is starting out by slowly dipping their toes into the social media world and using it primarily for monitoring and staying updated with key members of the federal government, media and hill staffers. View Allison’s complete response
The conversation moved into the challenges in communications structure moving forward and whether big brands like AT&T view social media as an opportunity or a risk. Erik said that while AT&T has some of the best PR on the traditional side, there’s a lot more they can do in the online social media world. The challenge they’re facing is how to do social media strategically where it will have the most impact, and not just put up a Facebook or Twitter page just to have one.
Themes throughout the morning addressed the way campaigns have transformed and influenced social media uses inside and outside the beltway including the mobilization of the youth community by the Obama campaign. Because of that, it highlighted and illustrated the advantages of using social media not only for messaging but also for fund raising.
The panel also addressed the difference between traditional and social media messaging. The social media messaging is more segmented to smaller niches than traditional media does. Overall, the event takeaways included that while public affairs has a unique opportunity to reach and interact with key influencers and their audiences via social media, just building a community, social experience on a central hub or even simply opening a Facebook or Twitter account is not enough. The experience must be coupled with the ability to reach and engage key audiences on a constant and ongoing basis for the success of future campaigns.
Additionally, as digital and social media continue to expand as integral parts of media planning, it will continue to grow as the central influencer and information source for many. However, this means public affairs professionals must be prepared to further pare down and segment their messaging to address the needs of extremely targeted audiences.