It’s Not Just About the Written Word

Often public affairs is focused on the messages and briefing papers but sometimes it can take more than words to convince an audience. Be prepared to think beyond the written word.

Of course, the written word is important. Politicians, and especially civil servants, can be quite traditional in their approach. They like and appreciate briefing papers often with data, statistics and carefully honed arguments. There is no escaping the need to develop such papers especially when dealing with officials.

However, sometimes communications and influence needs more than just words.  An audience may appear hearing about a campaign in a different format or through a different medium.  So that means not just being able to identify the right audience but knowing how best to raise the profile of your campaign with them.

So other forms of communication and channels should always be considered. Do not ignore the opportunties they could offer.

So what might some of these other options look like?

  • Images – the power of images can often be lost when relying on the written word. They might come into consideration when thinking about a media approach but not so often on the more political side.  Why not start with the image and then think about the narrative?
  • Infographics– these can often vary in quality.If what you are trying to convey is quite ‘thin’ then even the best designed infographic won’t disguise that. But if it is possible to convey more data through an infographic than a ‘drier’ table then why not invest some time and effort in develop one (or a whole series?) for a campaign.
  • Videos – there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to videos and can include everything from short, subtitled clips through to something longer and more involved. Some brands have even taken to developing short feature films starring household names to promote themselves.  Although I am not sure public affairs is quite ready for that yet.  Although if celebrity supporters want to help attract attention to a campaign then why not?

Actually, we could look a little more closely at what marketeers do and learn from some of their approaches.

The benefit of these options are that they can be more easily shared so that brings more of a social media element to a campaign as well. A complementary move away from the written word could be used as a way to motivate supporters. It also opens up more opportunities for user-generated content targeted directly at the audiences that matter. Many people can create decent images or films and there are plenty of free-to-use apps that might help them create something a little more professional as well.

In some ways it seems strange that unless a senior executive has a media profile then most public affairs type audiences will never see them unless it is in a face-to-face meeting. Blogs are sometimes used as a way of executives communicating directly and showing their personalities but why not think about options outside of the written word?  Why not open them up a little?

So maybe we all need to be a little less traditional, listen to other disciplines and don’t be too wedded simply to the written word.

Photo via Good Free Photos

Stuart is a public affairs and communications specialist with BDB Pitmans advising clients on all elements of their public affairs strategies including political and corporate communications and reputation management. His work also includes consultation and planning communications and he has advised on a number of high profile media relations and crisis communications programmes. Stuart is an honorary research fellow at the University of Aberdeen and is the author of several books including ‘New Activism and the Corporate Response‘ (heralded as a book that “every aspiring business leader should read” by MIS Asia), ‘Public Affairs in Practice’ and ‘The Dictionary of Labour Quotations‘. His most recently published book, ‘Public Affairs: A Global Perspective’ has been called ‘an absolute treasure-trove’ and is a recommended read by the Government Communication Service (GCS). Stuart regularly writes and lectures on a range of business and political issues and as well as blogging for BDB Pitmans he contributes to the Huffington Post and has written for the CBI, (former) UKTI, Total Politics and LabourList. He is also an adviser to the Entrepreneurs Network (TEN) and a regular speaker and chair at conferences. He has appeared on Sky News, BBC 5 Live, BBC World, the Today programme and on Ukrainian TV and has been a judge for the Public Affairs News, PR Week, Public Affairs and the European Public Affairs awards. Stuart is a CIPR trainer leading the 'Practical Public Affairs' course.

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