There has been significant debate in New York lately about the blurred lines that exist when the power of public relations and government affairs are combined to create an integrated strategic campaign. As a result media relations specialists, political consultants and multi-tool lobbyists are all playing on the same field and intensified the spotlight on the public relations pro.
We sat down this week with Paul Larrabee, APR, Corning Place Communications Managing Director and Executive Vice President, to learn more about integrating strategic communications and advocacy campaigns.
- What is public affairs?
In state capitals from Albany to Sacramento, legislative bodies pass budgets and laws that have serious consequences for groups ranging big banks and insurance companies to not-for-profits and trade associations, and everything in between. These organizations frequently require the benefits of a campaign to elevate profile and identity, usually through the media and ultimately that touches legislators who will be ask to vote yea; or nay. The method of influencing these audiences and how it relates to government action is public affairs.
- How is public affairs different from public relations?
Public affairs and public relations are close tactical cousins – in essence two branches of the same strategic tree. Both employ similar tactics like using earned media to advance a point of view, or employing social media to rally support for a cause and engage an audience.
However one of the biggest differences is the element of time and the limitations of space. If you’re trying to help a client get a bill passed (or defeated), and the legislature is due to adjourn you must act decisively to meet your objective. Additionally, you’re competing against the merits of thousands of other bills – and the attention of a few coveted journalists dedicated to reporting state government and politics.
- What does an integrated communications and advocacy campaign look like?
An integrated campaign involves aligning a communications strategy with the government affairs staff and the legislative calendar. Corning Place Communications employs a unique branded strategy which it has dubbed: Affirmative, Layered and Sustained messaging.
- What are the components of the Affirmative, Layered and Sustained approach?
It’s something that we came up with to help our clients more easily understand our achievement-oriented method. Affirmative means, say what you’re for; rather than what you’re against. Layered: say it across various platforms including traditional channels, such as print and broadcast outlets, as well as through the geometrically expanding social media community that relies on video content. And, sustained means committing to a message and campaign duration that will put you in a position to achieve your goals.
- How is public affairs changing?
One of the main ways public affairs and public relations are changing is through the continuing downsizing of newsrooms across the country. With fewer reporters, on tighter deadlines, tasked with retaining readers and viewers, there is a trend to publish the entertaining or outrageous, rather than the meaningful. Additionally, journalists are expected to write and file stories – and post social media teasers so quickly that the ability ask the additional question, or expand the complex thought can be is limited. These changes present significant challenges for the way public affairs firms execute campaigns and only agencies that learn to adapt will be able to continue to serve their clients in the future.
Paul has led Corning Place Communications since 2011 following a 22-year career in state government. During that time, Paul served three Governors, an Attorney General and the state Assembly leadership as a senior communications strategist and spokesman. His appointments included positions such as First Deputy Commissioner for the Office of General Services (OGS) and Deputy Press Secretary to the Governor. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the State University of New York at Albany.
Corning Place Communications is an award-winning full-service strategic communications and public affairs firm based in Albany, NY specializing in developing integrated strategies incorporating media relations, public affairs, strategic planning, social media management, crisis mitigation and organizational development to provide effective, achievement-oriented client services. CPC has been recognized by its peers in the Public Relations Society of America with the Empire Award for Communications Excellence in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
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