#PR4GR: Calling all Government Relations Offices

Jennifer Curley by Jennifer Curley

My first job out of college was working in the mailroom of a U.S. Senate office. The Senator received 10,000 pieces of mail a week. Anyone who has spent time working on Capitol Hill has been on the receiving end of a postcard campaign, logging thousands of identical messages to document constituent “sentiment” on a particular issue.

While the advocate’s postcard isn’t necessarily dead, there are many more options to reach Members of Congress, and we are seeing first hand a trend as many government relations offices begin to engage in public relations for government relations on a whole new level. Government relations experts are no longer just relying on their policy knowledge to drive lobbying efforts; they are interested in becoming savvy communicators too.

Some recent examples include:

  • Promoting Policy Change – For several clients in the health, technology and travel space, we are currently running digital advocacy campaigns to enhance or protect their position during the fall policy debates.
  • Using Storytelling for Internal #PR4GR – We are working with the GR department of a large biotechnology company to help them communicate “the value of GR” to an internal audience.
  • Building Corporate Reputation Through Social – The D.C. office of a Fortune 100 company hired us to help build their reputation and amplify their policy work on the Hill through social media.

Each of these GR departments have one thing in common: They are using new digital and social PR tools to shape and advance their policy agenda and promote their reputation.

Take a Page from Your MarComm Team Playbook.

Whether down the hall or back in the home office, many of our client companies have an entire team of marketing and communications professionals, working to sell their products and services. Taking a page out of their playbook, GR departments are starting to use the same tools and tactics to shape perception or present a public policy position.

Using these digital and social tools, we’re not only able to better target our messaging, we’re doing it with smaller budgets, shorter timelines and with better messaging control. The bar to entry is incredibly low for a social media campaign or hyper-targeted ads, and the new tools of PR allow us to monitor engagement in real time, scale quickly when things get hot and adjust the message within minutes as developments require. What this means to GR professionals is that we can create and engage a passionate community of advocates, frame your issue even if the mainstream media isn’t covering it, or create a multi-platform surround sound effect of diverse voices delivering a single message to your most important audience.

Reaching Staff and Members Where They Live.

Shoe leather lobbying isn’t dead. The days of handshakes, walking the halls of the Rayburn Building or testifying in State Capitols are not over – quite the opposite. The PR tools we deploy for our GR clients are enhancing their traditional lobbying efforts and providing cover, support and the context they are working to convey.

I still use what I learned from sorting the mail in the Senator’s office. One postcard isn’t enough, the personal touch still matters and you need to reach your audience where they are – today it is the device in their hand, not necessarily in the mailroom.