Making GR and PR Play Nice Together

Does the public know all it should about your organization? More to the point, how do they perceive your reputation?

In order to face your public with a solid reputation, your entire team needs to pull together in the same direction. As noble and straightforward as that sounds, it is a challenge for many companies. Let’s look at one example: You are trying to effect public policy change — perhaps advocating for new regulations or trying to prevent ill-advised legislation. Your government relations and communications teams must coordinate their activities and broadcast your message effectively to your intended audiences.

We encountered this very situation when I worked in the association world. Our officers were often summoned to testify on Capitol Hill. They needed formal, written testimony; a punchy oral statement; and preparation for sometimes hostile Q&A.

The standard practice had been to have the issue experts do all the work. But we weren’t as effective as we might have been. Why not? Our messaging was overly complex and wonky. That’s what happens when you ask technicians to develop your messages and prepare your executives to face the public. Let me be clear: Our issue staffers were some of the foremost experts in their field. Ask them a technical question and they were capable of going into great depth. But that doesn’t get the job done when you have a mere five minutes to testify before Congress and an even more limited time frame to answer questions from impatient lawmakers.


How did we solve this dilemma? We put our people in positions where they were the most likely to succeed, playing to everyone’s strengths. The issue experts wrote the formal, written testimony. Then we had our communications pros draft the five-minute oral statement, ensuring it was replete with our powerful messaging (which the communicators also largely developed) and written for the ear. We also ascertained that the statement was indeed five minutes long. Previously, we had run long, risking dirty looks from the members of Congress as our witnesses overshot their allotted time.

Additionally, our government relations and communications teams collaborated on the testimony preparation workshop. We jointly drew up questions our officers might hear from the legislators, and provided message-oriented responses.

Admittedly, this was not an easy sell. Some staff members took umbrage at an encroachment upon what heretofore had been their turf. And no doubt there are organizations where the communications department would shun this responsibility, claiming they already have too much on their plates.

The best response to all this is to keep the spotlight on the association’s members or your company’s executives. A message-driven approach makes their job more straightforward. As a result, your business and public policy goals become more attainable. Shouldn’t that be the bottom line?

Is your organization experiencing these problems? Don’t feel ashamed. Many corporations and associations lack the internal communications resources to deal with these strategic and tactical communications conundrums on their own. So let’s arrange a 20-minute telephone call to learn whether I can help you organize your communications outreach efforts, magnetize your message, and sharpen the skills of your spokespeople.



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