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Public Affairs Council’s #DMAS18 Delivers for Digital Insights


What do public affairs, government relations, and PR executives need to know to stay engaged in this rapidly-shifting digital world?    Below are some key takeaways for C-Suite execs and organizational leaders to prepare for a potential storm, one whose track can shift with a single Tweet, in a news environment where crisis response is measured in minutes, not hours or days.

Who’s Telling Your Story?

  • The biggest takeaway from corporate and association case studies focused on the importance of storytelling – specifically, who will stand up for you, and can be authentically deployed, in a crisis.   While contingency planning, decision trees, and vulnerability assessments all provide a framework, in this immediate-response environment, careful thought and proactive cultivation should support your publicly-facing brand, and guide how to weave your message into a digital crisis.
  • Stories can be identified and cultivated from many sources: survey research and focus groups; key stakeholders/community leaders with strong media chops; or from the ranks of employees whose job/livelihood could be affected (think of the Delta employees during the Ann Coulter uproar).  However - think carefully about the right channel(s) for each message/messenger.

Numbers Matter (But not all numbers are equal)

  • Digital comms offers the Holy Grail of measurement – and now the challenge is sifting through data overload for the KPIs or outcomes you want to achieve.   Everyone likes big numbers, but there may only be 50 actual influencers on your issue – so focus there.
  • Still, measurement and testing (message/audience/tone/delivery/channel) never stops…as one speaker said, “Seventy-five percent of analytics should tell us what we already know, the other twenty-five should surprise us.”   Use that philosophy and be prepared for surprises, and learn from them.

New vs. Old Power

  • Understanding the “New Power Values” – Author Jeremy Heimens contrasts the “New Power Values” exemplified by the emergence of social media giants like Facebook, Google, Twitter, where a surging, and ungoverned wave  crashes over the “Old Power Values” employed by AOL Time Warner once it became part of a regulated media conglomerate, and was unable to respond nimbly despite its political and financial advantages.
  • In a more recent corporate context, think of two highly disruptive firms that have taken radically different approaches to public affairs.  In one case, a digital marketplace empowers its users to lobby on their behalf in local communities; whereas another disruptive innovator’s treatment of associates has bolstered competitors, raised regulatory scrutiny, and even fostered unionization efforts.

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