One of the most common reasons industry associations and businesses give for not hiring a public affairs firm is that they already have sufficient internal capacity to deal with public or government relations issues. Most organizations have some internal capacity to take on some aspects of public or government relations work. Some even have communications departments or personnel whose job it is to manage conflict, promote the organization’s mandate, and to create and deliver important messaging both within the organization as well as to the broader public.
There are a number of cases in which it is not in an organizations best interest to use its internal capacity to handle challenges and opportunities. The best way to know that it is time to invest in external communications expertise is if you find your efforts are not meeting their stated objectives early on in a process, or if internal resources are being strained managing a pubic affairs issue. An experienced public relations firm can help you avoid some of the roadblocks that may be keeping you from reaching your communications goals, and that are potentially harming a organization’s ability to meet its mandate while addressing a public affairs challenge.
Below are some of the key challenges to internal management of public affairs issues.
Part of every organizational culture is a set of terms, phrases, and reference points that carry with them specific and functional meaning to the individuals who operate within that culture. Each industry has its own unique “language” so to speak. This language serves an important purpose for industry members, who must maintain a highly specified set of functions, and communicate effectively with others who perform similar functions. The problem with industry jargon is that outside the organization, the language is ineffective, uninteresting and difficult to understand by those who have not been part of the culture. Internal public affairs personnel are not immune to industry jargon, which makes it difficult for them to create the best kinds of external communications strategies.
It can be difficult to understand why members of the public are not sympathetic to an industry’s issues, or even worse, why nobody is even paying attention. Handling matters of public opinion or interest with internal staff is often frustrating and ineffective because it is impossible for them to have an honest outsider’s perspective. The issues and concerns that are interesting and important to members of an industry may seem dull or even contrary to those reading the newspaper or listening to the radio. In order to gain public support and sway the media to your side, you may want to hire someone who can help you make your issues relatable to your audience. An outsider’s perspective from a public affairs firm that monitors the broader political and media environment can help you avoid tunnel vision and deliver more powerful messages.
Lack of specialized knowledge
Public affairs and communications firms are in increasing demand because they have industry experience and specialized knowledge that can make it easier and faster for industry associations and businesses to predict, manage, and resolve crisis. Public affairs firms build strong relationships within governments and influential media outlets that can tremendously increase an organization’s likeliness to be heard and listened to. Public affairs firms also follow media trends, monitor outside lobbying efforts that impact your industry, and are familiar with government and legislative procedure that can be confusing and complicated to those without specialized knowledge.
Among the top reasons an industry association chooses to handle pubic affairs issues internally is due to annual budgeting that may not have contemplated the need for external support. While this is understandable, it can also backfire. It is unlikely that one full time staff person possesses all the skills required to run impactful public relations or government relations campaigns, and organizations often find themselves scrambling to pull different skill sets and job requirements together to achieve their goal. This can result in organizational chaos and yield expensive, ineffective, fragmented campaigns.
At Broadview Strategy Group, we take on public relations issues by implementing a three-pronged approach involving community mobilization, public relations, and government relations that has proven successful time and again. If your public affairs issues cannot easily be dealt with, it is probably time to consider hiring a firm.