By: Roy Wells

Understanding the communication environment is crucial when your company aims to amplify your client’s voice to policy makers. Before, sending a press release and contacting reporters would put your story in the newspaper or on TV. Social media, constant news, fewer newsrooms, and the desire for clicks have changed things. And, in the event the media picks it up, your intended audience may not see it or trust the source that published it.  

According to the Pew Research Center, Americans are not following the news as closely as they did just a few short years ago. Between 2016 and 2022, the percentage of adults who said they followed the news all or most of the time fell from 51% to 38%.  

The percentage of Republicans who closely follow the news has decreased from 57% in 2016 to 37% in 2022. Similarly, Democrats have also seen a decline, going from 49% to 42% during the same period. Public affairs professionals need to adjust to the changing environment and enhance their skills in digital and traditional communication.  

Caucus leadership wielded legislative power twenty years ago. Quiet conversations with a few members could produce successful public policy outcomes. This is no longer the case, rank and file members are more vocal and yield more influence than ever before. In Pennsylvania, a 102-101 Democratic Majority coupled with a Republican-led House makes passing laws more difficult.  

Passing public policy through partisan legislatures is becoming harder and more complicated. This is because the saying “all politics is local” is true. Legislative reapportionment has made it even more difficult. 

Public affairs experts know that effective government relations and strategic public relations can determine the outcome of an issue. We don’t control the political environment, but our clients hire us to help them understand it.  

The Public Affairs Council conducted a survey on trusted sources for political information. The results showed that friends and family are the most trusted source, with 68% of respondents choosing them. 43% of people trust businesses, while 41% trust trade/professional associations and the news media. 

An excellent example is The Carter Center’s advocacy campaign in Arizona.  In an effort to restore trust in democracy, their work with the bipartisan grassroots campaign organization Arizona Democracy Resilience Network comprises “all parties and sectors of the community, from business leaders and faith groups to ordinary citizens.”  According to Don Henninger, a leader of the network, “we have discovered that your most trusted messengers are your neighbors and your coworkers, not so much the institutions that we have relied on in the past.” 

A good advocacy campaign knows how to reach and motivate regular people to make their concerns important to politicians. Government affairs professionals must maintain relationships with elected officials and their staff to be reliable sources of information. Trusted and reliable sources must originate the information shared under the dome and outside the dome.  

Public affairs professionals need to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. The ability to iterate and evolve will separate the successful from the unsuccessful. A company that values learning and welcomes new knowledge will benefit their clients by improving skills.