The term “public affairs” is commonplace on the news and in government meetings, but what exactly is public affairs and what does it involve? Check out the infographic below to learn more about what public affairs is.
The term “public affairs” is commonplace on the news and in government meetings, but what exactly is public affairs and what does it involve? Not to be confused with public relations, public affairs is defined by the Public Affairs Council as an organization’s efforts to monitor and manage its business environment. It combines strategies for government relations, communications, issues management and corporate citizenship. Public affairs aims to influence public policy, build and maintain strong relationships with elected officials such as legislators, and engage with and monitor stakeholders. Those who specialize in public affairs act as lobbyists on behalf of their organizations, and they interact with groups who are interested in lobbying the government for legislation regarding particular issues.
How Does Public Affairs Work?
Public affairs tend to deal with noncorporate entities, such as government agencies, nonprofits, and trade associations. Some roles involved with public affairs include lobbyist, policy analyst, community affairs manager, and policy program coordinator. Advocacy plays a major part in public affairs. Government and public advocacy are key aspects to a successful public affairs strategy. Creating and maintaining relationships that will benefit your industry or cause is vital to influencing laws and actions.
Lobbyists, whose purpose is to take part in an organized attempt to influence legislators, are professional advocates for individuals and organizations. The advocacy a lobbyist takes part in can help shape laws and regulations and help introduce new legislation that will support the organization’s cause. They also fight back against any policies or legislation that would cause harm to their organization or industry.
The Difference Between Public Affairs and Public Relations
One common misconception is that public affairs is the same as public relations. While they have similarities, such as both involving interaction with the public, they are different in that public affairs involves matters that directly affect the public, such as legislation, whereas public relations build a connection between the public and a specific organization. Public affairs tend to focus on public policy while public relations deals more with commercial goals. This is the main difference between the two.
With public relations focusing mostly on marketing and improving a company’s image, the strategies are different from those found in a public affairs campaign. In public relations you may use some of the following strategies:
- Drafting Press Releases.
- Sending pitches to journalists.
- Reaching out to media contacts.
- Social media strategy
- Creating content.
- Launching PR campaigns.
- Writing speeches.
Public affairs services are used by companies to help align business interests and public policies. Some of the strategies used to achieve this are:
- Lobbying for and against legislation or regulations at the local, state, or federal level.
- Establishing contact and maintaining ongoing relationships with politicians, political advisors, and government regulators.
- Maintaining a strong relationship with company stakeholders.
- Monitor policy proceedings that pertain to an industry.
- Leveraging power of words to influence public policy.
- Coalition Building
- Data Analysis
- Grassroots Mobilization
- Surveys, Public Opinion Polling
Public affairs and public relations can both use the media to help their cause, so reaching out to journalists and media outlets to form relationships is a strategy found in both areas. Sometimes you may use some public relations strategies with public affairs, and vice versa.
Our Public Affairs Experience
During these tumultuous times of an ever changing political, legislative and regulatory landscape in which government is having a huge impact on industries and organizations, having a strong public affairs program is vital.
The Arc 3 Communications’ public affairs team is an effective advocate on behalf of business and a leader in shaping public policy issues. We offer experienced, talented, well-connected and spirited advocacy at the intersection of government, business, media, and the community.
We are “campaign people” who are driven by the understanding that there will be an “election day” and that we’ll have to deliver results.
Do you need help with your public affairs efforts and strategies? We would love to hear from you! Contact us here.
In today’s world, much of the interaction we do with each other is through digital means. From social media to email, blogs to newsletters, many of your association’s marketing efforts are most likely digital. Both communicating with and providing value for your members, while also bringing in new members is achieved through digital marketing efforts. Ensuring your association’s digital efforts are compliant with laws and regulations regarding privacy rights and data is vital to protecting your association’s reputation and also your members.
In recent years, privacy rights and data protection have become key issues in the United States and globally. In 2018, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) was passed that “gives consumers more control over the personal information that businesses collect about them.” In 2016, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) became law in Europe. Like the CCPA, this regulation aims to give consumers more control or personal information, but also addresses the transfer of personal information outside of the European Union and European Economic Areas (EEA).
Being informed of privacy laws and regulations and making sure your digital efforts are compliant will not only help avoid legal issues but will protect relationships and trust with your members. While there are many requirements within these regulations, we have featured below a couple of key areas to be aware of when it comes to making sure your digital marketing efforts are compliant.
Email marketing is a major part of what associations do to provide news and information while also recruiting new members. One thing to be aware of when it comes to email is that there are strict anti-spam laws in the United States that you must follow to avoid hefty fines and a damaged reputation. The U.S. CAN-SPAM act, according to the Federal Trade Commission, is a law that sets the rules for commercial email, establishes requirements for commercial messages, gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them, and spells out tough penalties for violations.
This law can easily be followed by only including people on your email lists who have opted into your email program. A few more factors to this law are that you are honest with your headers and subject lines, tell the recipients where you’re located, and if the email is an advertisement that you make that clear. As before mentioned, offering a clear and easy opt-out is also required and once that action is taken, emails must promptly cease.
Follow these rules, act in an ethical and respectful way, and your email program will reflect your association’s values.
Member Privacy and Data
A big issue in today’s society is that of privacy and data. Who has the right to your data and what do those who get access to your data do with that information? These questions have been at the forefront of everyone’s mind with the rise of social media platforms and Google. Whereas you as an association may not have access to that level of personal data; members do entrust you with sensitive information such as their names, addresses, emails, phone numbers, credit card information, and more. Protecting this data also protects your association’s reputation and will lead to trusting relationships and increased membership.
One way you can ensure member data is protected is to make sure you have a secure website. According to Hosting Tribunal, nearly 33 percent of websites have inadequate security. An easy way to tell if your website is secure is to look at your URL in the address bar, if your website is an HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) website as opposed to an HTTP website, your website is encrypted using Transport Layer Security (TLS). Other factors play into website security such as regular website maintenance, updating plug ins, and ensuring your hosting company has good security offerings.
You should never share, sell, or make public any sensitive member information. This will not only put you in hot water with your members, but also with the law. Overall, ensuring you have a secure website and that you treat member data responsibly, you will protect your reputation and your member’s well-being while building lasting relationships.
Compliance is Key
Compliance with privacy and data laws is vital to a successful digital marketing strategy and also to protecting your members privacy and your association’s credibility and reputation. While we have not discussed all compliance requirements, these are a couple of key areas to be aware of. Government websites are a reliable source for reading up on these laws, especially those applicable to your geographic location, and checking to make sure your association is fully compliant.
A social media policy is a code of conduct that provides guidelines for employees when it comes to posting content on the internet, whether personally or professionally. The goal of such a policy is to protect against legal issues or public backlash that may result from employees posting inappropriate or sensitive information. Social media policies for local governments not only protect the image of the community and its representatives and professional staff, but also encourage government employees to share credible news, events, and useful information about the city or county on their online networks.
Control of Your Local Government’s Official Accounts
One aspect of your local government’s social media policy should be to establish who controls the government or department’s official social media program. This decides who has permission to create and deactivate official social media accounts; who can create and implement the social media strategy; and who can develop and enforce the social media policy.
There are two types of control you may decide to set up for your local government’s social media programs, centralized and decentralized. Having centralized control means you determine a single authority to have control over the creation of all accounts and require review by that authority of all posts or comments on the government’s behalf. This type of control can greatly reduce the risk of something being posted or shared that may be a liability. By having this form of control, a single authority can be held accountable for all social media activity. This single authority often times consists of a city of county’s communications team.
The other type of control is decentralized. This simply allows multiple department entities to have access to sharing and posting. For example, if the parks department wants to tweet about an upcoming event and the local police want to tweet alerts and updates, each will be granted permission to do so and trusted to abide by the social media policy. You can also have a combination of both where different departments may have access but posts still must be approved by a central authority.
A centralized approach tends to work best for small governments who may use their social less frequently and may only have a single Facebook page. Decentralized tends to make things easier for larger governments that have multiple departments and as a result, multiple social media pages across platforms.
Your Local Brand, Public Record, and Sensitive Information
Like with your personal social media accounts, your local government’s social media accounts reflect on your city or county, so it is vital to make sure anything that is shared or posted represents your local communities’ values. It is always important to think before you post, if you have to question it, it probably isn’t appropriate to share. According to the National League of Cities, some actions that are important to avoid are disinformation that may mislead and cause harm to the public, sharing private or confidential information, harassment and defamation, and violation of intellectual property rights.
It is important to set clear guidelines and rules for citizens, public employees, and elected officials who are utilizing your local government’s social media, whether on the content production end or as the consuming audience. Be sure to be specific and detailed regarding what sort of content can be posted and what kind of policies are in place when it comes to making and deleting comments. According to American City and County, local governments can run into legal trouble when an action taken on a social media page is seen as infringing on a citizen’s First Amendment rights, like deleting a comment.
Some recent court cases have decided that city, county, and even elected official social media pages are considered limited public forums of speech, and that citizens have the right to free speech when posting on them. Therefore, having clear and concise rules in the form of a legal social media policy can help protect your local government from any legal issues.
Protecting sensitive information is also vital when running your local government’s social media pages. With COVID-19, many citizens were getting all of their news and updates from digital channels including social media pages. This is exactly what these pages should be utilized for, but those with access and permission to post on behalf of the local entity must also be careful not to share any information that may be confidential or sensitive information.
This also applies to government employee’s personal social media accounts. Rules need to be in place regarding what employees can and can’t share, regarding government information, on their personal social media accounts. Also, as employees, their social media accounts reflect on the city or county as well, so nothing should be shared or posted that casts a negative light on the community. Rules regarding this can also be included in the social media policy.
Social Media Policies Protect Local Governments
Recently, the Cobb County School System in Georgia created and passed a new social media policy for their school district. According to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, this policy sets rules for Cobb County School District employees and prohibits them from making posts that harm or discredit the system or reputation of the school district. Violation of rules and guidelines outlined in the social media policy carries consequences that range from a written warning to the termination of employment. This helps ensure that posts made by employees of the Cobb County School District positively represent the schools within the district as well as the school system as a whole.
Social media policies protect local governments from liability that may come with issues that can arise from inappropriate social media posts. These policies help make sure that professional and personal social media accounts reflect positively on the government entities that the accounts and people represent. Having a policy ensures that your local government’s brand, credibility, and image are protected and allows things to run smoothly.
If you need help drafting or implementing a social media policy for your local government, contact us here.
In the recent U.S. Elections, Facebook decided to pull the plug on political advertising. During this moratorium, an issue arose when it came to what constitutes as political advertising and what is in fact simply news. News story posts that mentioned politics or issues were being blocked and placed in the same category as paid political advertising when, in fact, they weren’t. This raised the question “Is Facebook a media outlet that can decide what it wants to support and censor or are they the free platform they claim to be?”
Facebook has been called out in the past for archiving promoted news stories that cover politics or issues as political advertising. This brought push back from many journalism and news associations. It also raised the question of how much regulation can Facebook enforce on policy issues and associations it may disagree with. For example, if Facebook supports the Go Green initiative, could it eventually censor ads from associations that may represent things it deems harmful to the environment? This then causes one to ask, should associations put all their advertising assets into Facebook?
While Facebook ads can be a good way to spend association ad dollars, it is good to know your options in case policies change or they decide to censor issues important to your association. Google Ads are a viable option for reaching members and policy allies and allows you to tailor your ads to display to a specific audience or audiences. Some are shifting away from Facebook due to privacy and effectiveness issues. A recent survey by Inc. reported that 32 percent of CEO and senior-level executives surveyed said they are now getting less for their marketing dollars with Facebook than they used to, while 27 percent said they mistrust Facebook’s use of their business data.
With increasing advertising costs, noise, and fear of censorship from Facebook, it could be worth looking into alternate ways to spend your association’s marketing dollars. Putting resources into search engine optimization efforts and content marketing can be very effective means to attracting new members, and as before stated, Google Ads is another option for advertising. This isn’t to say you should completely cut Facebook advertising out of your marketing strategy if it works for your association; but it is always wise not to put all your advertising eggs in one basket.
Need help diversifying your digital strategy for your association? Contact us here.
The North Carolina Aggregates Association (NCAA) is the leading advocate for the aggregate industry in the state of North Carolina. It is a non-profit, member-driven association that has both producer and associate members. The mission of the NCAA is “promoting the environmentally sound, responsible and economically viable extraction of crushed stone, sand and gravel for use in all types of construction for public benefit and for positive statewide economic development.” North Carolina is one of the largest crushed stone producers in the United States.
The NCAA is a non-profit trade association incorporated in 1964. During the past 60 years, consumption of aggregates per capita has increased from 3.5 metric tons per year to over 10 tons annually. Companies engaged in the production and/or sale of crushed stone, sand and gravel in North Carolina make up the association. Environmental programs in legislation; marketing and public relations; technical specifications, safety and health, air, and water quality; mining and reclamation; transportation and research are all services offered to member companies, specifiers, and users of aggregate products.
With the aggregate industry experiencing renewed optimism, the NCAA wanted to reflect this by updating their communications with a redesigned website. They wanted the new site to be mobile friendly and present content to their members in a way that made information easy to find while being aesthetically pleasing as well. Arc 3 Communications worked hand in hand with NCAA to create a website that represented their brand and gave them a strong new visual identity. Many features such as a slider of member logos, an interactive calendar of events, easy to navigate menu, and membership sign-up were incorporated to create a successful and informative user experience.
The North Carolina Aggregates Association’s new website resulted in substantial growth in unique visitors and page views to the site. NCAA’s website has provided a new strong visual brand identity for the association that stands out and represents them well. Most importantly, NCAA’s new website has resulted in an increase in member engagement, greater awareness about the aggregate industry among key partners, state legislators, and civic leaders; and more associate membership leads.
In this day and age of unlimited information at our fingertips, readers need to take time and do a little research to verify the news they are reading and sharing with others is, in fact, real news from a credible source. Below are a few steps you can take to make sure the information you are receiving and sending is reliable and true.
Local government is very important to associations when it comes to the municipalities in which their industry members have a presence. Legislation that affects economic development, employment, operations, taxes, and more are decided at the local level. There is often important legislation that impacts how an industry can operate within a municipality in which it is located, and these can either benefit or hinder the marketplace for their industry and their members’ success.
When it comes to advocacy and policy issues, many think the most important action takes place at the state and federal levels. This is not always the case; some of the most important and influential work happens at the local level; in fact, many are saying in the age of COVID 19 that local is becoming the new state. The municipal and county level is often the starting point for policy ideas and from there they then expand to the state and federal levels. To be successful, your advocacy efforts must be comprehensive, and include strategies for the local level as well as for the state and federal levels.
Associations have started to shift advocacy resources and efforts to the local level to keep track of the issues important to them and their members. Whether it is a local ordinance that supports an association’s goals or threatens them, it is important to have strategies in place to either fight or support local legislation.
Writing letters, calling, and scheduling meetings with your local elected officials are a few grassroots level things you can do to advocate. Even in the age of COVID-19, you can still make a big impact by setting up Zoom meetings with a Mayor or City Councilman to discuss matters that are important to your association.
Grassroots efforts are very important for any association. Making sure you stay in the loop regarding local ordinances and issues that may affect your members is vital to keeping members happy and making sure your industry is successful in the municipalities it operates in. State and federal level advocacy garners headlines and attention, but the local level is closest to the people and where the most impact can occur. With many issues beginning at the local level, it is imperative to have a strong comprehensive strategy and action plan.
For help with your association’s advocacy efforts, contact us at https://arc3communications.com/contact-us/.