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Public Affairs Insights from the Centre

10 Dec 2010

Social media impact public affairs

George Onisiforou

The Centre recently hosted its annual Heads of Function and Senior Practitioner Roundtable in Sydney. Doug Pinkham, president of the US Public Affairs Council, addressed participants during an insightful dinner speech and a presentation at the following day’s proceedings.

Mr Pinkham identified trends that have most strongly impacted public affairs in the US - the first being the rise of social media. He provided a guide for businesses for utilising different social media outlets, as well as discussing best practice cases.

He identified also the trend of highly integrated consumer campaigns as having an influence on public affairs practice. These campaigns tend to be focussed on narrow issues, and are most effective when they consist of grass roots efforts that mobilise considerable public support. Such campaigns exist also in the form of anti-brand campaigns, generally campaigning for environmental or social justice issues.

Lessons for business include the need to understand the impact of external events on organisations and the importance of cultivating a community of allies, and understanding the role of reputation and finding ways to engage affectively with the public. Mr Pinkham highlighted that practitioners should understand how to use social media to recover from reputation damage caused by consumer campaigns, as well as to monitor any grass roots movement that may potentially affect their company’s operations.

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