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Public Affairs Insights from the Centre

27 Sep 2016

Social media in government relations

Daniel Arias

The next big things in social media in government relations were identified by the Centre for Corporate Public Affairs in a recent webinar.

Considering the reach of social media into modern public discourse, and how public issues are framed and develop through the issues cycle, the Centre has found there is considerable opportunity for the government relations discipline to engage with and harness social media dialogue to deliver strategy.

Most corporations are wedded to a strategy of being part of conversations about them and issues affecting them, yet to date, the focus has been on public affairs disciplines other than government relations.

More stakeholders are drawing their opinions, views and involvement in campaigns from the social media ‘bubbles’ in which they live parts of their day.

The US, Canada, and Europe are at the fore of social media strategy and tactics in government relations. In these markets, companies such as Walmart, Dupont and GE are using social media channels to:

• Raise awareness and pursue engagement — on policy issues, in a timely way.
• Monitor stakeholder positions, dialogue, tactics, and intentions.
• Tell the organisation’s story — using customers, suppliers, and increasingly, employees.
• Identify and understand instant feedback — issues, lines of argument, data, reports, tactics.
• Inform and encourage employees to advocate — and growing in the US — ‘grassroots advocacy’.
• Signal to elected officials, policy makers and influencers, the organisation’s capability and capacity for influence online.

The most effective social media content is anchored in an evidence base, and provides visual impact. Infographics, video and photographs are valuable tools when seeking to maximise impact.

The Centre predicts opportunities exist for the government relations discipline to harness social media strategy and execution in the following ways:
• Consider social media as a potentially viable element of overall public policy, political, and regulatory advocacy, and not an exotic and ‘fluffy’ bolt-on.
• Consider social media execution not as a replacement for traditional government relations execution, but as supplementing it.
• Consider social media execution to find and coalesce advocates.
• Consider social media to amplify to wider stakeholder audiences, and influence outcomes.

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