“Getting Government’s Attention: The Strategies and Tactics that Caught My Interest – for Good Reasons and Bad.”

 

Last month, the MacPhie team and a number of public affairs leaders came together to hear from Stephen Lecce at the Royal Canadian Military Institute.

 

Stephen is an expert in public affairs and recently served as Director of Media Relations and Spokesperson to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Stephen is known for his excellence in understanding public opinion, managing crisis communications, and adapting in an evolving media landscape.

 

Following an insightful presentation by Stephen on ‘getting government’s attention,’ attendees engaged in a discussion regarding best practices and common challenges in the industry.

 

Here’s the three most important takeaways from the evening’s discussion:

 

Take the Crisis out of Crisis Communications

 

The old idiom “failing to plan is planning to fail”, is as true now as it ever was. This theory is especially critical in crisis and issues management. By having a plan in place for if – and when – the worst happens, your organization will be in a better position to respond to crisis. For example, create pre-written materials that tell the public about the actions your organization will be taking and designate a sympathetic, media-trained, spokesperson ahead of time. When crisis hits, this can make a world of difference. These practices will help you manage the narrative – and more importantly – turn panic about a crisis into a focus on solutions.

 

Powerful Images Keep the Front Page Relevant

 

Does the front page really matter any more? The answer is yes and no. There is no hiding the fact that newspapers are on the decline in terms of readership, but print media can seize the limelight when a front page story is accompanied by a gripping image.

 

With a single glance, a powerful image can cultivate feelings, memories, and beliefs. A powerful image has the ability to transform an easily dismissed article into a hot topic, to rally supporters or create opponents, and to turn a little-known brand into a household name – for better or worse. In other words, images can be both an effective tool and a lethal weapon. Acknowledging this truth and using it to your advantage is critical to the successful management of a narrative and the creation of a lasting impression.

 

 

Clever Authenticity is a Compelling Tactic

 

#autismdoesntendat5 is an example of clever authenticity. The campaign was launched in reaction to the announcement that as of May 1st the Ontario Autism Program will no longer provide intensive behavioural intervention to children over five. This hash tag both spread awareness and cultivated a collective feeling of heartbreak for the families affected by this change. The campaign spread effortlessly by word of mouth, headlines, and social media, its message resonating with recipients and cultivating supporters. After all, autism doesn’t end at five.

 

Creating and maintaining an authentic and deliberate communications strategy in an environment of constant and shifting information flow can be overwhelming and these three lessons provide a good starting point for every public affairs professional who’s looking to make an impact.

 

Our thanks again goes out to Stephen and all attendees who joined us and we are already looking forward to the next event.