When you Google “public relations vs. public affairs”, the definitions and distinctions go on for pages and pages. Opinions and definitions are all over the map and there is little consensus. Both play an important role in swaying and engaging the masses, but each has its own notable space: public affairs is, for the most part, promotion related to policy – everything from garnering support or opposition to legislation or a ballot measure, coalition building, issue development, or media education on specific policies. Public relations appears to be much more “product oriented” – selling the goods or services to the customer. So, a major restaurant or retail company might hire a a PR firm to help promote its new menu item, and in turn hire a public affairs firm when a mayor wants to ban that food or beverage item from their city to fight obesity.
The real question today is, “How are both public affairs and public relations changing in the “digital age”? There will always be an invaluable and appreciated role that journalists play in gathering the information, converting it into a compelling story and presenting it to the viewing public. It’s up to these PR and PA firms to find the right topics, people and messages to effect a compelling piece.
But coming to light more and more is an additional critical path – digital marketing – sending unfiltered messages and “actionables” directly to the audience intended to view it. Make no mistake: newspapers, talk radio, TV and responsible journalists that do the due diligence for these outlets have done much to make our country what it is. Where would be be if Woodward and Bernstein had not exposed Watergate? But as the traditional media companies have either downsized or shuttered – what I believe may be a combination of growing technology and a persistent challenging business climate – many consumers are turning directly to the sources relevant to them or capable and respected “hunter-gatherer” websites that allow us as shoppers to pick and choose. Fox and Hounds, Rough and Tumble and Flash Report are all great examples of outlets that let our fingers do the walking and select the stories we want from the hard-working journalists that develop this copy, and then share it with others via Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
At Kabateck Strategies, we employ a variety of social media, search engine marketing, search engine optimization, email and advertising tools to deliver custom-targeted messages to custom-targeted audiences. We know who is viewing our messages and for how long, and have the capability to gauge their views and needs.
Let’s say you want California environmentalists to know of a new development at your company that will improve water quality. First, we would craft an email to be sent to Facebook users that identify as environmentalists. We’d develop search engine ads targeted to Californians looking for information about water, and we’d monitor sentiment on the Internet to see who is writing or blogging about water and send our message to them directly.
In the Digital Age, it still makes sense to communicate with journalists and the traditional media outlets, but you and your organization should also consider using the full suite of digital techniques to make sure your unfiltered message gets directly and purely to the people you want to reach. At KabStrat, we’re happy to escort you down that Information Fast Lane.