Half the battle when undertaking a public affairs campaign is ensuring that it is memorable. Without thinking about how best you can do that, your campaign will fail to deliver the influence you are seeking.
We must appreciate that, at any one time, there is a lot of public affairs taking place. Much of which is focused on the same key stakeholders. So, we operate in a highly competitive marketplace. That makes the need for your campaign to be memorable even more important. If it, and its messages, do not stay in the minds of the stakeholder then very little will happen.
On reading Meik Wiking’s latest book, Happy Moments, which isn’t really about public affairs at all (!), it struck me that making sure a meeting, event, or campaign sticks in the mind of the stakeholder is something we all need to give more active consideration to.
His book contains some thoughts which can really be applied to our work:
‘We remember when we pay attention – and we pay attention when we are present, engaged, committed, when what we see and process is meaningful to us.’
‘There is no doubt that some of our most meaningful and memorable moments are when we connect with other people.’
So rather than ‘just’ having a meeting or holding an event, how can we ensure that it is a meeting or event that stays with them for a period of time?
Obviously exactly how to make your campaign memorable will vary with the issue itself. It requires not just an understanding of what makes for good public affairs but also a dash of creativity as well. A political stunt, march, or something to grab attention could be useful.
However, we should all be thinking about:
- Tailoring the approach not just for meetings but for events as well. Are there key people the event is really designed to influence? Does it reflect their requirements, for instance politically?
- Thinking about the content from their perspective, not yours. What will make most impact on them?
- Choosing speakers that will resonate with those you are seeking to influence.
- Is the venue likely to help your event be remembered?
- Could the power of association help your campaign to be remembered? That could even include the food on offer.
- Thinking about how to manage your events. Well managed meetings, for instance, do not meander off into irrelevance. If the meeting is short and sweet, then fine. A politician, especially, is more likely to remember that you didn’t waste their time and instead gave them some time back. That will leave a positive memory.
- Do any accompanying materials help reinforce the memory or is it ‘just another leaflet’?
- Could something like music or hearing different voices help a session to stand out?
- Are we facilitating discussions and connections that may not otherwise happen?
But also remember that bad memories could just as easily work against you – speakers that go on too long, lack of food or drink, no air conditioning on a hot day. Your session will be remembered but for all the wrong reasons.
It is important to challenge ourselves and to think about whether our campaign will really remain with the target stakeholder or merely fade into the dark of a previous diary entry?
Stuart Thomson is Director of Public Affairs at BDB Pitmans LLP
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