PRPOI’s Sonali Sokhal breaks down the nuances of Public Relations in regards to Advocacy and its importance in the digital age.
As Public Relations evolve across functions, it takes on even more meaning as an important part of any entity’s ability to create a narrative. Advocacy or the ability to influence decisions within political, economic and social institutions is perhaps one of the most powerful ways in which public relations today influences the world. We are, after all in the business of public perception and this perception needs to be influenced across many stakeholders for any entity to forge ahead. In today’s day and age, advocacy can help to win elections, change laws and policy, help brands connect with their audiences as well as make for compelling changes in consumer behaviour.
How does Advocacy work in India? How does a PR professional enhance their professional skill sets and portfolio to include it? Which are the best examples of advocacy in India and Internationally? These were just some of the interesting subjects touched upon by the PRPOI’s 30th Facebook Live session with Dr Samir Kapur of AdFactors PR and Bhaskar Majumdar, Head Corporate Affairs, Communication & Digital Media, Egis India held with the support of our partners: Media Samosa and One Source. Together they helped us demystify and understand how Advocacy works.
Advocacy is more than Media Relations: Till a few years ago, Advocacy in India was outreach to media to get them to write on an issue or subject that was important. However, with the passing of time and the advent of community and digital platforms, Advocacy has changed across the board. Now the outreach could be to industry bodies, policymakers, the general public, communities as well as investor bodies. In each case the way of communication changes and the narrative is important.
There is no set path to Advocacy, only specific agendas: While many brands, industry bodies and entities may need advocacy it is not necessary that your brand will. To identify whether your brand or entity needs Advocacy, see the issues it addresses, the problems it solves, or the concerns it raises for people. Every brand has a large and diverse set of stakeholders and any space where these stakeholders need reassurance is the space where Advocacy needs to play a major role. Unlike brand perception, therefore, Advocacy has to have very specific agendas to resolve the questions that it might raise in people’s minds. In this sense, you need to have an inherent understanding of that the business or entity actually needs.
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The tools for Advocacy are Immense, understand which one you need: Advocacy can work in many ways. It could be from the Automobile lobby trying to educate the general population on how stubble burning is one of the major causes of air pollution in Delhi-NCR; or as Bhaskar Majumdar explains about how telecom companies used this for reassuring the general public on how telecom towers are safe for installation in residential areas. In each case, the approach is different, but the means to the end is the same. It is an effort by different lobbies and companies to influence public opinion towards an area of concern.
In the case of the Automobile lobby, a study was carried out by a third party to endorse the fact that vehicular pollution was not the primary cause for the Delhi smog. In fact, the issue of stubble burning in Punjab has now been highlighted for the entire city. Similarly, the advocacy for the telecom towers was not done as a media outreach, but as outreach to individual RWA’s, which could help sensitise and educate people on their safety precautions. In each case, the end was the same but the manner of outreach was different.
Public Advocacy works very importantly in the Digital Age: In an age where a tweet might spell disaster, and snowball into a complete social media storm, advocacy plays a very important role to make a public statement or garner public support. Dr Kapur, cites the example of Burger King’s latest ad, which asked the people to go and eat at Mc Donald’s as large chain restaurants need public support to survive. The ad has already gone viral and is a great example of a brand using their social media as a tool to advocate for the beleaguered restaurant industry in the times of COVID-19 overall.
Brand, Issue or Corporate: What do you focus on as a PR professional? Would the brand be more important, or the issue it faces be more important, or would its relationship across various stakeholders be more important? In this case, Dr Kapur explains these as a Venn diagram where each effort co-exists together, with a small space overlapping between all three circles. In case, there is an issue in this common space, then the brand or entity needs to take a real hard look at themselves to understand the core issues.
How do you skill up? Watch more episodes of PRPOI; also on a serious note, read on your industry. Understand the statistics and the concerns faces by the company and the category. Invest in good research to back up your efforts, and get a sense of the general public sentiment. Advocacy is both art and science and needs to be treated with the utmost care for the best results.
You can watch the entire discussion here:
The above is by special arrangement via a collaboration with PRPOI.