By Seth Palmer
A well-organized public affairs plan is a powerful tool that all organizations need to drive focus to important issues that affect their key audiences. A plan will help an organization visualize their future victories while shining a light on potential pitfalls, thus allowing them to build processes that prevent a temptation to “take the bait,” or fall into traps that lie along the way to success.
Like with all plans, you must have an end goal in mind from the beginning. While organizational strategic plans might be looking toward growing the group’s membership or increasing fundraising receipts, a public affairs plan can outline a short-term or long-term action. The process is similar regardless of the timeline, but specific time constraints will demand attention if you have hard deadlines.
FIRST FIVE STEPS TO BUILDING A PUBLIC AFFAIRS PLAN
Step 1: Define the issue. If you don’t know anything about the issue you are working on, then it’s almost impossible to develop a plan.
Step 2: Determine your timeline. Even if your deadline for advocacy is open-ended, you need to have at least an idea of the potential time horizons so that you may structure your actions around them.
Step 3: Form processes, procedures, and tactics. What are you going to do to address the issue of focus? These might include member engagement (phone calls, visits, etc.), social media campaigns, lobbying, or media engagement. Once you’ve identified those courses of action, implement a strategy to make them happen according to your predetermined timeline.
Step 4: Visualize success. Does it mean getting a bill passed, stopping a bill, or just getting information out on an issue of importance to your organization? Examine options to achieve that success and share your plan with association members, so they can push initiatives further still.
Step 5: Identify pitfalls or challenges. Knowing potential opposition as a part of your planning process is a great way to alleviate much of the potential risk. That helps you refine your plan’s structure to provide you with the most significant opportunity for success.
There is no right or wrong way – though there are components of plans that can take you into “wrong” directions. The most important thing is that you grab the bull by the horns and start planning. And, always know that you can ask for help. Now, start planning!
Seth Palmer is the Director of Strategic Communications at NP Strategy, a strategic communications agency that helps clients connect with the right people, in the right way, to reach their goals. Seth has more than a decade of experience assisting government entities, trade associations, and nonprofits tell their story to audiences of all shapes and sizes.