Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR
Public affairs is crucial to inform the general public directly on all kinds of issues, including laws, policies, public health, local ordinances and public administration. The core purpose of a public affairs campaign is to effectively disseminate information, build public consensus and prevent disinformation from gathering pace on social media platforms. At the same time, public affairs can work in the other direction and aim to influence public policy, build strong reputations for key players in a public issue, and find common ground with all stakeholders. That messaging tends to be less commercial and instead focuses on drawing attention to long-term issues.
This doesn’t mean, however, that the world of public affairs is a stagnant one compared to her sister industry, public relations. In fact, between a U.S. election, escalating political tensions in Europe and the ongoing coronavirus, 2020 is set to be a pivotal year for public affairs.
Here are three public affairs trends to look out for in 2020:
1) Keeping It Local
When it comes to guiding public opinion and influencing public policy, local news will reign supreme in 2020. From local television and radio stations, to local influencers online, public affairs communicators will be looking at a smaller scale in order to have the biggest large-scale impact.
Often, public affairs communicators are pushing out a campaign against competing interests. In an election, for example, advertising spending from several candidates typically competes for the same bandwidth. In traditional media, this is a zero sum game: more political advertising for one candidate means less for another, and even less for communicators on a separate campaign altogether.
As a result, public affairs professionals must focus on securing the best impact for money, while ensuring they are truly hitting home with target audiences. Curating, launching and managing campaigns on a local level, then, will prove a public affairs priority in 2020.
2) Taking on Fake News
The fake news phenomenon is only young, but it has already had a devastating impact on a range of public affairs deliverables. The ease with which an inaccurate, or even deliberately misleading, comment, infographic or video can be shared across social media has a greater impact than harmless pranks. When it comes to public health, the effects can be deadly.
Amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, public affairs professionals have their work cut out for them like never before. Fake news and conspiracies surrounding the virus are prolific: coronavirus is a lab-made bioweapon, the streets of Wuhan are littered with dead bodies, domestic animals are carriers to be feared. That is what the people creating this disinformation want the public to believe.
As such, governments are launching their own anti-fake news campaigns to tackle disinformation. Concerted and coordinated efforts from authorities and social media firms alike will evolve and streamline throughout the year.
3) Public affairs influencers
Influencer marketing has long been a fixture of the digital PR industry, but now they are moving into more political waters. The #FridaysForFuture movement is a rapidly evolving machine with young leaders taking charge of the climate change debate. For the best grasp of what public affairs means in 2020, watch this space.