The advent of social media has forever transformed the way that countries, corporations, associations and coalitions manage their most important goals, from establishing a favorable public policy agenda, to impacting a piece of legislation, to fostering a favorable image. By giving key stakeholders an equal voice, social media has created a new set of challenges. At the same time, it has provided a powerful way to drive persuasion quickly, virally and decisively. Governments, corporations, associations and coalitions that effectively harness the power of social media are winning hearts and minds. Those that aren’t are watching the world define them in an unfavorable light. Lack of proper engagement has a high cost.
While social media is powerful, it must be part of a larger strategic framework that includes print and broadcast media and traditional & paid methods of stakeholder persuasion. At Racepoint Global, we have developed a unique model that leverages the power of the line/“on-land” approach which has helped governments, NGOs, trade associations, coalitions and corporations to manage issues as diverse as election campaigns, influencing specific provisions in pieces of legislation and driving awareness of investment opportunities in developing nations.
Our process is simple—we define the spheres of influence relevant to our clients and their goals. We then create direct conversations with and amongst these influencers on behalf of our clients. At Racepoint, we do this through FieldFacts, the agency’s proprietary technology and intelligence tool which allows us to identify influencers in a category and how best to connect with them. In some instances, the influencer is a traditional media property. In others, it is an individual who has leveraged his or her brand, along with the power of social media, to be an influencer in his or her owns right. Always central to our campaigns is ensuring our clients are having directed conversations and influencing the positions articulated by these opinion leaders.
The following are key program components:
Strategic Planning and Stakeholder Mapping
At the foundation of every program is a strategic discussion around business and communication goals, alignment of issues and deep research and analysis of key stakeholders. At the outset of every engagement, we analyze media and stakeholder conversations to determine who is influencing a dialogue around specific issues, which audiences they are reaching and on which platforms. With this data we are able to narrow the playing field and create targeted spheres of influence, whether they are legislators, governing bodies, civilians, media or all of the above. This strategy of “narrow and encircle” enables us to establish valuable dialogues with influencers and subsequently target audiences, capture the attention of key decision makers, and drive more effective persuasion.
One element of the strategy we’ve found to be particularly successful in shifting public perception, driving awareness and supporting our clients’ key communications objective is community building. Today’s digital landscape enables us to create destinations—often a simple web page—where our clients can moderate, manage and influence the discussion. Content might include video or audio information from the client and its supporters on a particular issue, photos, links to select news stories, surveys and more. Oftentimes, we use tools like Twitter to initially engage prospective community members that have expressed interest in relevant topics or issues and establish ourselves in these conversations in the Twitter community. Often, we enter this conversation via paid media and promote tweets to the right people by using keywords or hashtags appropriate to the conversation and target followers of handles that are influential on the topic. Once there, they are introduced to our client’s world, news and views. We have created dozens of issue-based communities (e.g., US environmental policy, Rwandan tourism, etc.).
Reinforcement and Activation
With the formation of a community, a client has an enormously powerful asset—a highly motivated, web savvy group that it can educate, converse with, influence and activate. One of the chief methods for doing this is by providing them with content on the site that aligns with our clients’ goals. But we also leverage content created by community members to fuel offline media activities. For example, we might conduct a survey on key attitudes and merchandise it to the press corps as a means of garnering coverage in influential media outlets. Articles are often published with links back to the sites so we create a virtuous circle where each article brings new site members who then become content providers for the next media blitz.
Strategic Media Relations
Strategic and fully holistic media relations is central to the success of the model. We leverage print, broadcast, online and social media coverage and conversations to attract members to our communities, as well as to build awareness and consideration of our clients’ goals. This can range from a front page story in The New York Times or a piece on the BBC, to short burst conversations in the comment section of The Huffington Post or MEED. In every instance the goal is to leverage the coverage not only for coverage’s sake, but to build interest, participation in and dialogue around our client’s causes.
Direct Stakeholder Influence
Often our clients’ most important goal is influencing a key piece of legislation in the US Congress or Senate. Our campaigns utilize FieldFacts to reach decision makers and opinion leaders shaping public policy and our powerful technology uncovers allies, opposition and surrogates and focuses on the content behavior driving the debate. This data supports engagement and activation strategies to put campaign messages at the right place and time to persuade, argue and prevail.
Where Our Model Applies
This model can support the most basic public relations and image management objectives to the most complex public affairs and government relations goals. It is flexible, adaptable and effective. Governments, NGOs, corporations, coalitions and trade associations have reaped the benefit of our 21st century model of influence and persuasion, and the trend will only continue to rise as social media grows more pervasive by the day.