Today’s political and policy landscape has become increasingly unpredictable and public affairs professionals are finding innovative ways to help their clients achieve success in Washington.
Alerts from POLITICO and the Washington Post require us to pivot and respond to the newest Congressional agenda or statement made by top officials that could have reverberating effects. Organizations and companies have harnessed the power of public and shared data to develop highly sophisticated tools that help the public affairs industry to adapt. Depending on your team’s budget and capacity, there may be a few tools that can help elevate your strategy, engage key stakeholders in Washington and achieve client goals. Below are a few ideas to try that can immediately improve and streamline your communications strategy:
For tuning into Congress…
For professionals in the public affairs industry, influencing policy means staying tuned into the goings-on of Congress. The modern-day soap opera that is Congress, requires professionals to remain vigilant and flexible. Members of Congress introduce bills, make declarations, create caucuses and announce hearings on a near daily basis, so it’s important to track their behavior as it may impact your clients’ goals.
Leadership directories: Some strategies require targeting specific members of Congress and their staff, so Leadership Directories are helpful in acquiring information for key staff members. The Directories often include email addresses, location of offices, and other valuable information.
Congress.gov: This website, operated by the Library of Congress, is a living archive of past and current legislation introduced in the Senate and House. Professionals within and outside of the Capitol use it to track the status of bills including Committee markups, sponsors and co-sponsors, votes, and more.
Legislative Calendars: Congressional activities are often dependent upon the legislative calendars for both the Senate and the House. These calendars can be easily found with a quick Google search, or you can go straight to the source on House.gov and Senate.gov.
For staying on top of the news…
Newsletters: In recent years, curated news content and services have grown in number and influence. Brands and companies are paying unprecedented sums of money to advertise in morning newsletters because thousands of people sign up to stay current on the news. Sites like POLITICO and Axios have created several verticals that focus on key industries like tech and health so that thought leaders and professionals can make informed decisions each day. Other top newsletters include The Skimm, Morning Consult, The New York Times, and The Atlantic, but an increasing number of outlets also offer this option for their readers.
Media alerts: Alerts are an also excellent way to gain real-time updates on the goings-on of Congress. News organizations that are entrenched in Washington politics and closely track that activities of D.C. influencers issue alerts on any number of issues each hour of the day. Sites like POLITICO, which caters to Washington decision makers, as well as the Washington Post, send out alerts on Congress, the White House, and other governing bodies.
In addition, curating media alerts is key for any public relations professional looking for their next big media hit. It is hard to predict what stories even your most solid media contacts are working on next, and while it is important to touch base with members of the press organically, having their queries delivered to your inbox opens up a world of opportunity. Be sure to register for tools like ProfNet and HARO, a compilation of queries from reporters and writers who are seeking sources for upcoming stories. It is also important to remember that these requests are often very timely, so if something aligns with your client strategy, react quickly. Media alerts are also important for keeping track of stories that you secured on behalf of the client.
For your next big writing project…
AP Stylebook: As many public relations and public affairs professionals know, the AP Stylebook is the Holy Grail for proper writing. Political news moves very quickly and reporters are often juggling several deadlines at the same time. By properly adhering to the AP Style Guide, you can make it easier for them to include your client in stories. It is up to us to stay informed on how the media writes stories and to ensure that our writing is clear. Since the Stylebook is updated frequently, always be sure that yours in the most recent copy.
For elevating your client’s online presence…
Social Media Content Tools: Influencing Washington no longer means solely issuing a strongly worded statement or press release. Social media and a digital presence is an integral part of client success in today’s political landscape. Most organizations and companies have curated profiles on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Every member of Congress and most caucuses have a presence on Twitter and Facebook. As public relations and public affairs professionals, we are expected to provide guidance on how clients can keep their audiences engaged and one way is through interesting and shareable content. While it may not be feasible to learn Photoshop, there are a few content tools that anyone can utilize:
- Canva- this website is a free online tool where you can make unique designs and graphics using dozens of available templates, insert and size photos, and easily download your creation.
- Pic Monkey- this intuitive photo editing site, allows you to easily upload your image, adjust the size, the color scheme, add text, and more.
- Creative Commons- Although it is best to use your own original photography, if you need an image for a Tweet or Instagram post, and would like to add your own touch, websites like Flickr give you access to millions of images in the public domain.
- Flipagram- Sometimes a single, one-dimensional image just won’t cut it! Shareable content is both interesting and dynamic. Online tools like Flipagram and Giphy allow you to cut and edit images and video clips to catch the attention of your audience, and hopefully get them to share it within their networks.