Public Affairs in the Federal Government
March 27, 2020
Federal agencies are increasingly prioritizing public affairs to promote the accomplishment of their missions and strategic goals. By developing a brand and sharing their stories, Federal Agencies are now better able to reach potential hires, the public, the media, policymakers, and other relevant stakeholders. This interest is not only appealing, but also necessary in today’s world, as various actors become more interconnected. A strong public affairs program is crucial for federal agencies to achieve their mission.
What is Public Affairs?
Public affairs involves communicating and building relationships with the public, usually with a political focus. Public affairs professionals disseminate information to stakeholders with the goal of influencing public policy and building support for the organization’s agenda.
For example, an agency’s public affairs office will handle media inquiries, external speaking engagements, the release of public documents, and any interaction that occurs outside of the federal government. It is important for agencies to have public affairs specialists so that they can send the proper message and effectively communicate to their target audience.
Public affairs professionals are currently paying attention to three main trends in the field: Visual Storytelling, Data-Driven Decisions, and Social Media for Government Relations and Thought Leadership.
Visual Storytelling: Public affairs specialists can use pictures and videos to convey messages and present information in new ways. For example, the U.S. Department of State posts short “This Week at State” videos that combine news clips and images to educate the public on what the Department is doing in foreign policy. Each video conveys various highlights into a single overarching theme, ultimately simplifying information for the viewer.
Data-Driven Decisions: With widespread data available on social media platforms, public affairs specialists can better craft messages to their target audiences, ultimately making data-driven decisions. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) tapped into its Twitter audience insights to find areas for improvement. NASA discovered that in addition to enjoying photos of space and behind-the-scenes looks into missions, many followers were interested in knowing what space sounded like as well. In response, NASA incorporated space audio clips into its social media strategy, exemplifying how to use data and insights to engage its audience.
Social Media for Government Relations and Thought Leadership: Agencies can leverage social media as a tool to advance government relations and promote thought leadership. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uses social media to provide users with access to credible, science-based health information. The CDC uses its original research in order to share insights and generate quality content. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, the CDC compiled and distributed a fact sheet to help stop the spread of disinformation on social media, establishing itself as a credible source of information for the public.
In addition to staying up-to-date on these trends and other best practices, WBD believes that capturing an agency’s narrative and overarching story is vital to promoting mission buy-in from stakeholders. WBD consultants coordinate with federal public affairs specialists to implement our clients’ strategic communications plan and goals.
Our consultants have partnered with a wide-range of subject matter experts and senior government officials to develop a collection of project stories for public consumption. Notably, our specialists have worked with Agency Directors, Chief Information Officers, economists, policymakers, media, and related entities to craft unique stories that capture both technical successes and employee narratives.
Our specialists have also developed and maintained websites that feature key stories within agencies. We routinely brief these stories to public affairs offices, pitch to external media outlets, and re-purpose for multi-media marketing material. We have prepared DoD clients for congressional briefings and developed compelling visuals. By extending to vital external stakeholders, our team can help establish a client’s mission and brand in the public’s eye.
WBD has delivered comprehensive media training courses in conjunction with agencies’ public affairs offices. Our specialists also accompany senior leaders to several national conferences and speaking engagements to provide full event support.
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Washington Business Dynamics (WBD) is a veteran-owned management consulting firm specializing in acquisition, strategic advisory, and international development. We work with our clients as partners to achieve institutional change, enhance operational performance and build sustainable processes that deliver exceptional results. From our headquarters in Washington D.C. to cities around the world, our experienced team delivers strategic insights by understanding where our clients want to go, and the best way to get there. Our mission is simple: help our clients make better decisions.