304: How do you work with others?
We may think that public affairs should be recognised for the key role it plays in any organisation but not everyone appreciates that. We should be prepared to step back, explain ourselves and think about how we can work effectively with others. That’s when public affairs can really deliver.
We know and appreciate that we often have to explain to senior leaders the value we deliver. That not only protects jobs but also allows us to secure funding.
Public affairs should really be part of a ‘diverse and sustainable ecosystem’ helping to build the organisation. Whilst making our own standalone contribution, being part of an eco-system means recognising that we deliver more by working with others. Drawing on their abilities, skills and seeing their contribution to our work.
Very much a fundamental part of this approach has to be to learning more about your wider organisation from the outset. This can often start with undertaking an audit of who has what contacts, so you have a good understanding of where contacts exist amongst colleagues. That provides a useful baseline for engagement and might help identify some internal champions.
But is also important to consider the roles that others play in delivering your public affairs strategy.
Just take a social media team for example. That team may have no real idea that they play an increasingly important role in public affairs and influencing public policy outcomes. But they do. It’s not just about tweeting key messages. It is everything from tagging key players through to keeping a firm grip of the reputation of the organisation as well. How many reputations have floundered recently because of social media missteps? That team may have no direct link with you either so working together may be down to large amounts of goodwill.
But as our public affairs audiences spend more time on channels such as LinkedIn, how are you communicating using them?
To get the most out of our relationship with colleagues, we should think about explaining how:
- our campaign can work around their other commitments, appreciating that they too have their own pressures and targets;
- their role works for your campaign, don’t make assumptions about their knowledge of public affairs;
- your work, and their contribution, plays into the targets of the organisation;
- you will recognise their contribution when feeding back on the success of a campaign;
- there are benefits of working together, preferably with the use of a few examples;
- you can learn from them; you are not telling them what to do. The chances are also pretty strong that their skills in the area are more advanced than yours; and
- we do not want to be prescriptive – if there is one way to upset anyone…
And it’s not just social media, other relevant teams could include the corporate communications function, policy, legal, HR, CSR etc. There is no guaranteeing that the functions are joined-up in any formal way despite their often-interlinking nature.
Public affairs is really a huge joint effort which brings with it several challenges. We must recognise the part we play in an organisation’s ecosystem and how much we often need the assistance of others.