2011 Predictions: Public Affairs & Grassroots Campaigns

Early December prompts an avalanche of ‘best of’ and ‘worst of’ the year lists. These are soon followed by New Year’s resolutions, which are ostensibly crafted after reviewing personal best and worst moments of the year in the hopes of improving next year.

And do we ever have a list of ‘worst of’ moments to review! Agencies dealt with it all this year, whether it was a whistleblower sharing confidential documents, a contractor that skirted the rules or a rogue employee engaging in extreme tactics for a campaign.

With that in mind, we will assume that these resolutions are borne from that spirit and not the lingering guilt from the prior evening’s festivities. We have a few ideas of how resolving to do better in the field of public affairs could change advocacy campaigns in 2011.

What’s In: 2011

Real Grass. Citizen involvement campaigns will utilize new social media tools to move beyond form letters generated on an email bot.  Twitter chats, a more transparent means of discussion, will promote dialogue to activate and engage citizens for a cause.  It will move beyond one-way electronic communication through TweetUps, video chats and other tools to produce unique, thoughtful citizen engagement with elected officials on key issues.

What’s Out: 2010

Astroturf. The term is used to describe a campaign that provides the appearance of an active grassroots campaign without truly engaging citizens or worse, is fabricated in sum or whole. Accusations of astroturfing were ubiquitous in the agency world of 2010, from the Tea Party movement to several well-known agencies accused of campaigns with forged letters sent to officials. In the age of Wikileaks and increased transparency, look for additional accountability and openness in grassroots efforts.

What’s In: 2011

Taking direction. Crowdsourcing is one of the tools available to avoid a campaign the texture of a mini-golf course. As political campaigns increasing go to the public to create policy proposals and positions on key issues, it seems only natural that advocacy campaigns would open the process up to the public. It’s transparent, it offers greater engagement and can clearly demonstrate to an elected official that a politically active constituency will support or oppose an action up for a vote.

What’s Out: 2010

Giving direction. This is not to suggest that public affairs agencies best look for other work. It is in part a growing distaste by the public to be lectured on what action to take and is also a numbing effect beginning to be felt from staffers beleaguered by form letters. Depositing a heavy stack of form letters is perhaps more likely to raise suspicion on the tactics used to create them than effect policy change.

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